Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

The Impossibly, Possible Prayer…

Thoughts for this Day, to draw us closer to Jesus… and cause us to adore Him!

Please do me a favor, and read each of the following quotes carefully, and the one in blue twice… prior to reading my words
19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 “Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:19–22 (CSB)

28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30 (CSB)

Now I am no longer my own, I am Thine; O God of my heart, dispose of me as Thou pleasest. In order to please Thee, I accept of all the tribulations Thou mayest choose to send me—sickness, sorrow, troubles, ignominies, poverty, persecution, desolation—I accept all to please Thee: in like manner I accept of the death Thou hast decreed for me, with all the anguish and crosses which may accompany it: it is enough if Thou grantest me the grace to love Thee exceedingly.

To be filled with the Spirit of God is to have come through feelings, disturbance, anxiety, disappointment and emptiness. When you reach that place of despair, when you have gone to the last person and you have written the last editor, when you have followed the last evangelist around and hunted up the last fellow to counsel with you—when no man can help you anymore and you are in a state of inward despair—that is when you will recognize that you are near the place where God can finally do what He wants to do for you. When there comes that despair with self, that emptying out of you and that inner loneliness, you are getting close.
It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don’t need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire.

“There is only one article and one rule of theology, and this is true faith or trust in Christ. Whoever doesn’t hold this article and this rule is no theologian. All other articles flow into and out of this one; without it the others are meaningless. The devil has tried from the very beginning to deride this article and to put his own wisdom in its place. However, this article has a good savor for all who are afflicted, downcast, troubled, and tempted, and these are the ones who understand the gospel.”

I asked you to read the words in blue twice, but I want to start with those in purple…

I passionately love and hate those words de Ligouri wrote.

I want to be able to pray them, I desperately want to say, “these are my words! Hear them Lord!” I’ve been through enough in life to know the truth in them – this is where I should be, so desirous of God’s love, so adoring Him that I do not recognize the hardships that exist, and so eager to be with Him that I can cast temptation, and the sins of this day aside.

Yet I hate them because I cannot do that easily. The weights, the pains, the heartaches, the temptations, and yes – the sins all overwhelm me and convict me that such a prayer would simply be hypocritical, that it would be a lie. So that prayer angers me because I feel I cannot pray it. I understand the scribes shock and reluctance to leave it all behind to follow Jesus.

Luther’s words add to the dissonance, the relationship with Jesus, where I believe and trust and depend on Him is so critical, that nothing else matters. Again, I know this, but I struggle to live in this truth, and the brokenness it
causes I can’t explain without tears, without heartache.

If you are a Christian, and have been for any time, this tension should sound familiar. (See Romans 7 to now we aren’t alone!)

But the brokenness is a blessing, for it drives us to the point where we understand the gospel! We are those Luther identifies as being able to savor our dependence on Christ. We are the afflicted, downcast, troubled and tempted.
And therefore, there is nothing, nothing but Jesus left. 

This is where Tozer’s words in blue, the one’s I asked you to read twice, come into play. With nothing else left, in the midst of our lonely brokenness, we find the Spirit of God filling our lives, comforting us. There are times when God uses someone to remind us of God’s presence, but in that despair, God helps us realize that our only need… is Him.

And that is where the prayer becomes possible. When we realize that God is everything for us, and that deep, intimate relationship becomes everything, and anything we endure is nothing.

For there, is Jesus.

The Friend who takes all our burdens, all our brokenness, all our cares, all the things we think separate us from Him… and He takes that load, and blesses our souls with peace and rest.

Heavenly Father, help us to learn to pray that Your Kingdom come, and Your Will be done…and mean it. Help us to see Your love, revealed in Christ’s love for us, and help us set all else aside…and rejoice as we adore You!  Amen!

 

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 357.

A. W. Tozer, The Counselor: Straight Talk about the Holy Spirit from a 20th Century Prophet (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1993), 77–78.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 157.

Why I… pray the Lord’s Prayer

God, who am I?

Thoughts for this day, that draws me closer to God….

7  When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. 9  “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13  And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:7-13 (CSBBible)

At dinner on the day after Pentecost [ Martin Luther said], “One shouldn’t think of any other God than Christ; whoever doesn’t speak through the mouth of Christ is not God. God wants to be heard through the Propitiator, and so he’ll listen to nobody except through Christ.

We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires.

I have never gotten tired of talking about prayer, and with God’s grace I never will. I remember that, back in the thirties, as a young priest, people of all kinds used to come to me looking for ways of getting closer to our Lord. To all of them, university students and workers, healthy and sick, rich and poor, priests and laymen, I gave the same advice: “Pray.” If anyone replied, “I don’t even know how to begin,” I would advise him to put himself in God’s presence and tell him of his desires and anxiety, with that very same complaint: “Lord, I don’t know how to pray!” Often, humble admissions like that were the beginning of an intimate relationship with Christ, a lasting friendship with him. Many years have gone by, and I still don’t know of a better recipe. If you think you’re not quite ready to pray, go to Jesus as his disciples did and say to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”18 You will discover how the Holy Spirit “comes to the aid of our weakness; when we do not know what prayer to offer, to pray as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us, with groans beyond all utterance,”19 which are impossible to describe, for no words are adequate to express their depth.

I find it odd, that when people talk about repetitive prayer, they often mention the verse just before Jesus teaches the disciples to pray… the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t babble on, or don’t be vain and repetitious as others translate the passage. And then comes the Lord’s prayer, which people say is vain and repetitious.

I will be the first to admit I have used it that way. Back in junior high school, we had races to see who could say it the fastest, or the entire rosary (I went to a Catholic parochial school.) And in doing so, we sinned, violating the
command about using God’s name in vain, for we didn’t think about Jesus when we prayed, we focused on speed and diction… not even the meaning of the words. There are days when I say it in church – that my thoughts are not focused on the words as much if we are saying it. (Which is why we more often sing it) It is easy to disengage. but that does not change it… just me.

As I have grown older, there have been more than a few times where I did not know how to pray. The words would not come through the anxiety, the words wouldn’t come through the tears, or even the times, where so overwhelmed, I
couldn’t cry. Finally, out of frustration, I would cry out, and pray the Lord’s prayer, letting the words of Jesus burrow through all the debris crushing my heart and soul.

And then, as St Josemaria put it, it was up to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in those times, it is only the comfort of the Holy Spirit that brings that prayer to mind, who uses these words of Jesus to bring life where there is no life.
Tozer is dead on accurate with his point – it is the Spirit we need to trust, as we pray as Jesus said. For Satan loves to deny us hope, and peace, and the realization of God’s love.

And so by praying as Jesus taught, we again admit we don’t know how to pray, and in that humility the intimacy with God grows, we hear what He’s told us He will provide – from His kingdom, to His perfect Will occurring in our lives, to
what we need daily, food, the ability to know we are forgiven and the enabling of our forgiveness. What wonderful things! He goes on to provide us a way from temptation, and rescue us from evil….. WOW….

Because I didn’t know how to pray in the brokenness of the moment, I pray, and as the Trinity hears, my heart is reminded of what God provides.

And somehow, miraculously, I find peace in the storm.

That is why I pray the Lord’s prayer, it is where God leads, and the comfort it brings is extraordinary.

I pray you may as well!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 155.

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

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

The Biggest Struggle in our Lives…isn’t ours!

Only one freed from sin, would cling to Christ like this. May this be who you and I are, as the Spirit draws us to Jesus!

Thoughts to cause us to adore our Lord and God.

15  The Lord has removed your punishment; he has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is among you; you need no longer fear harm. 16  On that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, do not let your hands grow weak. 17  The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.Zephaniah 3:15-17 (CSBBible)

We Christians must stop apologizing for our moral position and start making our voices heard, exposing sin for the enemy of the human race which it surely is, and setting forth righteousness and true holiness as the only worthy pursuits for moral beings.

We must overcome all, renounce all, in order to gain all. St. Teresa said: “Because we do not come to the conclusion of giving all our affection to God, so neither does he give all his love to us.”3 Oh, God, how little is all that is given to Jesus Christ, who has given his blood and his life for us!

Be this as it may, our life consists of the forgiveness of sins. Otherwise it’s no good.

Tozer begs the people of God to expose sin for what it is – the enemy of the human race. deLigouri tells us we have to renouce all, basically referring to what we desire, so that we gain all.

I think they understand the result, but they still are trusting in human willpower to choose what is right. That is where they make their mistake. For you and I aren’t capable of living a perfect, sinless life. If we were, why would we need Jesus? Why would we need the cross?

Yet we must come to the place they both desire. But we have to realize that perfection comes from without,

Well, sort of.

THat kind of holiness occurs only through the presence oof Jesus in our lives.

That is why Luther notes that our life is centered in the forgiveness of sins. That we have to live there, in the place where Jesus’ death pays the price, and endures the consequences. Aware of that, the power of sin to haunt us, disolves. We are forgiven, we are the people whom the prophet Zephaniah speaks,

Jesus has done this, it is why He died, so that you and I could be free form sin, how it haunts us, and how it would steal our present, our future, our eternity.

Sin isn’t about morality, it is about true freedom. When we reduce sin to a moral competition, we have lost. God doesn’t want us to be moral so He can declare us good! Rather, morality is what happens to us, when we are looking to Jesus. It is a passive transformaiton on our part, not an active choice. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of our heart and mind.

THerefore we cannot claim superior morals, as if it is our victory. It is Jesus’ victory, at the cross….

We just get to live in it..

Jesus gave His life, so that the Holy Spirit could work in ours, setting us apart, declaring us righteous and His people. Rejoice in that, and live in its truth.

Sin is our enemy… God’s taken care of sin, and Satan, and the threat of death… AMEN!

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

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 341.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 150.

Time to stop running…

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Thoughts to deepen our devotion to Jesus 

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great cityc of Nineveh and preach against ite because their evilf has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshishh from the LORD’s presence. John 1:1-3 CSB

“Erasmus, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, and Karlstadt want to measure everything by their wisdom and so they become confused. I thank God that I know and believe that God knows more than I do. He can do what is above my ability to comprehend. From invisible things he can make visible, for everything that is now happening through the light of the gospel is making visible things out of invisible.

Oh, how many spiritual persons there are who do not become saints, because they will not do themselves the violence to break away from certain little attachments!
All the evil arises from the little love they have for Jesus Christ.

Anyone can do the possible; add a bit of courage and zeal and some may do the phenomenal; only Christians are obliged to do the impossible.

I never like reading Jonah.

We always talk about his running from preaching to “those” people, but the message wasn’t easy to preach either.

Luther talked about preaching the real law- preaching where the people you are talking to fail, where they sin, where their pride leads them to fall. In the passage above, Luther nails four contemporaries – guys that were all polar opposites from each other – but who all thought they knew more than the next guy, indeed, more than God. He went after them, and the people sitting before him, for their sin.

DeLigouri notes a similar thing – that there are people so addicted to certain sins that they won’t break away from them, because they love their sins more than they love God.

Neither the monk-turned-reformer or the priest held back much! They went after people – not to condemn them – but to save them!

I am going to be honest, the reason most of us don’t go after the specks in other’s eyes is that we know there is a log in our own. Or perhaps a redwood forest. To deal with others sin means we have to let Jesus deal with ours.

It is a hard thing to try and rescue people form sin, in fact it is impossible. We can’t do it, but Tozer says we need to, we are obliged to do the impossible. THe reason is simple – it is what Jesus did – for us. Whatever it took – calling us on our sin – and providing a way for it to be covered.

Whatever it takes to save them from sin, means that we have to be willing to identiy the sin – ours and theirs, and bring it to God so that, as promised, they can be cleansed of it. And in the process of their being cleansed, we find our sin dealt with as well, just as Jonah had his sin and rebellion dealt with, as God drew Jonah closer.

You and I, as believers, need that ministry that occurs while we minister to others.

So stop running, stop being afraid of God deling with the log… and as He does,,, look on with wonder as God heals those who you were sent among.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 147.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 333.

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

What Did You Put In Your Mouth?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
53  So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54  But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57  I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58  I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” John 6:53-58 (NLT2)

But when Christ says “My flesh,” I take notice of the identity of the speaker. I ask: To whom does the little word “My” pertain? Then these words will denote more than mere flesh; it will not be a flesh that has the strength of mere flesh and blood. By virtue of the word “My” it is invested with greater strength than plain flesh and blood. It is “My flesh.” You must take note of Him who speaks these words. Then it will not be the sort of flesh from which red sausages are made.

He could not satisfy his love by giving himself to the human race by his Incarnation and by his Passion, dying for all men upon the cross; but he desired to find out a way whereby he might give himself entirely to each one of us in particular; and for this end he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to unite himself wholly to each: He that cateth My flesh, he said, abideth in me and I in him. In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: “In no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful.”

Reading the title of this post, the question might sound like a mother talking to her toddler, or a man talking to his dog. But it is one of the most important questions that can be asked, and answered in the church today.

Not because of the theological doctrines that have been debated since Zwingli, (and to the gnostics whose thoughts convinced him that the sacred cannot inhabit the physical, that is the profane) THose arguements can go on in classrooms, coffee shops and bars from now until eternity. THis is more than theology.

It is about faith – about trusting Jesus at His word. To realize that He promises to come to us in the bread and wine, so that we might have Him, that we might have life! THat is why Luther points out the power of the word my, this little pronoun that changes everything.

This is His body, given for you. This is His blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Not mere flesh and blood, Far ore than the greatest steak and noblest wine. De Ligouri points out what a tremendous communion this is, as Christ again unites us to Himself, and unites Himself to us. This is not just some simple rite that we do every week, this is God with us, that we can behold His glory.

He says, this is my body… this is my blood…

Rejoice in that moment, treasure that moment….. find your peace and sanctuary there…



Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 23 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 119.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 279–280.

The Intimate God…

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  Yet Jerusalem says, “The LORD has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.” 15  “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! 16  See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins. 17  Soon your descendants will come back, and all who are trying to destroy you will go away. 18  Look around you and see, for all your children will come back to you. As surely as I live,” says the LORD, “they will be like jewels or bridal ornaments for you to display. Isaiah 49:14-18 (NLT2)

This is the love which causes holy souls to lose themselves, and to stand amazed, when once they have been allowed to know it. From it spring those burning sentiments of ardor, the desire of martyrdom, joy in sufferings, exultation under the storms of distress, the force to walk on burning coals as if they were roses, a thirst for sufferings, rejoicing in that which the world dreads, embracing that which it abhors. St. Ambrose says that the soul which is espoused to Jesus Christ upon the cross, thinks nothing so glorious as to bear upon itself the marks of the crucified one.”

And we beseech thee, of thy great goodness, quicken and set aglow our cold and indifferent hearts, enlighten our minds and understandings, lead us into all truth, bless and sanctify our bodies and our spirits, grant us devout hearts in prayer, and comfort us in all our sorrow and tribulation. So preserve us, that our faith fail not, our love diminish not, our hope vanish not, and our hearts despair not; but at all times enable us to resist all evil and temptation, and with steadfast hope serve and praise thee unto the end.

It’s called the “IR” by some of my peers in ministry. Somewhat a joke, but with a touch of anxiety, perhaps some are more than touched by this concept – that we have an Intimate Relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

De Ligouri’s words in purple describe it, a love which causes us to lose ourselves. No need for self-denial is needed when we are lost in His love. The words may flow for someone like him, but no so much for me. Yet I desire everyone to be as lost to self as can only occur when in the presnce of Jesus. How I desire to get to that point, where I can greet every discomfort with such zeal, even thirsting and hungering for those times where, even in pain, I know Jesus presence.

This is not just a thing for Catholic saints – look at Loehe’s prayer in green. See how he desires the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is desired as deep, as intimate of a relationship, as he begs the Spirit to work deeply in his life. That is how dependent Loehe wanted to be on the Holy Spirit, a dependency based in the intimacy the Holy Spirit causes in life. Note that point, this intimacy is intitiated by God.

Get that – the intimacy is inititated by God.

The intimate relationship is His idea, it is what Jesus came to clearly reveal.

Look at what Isaiah writes, look at this Almighty, Creator who put the stars in place… look at how He compares HImself to a mom…look at how God tatoos Himself. This is not a distant God, or one who remains seated when you walk in the door, He is one who gets up, runs to the door and lifts you off the ground in a bear hug.

This is our intimate God. This is the God who desires intimacy with you…

I pray we realize this, and come to adore Him who adores us.


Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 271.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 145–146.

Thoughts to survive another monday…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. 13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear Gods and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.t 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl. 12:12–14.

O LORD Jesus Christ, thou holy, precious spotless and innocent Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, we thank thee for thy most holy sufferings and death. Thy soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, because our sorrows and iniquities, terrors and diseases were laid upon thee. We thank thee for thine anguish of heart and soul, for thy bloody sweat and dying agony, in which thou didst truly taste death for every man. We thank thee for thine agonizing prayer and for thy retirement into the garden, there to offer thyself to the Father as the willing Substitute from us. We thank thee for the bands which bound thee, for by them thou didst release us from the bands of everlasting death. We thank thee for the stripes which thou didst endure for our sakes, and for thy scourging, patience and humility by which thou didst offer a ransom for our disobedience, blindness and hardness of heart.

O eternal Father! I offer Thee the pure affections of the heart of Jesus. If Thou dost reject mine, Thou canst not reject those of Thy Son, who is sanctity itself; may they supply what is wanting in me, and may they render me pleasing in Thy eyes!

I only citred about 1/3rd of Pastor Loehe’s prayer (A 19th century Lutheran Pastor) that was part of my devotions this morning. I needed to re-read it several times, to soak in the attitude I need to have, if I am going to survive this day.

I need to realize the depth of His love, revealed at the cross, and at the altar as we receive His body and blood. It is there we see what de Ligouri (a Catholic saint) calls the pure affections of the heart – the incredible love for God and for our neighbor that we are commissioned to have.

THis is what the writer who ends Ecclestiases is talking about – to be in awe of God – for he brought every act into judgment at the cross – and there poured out His anger, at the pain that we have caused.

Jesus took it all, suffered for it all, loved us enough to do this….

knowing this gets me thorugh the evil and stress encountered on a Monday…..

nothing else will…

Jesus has done it all…

time to live in thanks………………………

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 135.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 256–257.

RIght Now, the Church Is Like An Anxious Bride…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop pretending that everything is good…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)

We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.

Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.

On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.

I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.

Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.

Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.

It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.

They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,

I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.

I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.

The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.

I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.

The love and compassion of Jesus.

For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.

To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.

There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.

SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.

He’s made me, and you, His own.

and that means more than anything else, than everything else.

It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.

May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.

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), 133.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.

Ministry in the Shadows…

St Aiden on Holy Island

Devotional Thought for our Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%d bloggers like this: