Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

Luther, what are you talking about? Don’t seek heaven? HUH???

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

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Devotional Thought for our Day:

8 I also want them to build a special place where I can live among my people.  Ex. 25:8

19 Don’t stay far away, LORD! My strength comes from you, so hurry and help!  Psalm 22:19 CEV

Our life should not be directed toward our own advantage, not even to our salvation or any blessing, whether temporal or eternal, unless all of this ultimately leads to God’s honor and praise.

The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.

579    Faith. It’s a pity to see how frequently many Christians have it on their lips and yet how sparingly they put it into their actions. You would think it a virtue to be preached only, and not one to be practiced.

As I was doing my devotional reading this morning, I first came across the reading from Luther, and I was stung by the idea that my life shouldn’t be focused on the advantage I have for how I will spend eternity.

After all, isn’t that why we are Christians so that we don’t end up in hell?

Isn’t that reward what we are after?

And then I came up against the question of evil, and the answer that I know to be true, but it does not, in any means, satisfy my questions. Nice job explaining the theology, but where is the comfort I need, when dealing with this broken world?

St. Josemaria brings the lesson home for me, as he reminds me that faith in God is not supposed to be just preached, but something that only exists when practiced. I can talk all I want about depending on God, about believing He is there, about trusting in His provision and protection, but I have to do so, if my words are going to be anything. If I don’t actually believe, if I don’t put my trust in God and what He has promised, all the theological discourses mean nothing.

I have to realize the truth of Exodus 25, that God wants a place to dwell with us, that He wants to have a part (a major part) in our lives, both now and eternally. That is why I don’t seek heaven for my sake, heaven’s promise is worthless except for one thing, we will be with God. That is faith, that is depending, not just on the promises of no more tears and no more sorrow, but that He will be ours, and we His.  That is what He glories in, that is what is His mission, that is why all that was created, was created.

It works in the reading from Psalm 29, in the midst of the pain, David doesn’t seek relief, he seeks the presence of God. For knowing God is here, endurance is no longer the question, nor is the suffering.  Evil, with all of its ability to crush us, and sin’s power to torment, and the questions both raise, fall aside when we are exploring the breadth and width, the depth and height of God’s love, revealed in Christ Jesus.

Heaven?  Angels, and streets of God? Earth? Troubles and tribulations?

Does either matter, is either noticeable when we are dancing with God?

I think this is what the greatest of the faithful have realized. Not their own might or own strength did they endure. They simply knew He was with them.

Lord, help us to realize You are with us… and help us to desire You more than anything else… AMEN!

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), 36.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 84.

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

 

 

Please! Stop Trying to Be Holy!

This word... princess pride

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.”  CEV  Matthew 22:21

See, now you understand the meaning of the term “to hallow” and “holy.” It is nothing else than withdrawing something from misuse and dedicating it to its proper godly use, just as a church is dedicated and appointed solely to the service of God. In like manner we must be hallowed in our whole life, leaving nothing but the name of God to dwell in us, in other words, nothing but kindness, truth, justice, etc. Hence the name of God is hallowed or profaned not only with our lips but also with our soul and all the members of our body.
Second, God’s name is defiled by robbing and thieving. Although wise men will at once understand what I mean, it will be too subtle for the simpleminded, since we are here referring to the arrogant ones who regard themselves as righteous and holy and do not feel that they are profaning the name of God as those in the aforementioned group do. While they dub themselves righteous and holy and truthful, they freely and fearlessly pilfer and purloin God’s name

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

As I read the words Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago, I knew I had to write on the first paragraph, and what holiness/perfection truly is.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be spoken about enough.  We hear, 44  I am the LORD your God, and you must dedicate yourselves to me and be holy, just as I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 (CEV)) and we get to work, trying our damndest to become what we think holy means, or when we fail, working equally hard to maintain the illusion of holiness.

It is the latter action that leads us to be convicted of robbery, trying to steal what is not ours. We profane God’s name, Luther writes, when we pretend to be something we are not when we put up the charade that we are perfect, that we are righteous, that we are holy.  For not only do we not understand holiness, but we also take the responsibility that is God’s alone when we declare we are. What a scam the devil has laid upon us, to get us to think that we determine whether or not we are righteous, and others are not!  Falling for it, we try to determine what is good and what is evil, unaware of our own spiritual blindness.

Holiness is as simple as what Luther notes, taking something misused and redirecting it towards its purpose. Whether it is God’s name, no longer used to swear, condemn or falsely justify ourselves and others, or whether it is our lives, created in His image in order to spend time with Him. This is the truth that St. Josemaria talks of, in regards to being pious and holy, the key is simple. Being constantly in the presence of God. Finding out that we are int he presence of a loving, merciful, gentle God who will gently (and firmly) heal our brokenness.

Stop trying to be righteous, stop putting on an act that presents you as holy and perfect. Instead, spend time talking to God, letting Him do the work that only He can do. Look to Him, focus on His love, spending as much time aware of His presence as you can.

Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.

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), 29.

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

Why I Bother… to preach

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6  For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NLT2)

16 as Paul says in Rom. 5:1, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.”
19 In former times this comfort was not heard in preaching, but poor consciences were driven to rely on their own efforts, and all sorts of works were undertaken. 20 Some were driven by their conscience into monasteries in the hope that there they might merit grace through monastic life. 21 Others devised other works for the purpose of earning grace and making satisfaction for sins.
22 Many of them discovered that they did not obtain peace by such means. It was therefore necessary to preach this doctrine about faith in Christ and diligently to apply it in order that men may know that the grace of God is appropriated without merits, through faith alone.

c. Through the Spirit of Christ, who is the Spirit of God, we can share in the human nature of Jesus Christ; and in sharing in his dialogue with God, we can share in the dialogue which God is. This is prayer, which becomes a real exchange between God and man.
d. The locus of this identification with Christ, facilitated by the Spirit, which necessarily implies that those involved are also identified with one another in Christ, is what we call “Church”. We could in fact define “Church” as the realm of man’s discovery of his identity through the identification with Christ which is its source.

On Mondays I sit in an office, with my monitors full of Greek and Hebrew and the work of scholars. It is easier of course these days to do the work than when I was a young pastor, but it is still tedious work. I mull over the results, as I do the research, and then plan our a service that works on the same message that I see coming from the text.

On Saturday, after considering the passages and the questions and answers the research and prayer bring, the manuscript is formed. Some weeks this takes 6 hours, others eight, and depending on how many stop by to chat, or to unload their burdens, or simply to hear that God is indeed, with them.

That’s a lot of work to invest in 12-18 minutes of life. And while it is not back breaking work, it is challenging, and the returns take a while to see, if they are seen.

So why do it? Why pour my mind and my heart and a lot of time into those few moments, where the “return on investment” is so… vague?

The Augsburg Confession, which started this thought process this morning gives me the one great motivator for my preaching. I treasure the moments when “my” people can drop their worries, their problems, their pain and for a moment experience the peace of God. Do they always see it? Do they always know that God is with them? No, but they grow in recognizing it,

It is that moment when what Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict calls the point where man discovers his identity in Christ. That is when the peace comes, when we can rest, when life is focused and we know He is with us.

When it happens, when I look at the growth in people, not in their being independent, but in their growth as they learn they can depend on God, as they learn that in that dependence on Him, n their interaction with Him, they find peace.

The peace the angels mentioned as Jesus took human form, to bring about that peace, and to defeat all that would steal it, including our sin.

That is why we bring the good news, much as the angels did…

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 43–44.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 26.

Our Need for Contemplation…

1  O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 2  I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3  Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 4  I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5  You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalm 63:1-5 (NLT2)

In a nutshell one could say that the goal of Asiatic contemplation is the escape from personality, whereas biblical prayer is essentially a relation between persons and hence ultimately the affirmation of the person.

We know God aright when we grasp him not in his might or wisdom (for then he proves terrifying), but in his kindness and love. Then faith and confidence are able to exist, and then man is truly born anew in God.

Luther’s words in green above come from a pamphlet (the forerunner to the blog) on the contemplation of the suffering of Jesus. It is a pretty difficult read, as he takes us through contemplating the incredible power of sin, that breaks us down, the crushes us…

that we to often choose.

It is painful, and though I hate to say it, it should be. We need to be horrified by the actions we have done, the words we have said, both in anger, and simply to do damage to those we dislike or are jealous of, we need to take a moment, and examine our thoughts to realize how little we control them.

And then, find relief, not in our own resolve, or our ability to make things right, or even survive our brokenness, but in the presence of God, in the Holy Spirit’s comfort and gentle careful cleansing of our lives, our hearts, minds, souls… all of it.

This is the meditation that Pope Benedict XVI discusses, the relationship we have with God, and He with each and all of His people. It is what affirms us, this new birth in God that we have to really contemplate – that we really have to sit and discover.

And in that contemplation, as we gaze on the power of God, as we realize what He has done and is doing, we can cry out praise, much as the Psalmist does.

It is in those quiet moments, contemplating the riches of God, revealed in Christ so that they may be revealed in our lives, that the desire for God’s work becomes stronger and stronger.

So take some time, not just a moment. Consider the cross and the grave… let the Spirit help you know the entire picture, how you’ve been broken, and how you’ve been healed…

For the Lord is with you…

(no matter which side of the Tiber you are, or whether you are on the bridge)

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 24.

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), 13.

The Emptiness of Religion?

Religion

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  but the LORD himself takes care of Israel. 10  Israel, the LORD discovered you in a barren desert filled with howling winds. God became your fortress, protecting you as though you were his own eyes. Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (CEV)

Consequently, in our efforts to work out the theological and anthropological basis of prayer, it is not a question of proving the validity of Christian prayer by the standards of some neutral reasonableness. It is a case of uncovering the inner logic of faith itself, with its own distinct reasonableness.

Yet the mass was not instituted for its own worthiness, but to make us worthy and to remind us of the passion of Christ. Where that is not done, we make of the mass a physical and unfruitful act, though even this is of some good.

I have often heard people criticize the church by saying the Christianity is a relationship, and not a religion. I have to disagree, or at least qualify it.

If by religion you mean something man can study as an observer, measuring its logic, finding ways to make it more productive through analysis and basically controlling it, I agree. I think this is clearly the point Pope Benedict XVI made, when writing back when he was a Cardinal

If by religion you mean doing things for their own value, and not because they interact with God, then, yes, religion is nearly worthless. Luther makes this point clear with his comments about the worship service, what he calls the mass or gathering.

But neither would define “religion” that way, as if it could be simply studied by anthropologists and statisticians. They would, despite their differences, define religion, true religion, as the relationship God arranges for us, and draws us into, a life with Him.

Prayer then, isn’t something to be dissected, in order to prove the validity of it as a practice. It is something we engage in, a discussion with the One to whom logic and reality are a creation, and more than we can understand. It is beyond the ability to study, this form of divine communication. One can’t measure the peace it brings, or the comfort given by God, as we dialogue with Him.

In the same way, a mass or worship service is worthless when we expect it to be special on its own, we we simply become spectators, listeners, those who can critique and make value judgments on it, as if the congregation was an Olympic medal judge, and the pastor and other leaders were competitors. ( which means i have to be careful asking my wife to “grade” my sermons! I should know better!)

Prayer and worship matter because of the interaction, the conversation where God makes us worthy to interact with Him, the interaction when we hear Him respond as we pray and meditate on His word. As we realize His care, His nurture, His was of guiding and protecting us, even in the hardest times.

These times are precious, because He draws us out of our life and into His, even as He invades our life, to create in it something wonderful, something that is so awe-inspiring that He is glorified. This is the religion He formed, the practices He has given us to make sure we know that He is active in our lives.

Without His active presence, spiritual disciplines and gathering together around the Him and the blessings He bestows in the sacrament is nothing. Yet, the ironic thing is, He is active even when we are not aware.

Religion, the Christian Religion, is not empty and worthless, we just need to open our eyes… and see the One who has drawn us into it.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 18.

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), 8.

The Cost of Being an “Institutional” Church Member

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Devotional Thought of the Day

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

519    Serviam!—“I will serve!” That cry is your determination to serve the Church of God faithfully, even at the cost of fortune, of honor and of life.

Were they to take our house
Goods honor child or spouse
Though life be wrenched away
They cannot win the day
The Kingdom’s ours forever

(From “A mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther)

Yesterday, after a memorial service, one of the people there asked me how I can be there for people in times where the emotional pain is so evident, so dominating, so crushing. I shared one or two of my secrets, and the irony(?) that I have discovered, the more I can embrace their pain with them, the more I can laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry, the more that I see God at work, comforting them.

Funerals and weddings are not the hard part of ministry, nor are the other times when a pastor, priest or even a lay minister is able to make the presence of the Holy Spirit known to people. In those moments, the tears the grienf it is worth it.

But the challenge of being in the institutional church is when it seems not to be worth it. When you are in a meeting and people have hidden agendas. When people struggle with each other, and do not see the answer is struggling together.

When the brokenness of lives so blinds them to the healing that is found in Christ, the healing He does within the church, and through those He has called and given to the church.

When the church is forced to change its focus from the Jesus to dealing with the problems that are threatening to tear it apart. Such stuff happens in the institutional church, but it also happens in the house church, and in our families. As long as there is one sinner in the room, it will happen. And if you are there, or I am, there is a sinner there.

Yesterday, we ended the service by singing Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”. Not as a triumphal anthem, but as a song of need, a song of despair, and yet hope as he finds that God has him (and the church) THe part of the verse quoted above struck me again, especially given the loss the people were experiencing endured. It is echoed in St Josemaria’s words.

We usually think of such threats as external, or they should be. The people who for one reason or another hate the church, or feel threatened by it. But sometimes they are internal, as people do fall into sin, as people do deal with stress and brokenness. Paul easily recognizes the stresses that can occur when people are brought together, are drawn together in to the presence of God.

So if we are going to face that within or without the institutional church, why bother to belong to one? Why bother to deal with the added stress, why deal with the extra pain, the extra betrayals, the extra anxieties and fears? Why would someone who struggles with social constructs and the complications they bring ever dare enter into this willinging, and serve the church?

Why bear the cost of the trauma, the pain, the disagreements, the dishonour?

Simple. The eyes of a widow that full of tears, reaches out for a hug and whispers, “Yes, I know God is with me.” The grief that is shared, but the hope of the resurrection to life together in the presence of God. Watching God at work, reconciling people together. The joy, the quiet simple joy that comes as the people of God find themselves celebrating their forgiveness and their adoption as God’s co-heirs at the altar of mercy and peace.

Everything endured is worth that….whether the injury is external to the church or internal.

Seeing God at work is that priceless, and seeing Him at work in and through me and the people I struggle alongside, (and sometimes with) is nothing compared to the glory and healing found in Christ. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1258-1259). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Responsibility to Each Other…from the beginning

Devotional Thought of the Day:

The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it. 16 But the LORD told him, “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, 17 except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong. If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!”
18 The LORD God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.” 7 So the LORD took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. That’s how they got their names.
None of these was the right kind of partner for the man. 21 So the LORD God made him fall into a deep sleep, and he took out one of the man’s ribs. Then after closing the man’s side, 22 the LORD made a woman out of the rib.
The LORD God brought her to the man, 23 and the man exclaimed,
“Here is someone like me!
She is part of my body,
my own flesh and bones.
She came from me, a man.
So I will name her Woman!”

genesis 2:15-23 CEV

Is there an unconverted servant or child absent this morning? Make special supplication that such may, on their return to their home, gladden all hearts with good news of what grace has done! Is there one present? Let him partake in the same earnest entreaty.

Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.

Every November 1 I set up my new “devotional readings” for the year. Usually it includes a devotional work or two, a different translation of the Bible (from the Douay-Rheims to the New Jerusalem, from the ASV to the GNT and this year the CEV) and a couple of harder texts, like the Book of Concord.

This year, as I started, I was reminded of our need to care for one another, for our need to pass on our faith, to be discipled and to disciple. That would seem obvious in Spurgeon’s’ quote, taken from a discussion about Philemon, and what it means to have a church that is your home. And the Catholic Catechism makes it clear that discipleship is the work of the church.

But I see this as well in the creation of Adam, and in the command to not eat the fruit of the tree that gives the knowledge of right and wrong. We see there that even as God gives Adam a partner, he has a responsibility to her, to ensure she won’t eat of that tree.

And he fails.

He doesn’t equip her whether enough or at all, with the simple knowledge he has been entrusted. In fact, he will allow her to convince him to try. This first peer-pressured sin is in fact, a sign of his failure to take responsibility.

We need to remember we are in this together! Not just those in the church, but all people, of all backgrounds, all languages, all ages. This is who we are. James writes

19  My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20  remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (NIV)

This isn’t easy in our day, but it is what we are called to do, called in loving our brother and sister, our wife and children. To teach and disciple, to call back, and care for, to remind each other these simple words,

THE LORD IS WITH YOU!

and someday, rejoice together as we all realize how true it is!


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

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 8.

Do We Realize What is Going On Around Us?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting. Exodus 33:11 (NLT2)

We might even venture to say that what God does is always an answer to this kind of appeal from someone who prays. This does not mean that God is like the potentates of this world who want to be asked before they bestow a favor. No—it is so because it must be so by the very nature of things, because it is only when we pray, when we transcend ourselves, when we surrender ourselves, when we recognize God as a reality, when we open ourselves to him, only then that the door of the world is open for God and that space is created in which he can act for and on us men. God is, it is true, always with us, but we are not always with him, says Saint Augustine. It is only when we accept his presence by opening our being to him in prayer that God’s activity can truly become an action on and for us men.

THE SECOND PETITION (of the Lord’s prayer)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us

One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha’s servant had no clue what is going on around him. He sees what the prophet and he will face, and not realizing the power of God, falls into despair.

We do this often, for our faith is weak, and our memory of God’s presence is not so good. We struggle in the face of the problems, the trauma, and the self-doubt that is caused by sin and temptation. We may not want to admit it, but everyone struggles with that self-doubt. For if we can’t do what we want to do, what is right, and we can’t stop the self-defeating sin that has ensnares us, we end up living in a world that is broken, and we can’t find a way to cope with it. Deny it, get distracted from it by our addictions, we just keep going.

Elisha’s servant hadn’t learned what to do yet, but Elisha did. He simply prayed. The servant then saw the truth, and what was real! He found out what was really going on, and it was a different story.

THat’s why Luther and Pope Benedict talk about prayer the way they do. If we don’t pray, it is not that God isn’t active, for He is. What is missing is our awareness of what God is doing.

It is impossible to know what is going on around us, if we don’t see what God is doing.


Prayer is the beginning of that, as we talk with God, much as Moses did, or Enoch or even David. Blunt conversations, face to face, as we would have with a friend. Allowing God to, with all His wisdom and power, to intervene in our lives, as He reveals His love and the mercy which forgives and heals us. That is what Benedict XVI is talking about, as we transcend ourselves in prayer, and meet with God and talk. It is what LUther referred to when he talked of God’s kingdom coming among us.

We see His reality then, as it is revealed at the speed and fullness He knows we can take. We see His love, His concern, we see the power of God at work reforming us into a masterpiece.

Lord, help us to talk with You, as Moses did. Not just face to face, but as a friend talks to a friend. Lord Jesus, help us depend on You, not neglecting You and talking with You. Open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!


Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–287.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.

Show Me the… Works?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (TEV)

Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.

Even more upsetting, the devil can take your best works and reduce them to such dishonorable and worthless things and render them so damnable before your conscience that your sins scare you less than your best good works. In fact, you wish you had committed grievous sins rather than done such good works. Thus, the devil causes you to deny these works, as if they were not done through God, so that you commit blasphemy.

That is why it is important to learn and practice all one’s life long, from childhood on, to think with God, to feel with God, to will with God, so that love will follow and will become the keynote of my life. When that occurs, love of neighbor will follow as a matter of course. For if the keynote of my life is love, then I, in my turn, will react to those whom God places on my path only with a Yes of acceptance, with trust, with approval, and with love.

In the movie Jerry MaGuire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character lashes out Tom Cruise’s character with the phrase, “show me the money!” Except it is not about money. It is a plea for Tom’s character Jerry to show how important the relationship is, that it isn’t just about the money that can be made from negotiating a deal.

Inside the Christian faith, our actions often speak louder than our words. They testify as to whether the words we say are true, or whether we are those who call out “Lord! Lord!” and yet don’t have a solid relationship with the Lord, in fact,t hey don’t have a relationship at all.

It is not about our works, it is not about the obedience, it is about the relationship. Works simply testify that the relationship exists. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, we think with God, we feel with God, and love follows as a matter of course! That love causes action, it creates the work, but the work is never apart from the presence of God.

We know we aren’t saved by works (the Lutheran phrase based on Ephesian 2:8-10) and there is nothing we do that merits salvation, it all depend on the grace of God which precedes anything (which is the way the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent put it in Session Vi chapter V)) Yet the faith that depends on God for salvation will result in praise and worship – the latter being what we do with out lives.

Luther’s concern in the green text above must be heard, if we are to understand his version of “Faith Alone.” He isn’t denying the believer can do good works, or encouraging them to not even bother with the idea. Our good works, done in communion with Jesus Christ, are to be encouraged, extolled, and the glory given to God, whose light we are simply reflecting by those works. An attitude that denied this, that caused us to view the our good works with disdain Luther considered influenced by Satan!

As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession puts it, these works are the result of the impulses the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. This doesn’t sound like we are denying that the Christian can do good works, does it?

And that is the point we need to clarify, that we need not be afraid of trying to do something the Holy Spirit is driving us towards. It my be simple, like holding the hand of someone struggling with old age and being feeble. It may be sitting and reading the catechism with a child, helping them to know God’s love. It could be something different, like heading to Africa or Asia on a mission trip. It could be… well, you fill in the blank. What is God calling you to do?

Then do it, and we can both rejoice in the faithfulness of God, who is close enough to you to put that idea on your heart, and give you the desire and ability to see it through! AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 212–213.

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 276.

I Will Live! (and the Rest of the Story…)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live and proclaim what the LORD has done. 18  He has punished me severely, but he has not let me die.
Psalm 118:17-18 (TEV)

It is in the wounds of Jesus where we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart.

To better evangelize the adorer must first be evangelized. He must let the merciful love of Christ heal him, liberate him, enlighten him, raise him. To the question ‘What does Jesus do in the Blessed Sacrament? ‘the Cure of Ars replied, ‘He waits for us’. There, Jesus veils His majesty so that we might dare to go speak with Him, as one friend to another. He tempers the ardour of His Heart for us to experience its sweet tenderness. On the Cross, Jesus turns hate into love and death into life. Similarly, in the Eucharist, Jesus performs the same wonder in us: He changes evil into good, darkness into light, fear into confidence. Pauline-Marie Jaricot, an untiring Apostle of charity, living in Lyon in the nineteenth century, sums up this personal transformation that takes place in the heart of adorers who allow the Spirit to change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh:

I have heard verse 17 proclaimed with great power many times. It is a wonderful verse, and it should be proclaimed.

I think it is even more powerfully proclaimed when it is proclaimed from a point of recovery, a time when one is healing, but is so weak it is barely heard. It is the most powerful when said in the context of verse 18, as the realization dawns that I can get through this.

And I can speak of what the Lord has done! Not I can, but I will, I have to, for I didn’t think I would make it.

Several times in my life I have been there physically. After a cardiac arrest that killed me 5 times. Another time when I had two heart valves replaced, and again once when undergoing a procedure I didn’t think I would survive. ( Not a major one comparatively) But I know the feeling of waking up from anesthesia, and realizing, I am alive. It is shocking, for it is unexpected.

Spiritually, this happens when God has to circumcise our hearts, cutting away the sin which clings to our heart. This is easily seen as the punishment the Psalmist describes, as God has to subdue us, as He has to cleanse us of the sins we too often cling to, that we too often run to. As we refuse to see the damage that sin does, and how it leaves us broken, shattered, unable to relate to others, or find any comfort or peace.

But as the Holy Spirit has to “wound” us, we find another set of wounds, the wounds of Jesus. It is in those wounds that we find our how much we are loved, it is there we find security and peace, even as God removes the sin, and our healing begins anew.

That is why communion is so incredible, so needed in this broken world of ours. Go read the words in green again.

No, i meant it, I didn’t want to retype it all!

Go re-read it!

We need to find Jesus waiting for us, ready to begin again our healing. Ready to see us transformed, the power that raised Him from the dead at work in us.

Therefore we live, and will not die, and can tell what God has done….

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), 266.

Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 202.

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