Category Archives: Book of Concord

Do We Need to All Get Along? Do We Have A Choice?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day
12  You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14  And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)

480    Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living

I am tired. 

I am tired because of the fighting going around us.  In this world as nation is against nation.  As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun!  And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.

The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues.  Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable. 

I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life. 

I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others.  That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them. 

But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works.  No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.

It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness.  That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything.  That unity is found in Christ’s love, 

Nowhere else.

It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us. 

Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.

Can we all get along?  Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him.  This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong. 

Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one.  Amen!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Can I Trust in Jesus for this?

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God, who am I?

Devotional THought of the Day:
And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Philippians 1:20-24b (NLT)

We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the Gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine.

Though our faith, our dependence on God based on His promises begins with the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus our Messiah, there are other things we have to depend on Him for, as noted in the epistle in red above.

I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ…

That sounds awesome, 

It also sounds impossible.

This week I am all too familiar with my failings, with my brokenness.  my own failures, my own struggles with sins that plague me.

So how can God use something so shattered?  How can God work through something that has to be so,,, needing healing?

I can trust that He will clean me enough from my own sin and unrighteousnes=, enough that I can be smuggled into the Father’s presence as I dwell in Christ.

But can God work through me?

There are days I am not sure.  (especially Saturdays as I struggle to write sermons)

Pope Benedict XVI talks about needing ot go through the cross to the Resurrection, We have to dwell there with Him, as He takes the pain, as He agonizes under the weight of our sin, As He removes it from us, and bares His own soul to takes on the pain our cleansing and healing requires. 

It is there, with Him on the cross, that we find the same path that He took, that leads through death to the Resurrection.

It is there, on the cross, that we find hope.  It is there. where we find the power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. It is there we find the absolution we need to realize that to live is Christ, and eventually, to die is gain.  For if I have died with Christ in all my brokenness, if I have trusted Him to make it all right, If He shows me compassion and consoles me, then there is hope.

This is the power, the reason for private confession, it teaches me the doctrine that God is here, that the Lord is with us, that He is with me.  That He just doesn’t forgive my sin our of some kind of duty, some kind of ill-advised promise, but that the promise exists for the same reason the forgiveness does because He loves us. This is remarkable, it leaves me in tears of awe.. it leaves me with hope, for I know why I can depend on Him

Even the Hope that my life is now His to use, His to work through, and the responsibility to make it something good lies on Him.  Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis explains it this way,

To place our sight on our own death and resurrection causes our lives to change its center from “what we could do” to “what the Lord has done for us” and “will do with us.”

And so He has done for us and will do with us, many things, for He is our God, and we are His people. 

Lord, when we feel broken, when we feel the weight of our sin, remind us that You are here.  COmfort us with the gospel, that Jesus has lifted that sin away from us, and died to release us from its weight. Help us to live in view of His cross, where we were united with Him. Help us to rejoice, and then to depend on you as we find that our life is You. Bless people O Lord, and may we see how you use us to do so, as they give you the honor and praise AMEN!

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 312). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 145). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Is This Prayer Asking to Much?

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
 “•I assure you: The one who believes in Me l will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.   John 14:12-14  HCSB

21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us,  so the world may believe You sent Me.    John 17:21

 

This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.

3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.

There are times when I question why prayers aren’t answered.  For example, why my son has to have the genetic disorder I have, or why friends battling cancer aren’t simply healed.  We pray, earnestly, reverently, continuously for miracles of this nature.  Yet the answers to these prayers are too far in between for my liking.

After all, Jesus said, if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

Even more than, I wonder why one of Jesus’ prayers go unanswered.

Why can’t the church be one, as the Father and Jesus are one?

Why can’t that prayer be heard, and answered?

Why can’t the church be one?

We have one mission, to reveal the love of God, seen so clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the acts that give us hope and forgiveness, and prove His love.  That’s what we have to do!  It’s not rocket science!

Our worship is supposed to do that, to teach people what they need to know about Jesus, to reveal that God doesn’t want to stay alone, that He sought a response to the love He would show us in everything, our creation, our redemption, our being made His people.  People that have a God that wants to love and be loved.

If the greatest Catholic theologian of the last century and the Lutheran forefathers can agree on this fundamental role of our gathers as believers, can’t we start there?  Can’t we start in prayer, and in meditating on God’s word together?  Can’t we find unity as we consider the sacrifice of Jesus and the love that comes to us at the altar?

Is that asking too much?

To hear His prayer, and to find the answer to that prayer, not in the halls of academia, but in the church together, on our knees in prayer, lifting up our voices in praise, considering the gifts given in His Body and Blood?

Let’s ask this together in His name…

Lord, Have mercy on us all!  AMEN!

Question to think about:
Should working toward unity, the unity found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus be a more important issue in the Church today?
If you are a nonChristian, or even on the border, would the leaders of local churches trying to work out their differences make a difference in the way you view the church as a whole?

 

 

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

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

Has the Church forgotten this critial direction?

Altar with communion

Devotional Thought for 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)

235    Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping—never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.

We don’t allow enough time for it in our church services.

Perhaps because the silent time of reflection is awkward.

Perhaps it is because of the shuffling of papers that occurs, or the sound of people shifting (squirming) in their seats, fifteen or so seconds into the silence.

Perhaps it is because we mistakenly think the things we have to say or sing are more important,

The time of reflection, when we consider that we’ve sinned against God, and against others.  When we think back and take inventory of the time since we last confessed our sin since we are brought face to face with those moments where we failed to love, where we failed to care, where we made ourselves and our desires the most important thing in life.

It shouldn’t be just on Sunday morning that we do an examination our of lives or our consciences. But we need to do it before we commune, not out of a sense of duty, but because we need to realize why we commune, why we need Jesus to come to us, why we need to know He loves us.

Because we realize we are broken because we need to realize that it was our sin that Jesus responded to, laying down His life to erase it from our books with the grace found in the body broken and sacrificed, and love found as He offered His blood to cleanse us.

We need to do this, not to dwell in the guilt and shame, not to recount how horrible we are, but to realize how precious God’s forgiveness is, and how much He truly loves us, and how much we need to know He does love us.

That is why Paul warns us to examine ourselves. because as we do, we understand the blessing of God’s forgiveness.  If we don’t if we neglect this, look at the warning, God will, and rather than pour out His grace, it will result in HIs judgment, and His punishment or worse, His wrath.

Not because we didn’t cover every sin (who has that big of a memory) but because we didn’t trust Him enough to deal with our failures, and we continued in life not dealing with our sin. Because we neglected the freedom God offered to us, and chose to stay in the dark.

So take your time, let God bring to your heart and mind the sins you need to know are forgiven. Ask Him to help you, so that you are convinced of this, you are clean, hole, healed,

Because He was broken, and His blood was shed, for you….

And knowing that, it is a time for a feast!…

AMEN!

How much time do you need, would you like, to examine your conscience in regards to the last week…?

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 640-642). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

The Limit of a Pastor’s (or Priest’s) Authority…

 

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29  for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)

14  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15  the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 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. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)

Confession has two parts:
First, a person admits his sin
Second, a person receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as if from God Himself, without doubting it, but believing firmly that his sins are forgiven by God in Heaven through it.

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

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

The other day a lady from our community called me and asked if we helped people other than Christians. I replied that we do, and then she proceeded to describe needs that couldn’t be met by a church 50 times larger than the one I pastor.  But she demanded that I demand my people to meet the need she had. 

She said I had the authority to do so… and was disappointed and angry that I couldn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the church and the authority it invests in those that it calls pastors, or ministers, or priests. 

I think the perfect portrayal of a pastor is found, not in theology books, but in the priest/bishop described in blue above.  The quote is from Les Miserables, and the Bishop is the one who forgives the sins of Jean Valjean, giving him the silver he stole.  He talked directly, and with authority, the authority that is proper for one in ministry, the authority to be merciful, the authority to reconcile, the authority that is persuasive, because the pastor is convinced himself.

Not of his authority, for that is simply delegated.  

We are (or we should be) convinced of God’s mercy toward us.  We need to be convinced that though we can never fully understand His love, we can experience it, and lead people to experience His love. The authority is seen most clearly when we realize that we are the ones who have been forgiven, we are the ones who God has saved from the brokenness we chose. 

It is that conviction that leads us to wield the authority we are delegated, the authority to pour out the grace of God upon broken people, assuring them of the healing of God found as He cleanses them of their sin.   We can speak for God about this, in fact, we must speak for God in this way.  For He commands it.  

This is our vocation, this is our call.  Somewhere along the line, we picked up other hats, other roles, especially administrative ones, but our only God-given role is that we are overseers and caretakers of souls.  Mercy is what we’ve been authorized to distribute.  Love as well, for in reality, they are the same thing.  Or to use the word that combines them, charity.   The more we can delegate the other stuff, the more time we spend doing what we are called to do, the more the church will come alive, as is it freed from the sin which so ensnares us.

If you are a pastor/priest, find ways to preach and teach God’s word, revealing to people God’s love, and administer the sacraments as often and faithfully as you can.   If you are not, turn to your pastor/priest for such care often, and do what you can to free him up to use this special gift to bless others.

And at all times, praise God for providing this minsitry of reconciliaiton ot us all! 

 


Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

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. Print.

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language) (Kindle Locations 438-439). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

How can we be in “Fellowship” with Those in Error? (or How can we not be?)

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

51 When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. 53 But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem.54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” 
55 But He turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.  Luke 9:51-56

2  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:2-6 (NLT)

15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter.14* For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour.15* They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities

But as the words of this decree show, the apostles did not want to impose an ordinance on the churches. For they say that no one should mind if his brethren do not correctly compute the time in celebrating Easter. The text of the decree is preserved in Epiphanius: “Do not calculate, but whenever your brethren of the circumcision do, celebrate it at the same time with them; even if they have made a mistake, do not let this bother you.”….  44 The apostles wisely admonished the reader neither to destroy evangelical liberty nor to impose a necessity upon consciences, since they tell him not to be bothered even if there has been a mistake in the calculations.

I have had to walk a few people through the same question in the last few weeks and to be honest, I have struggled with it as well.

If they are in error, do we separate ourselves from them (i.e. kick them out)?  Or who are we “in fellowship” with, and how much should that concern us.  For that matter, is fellowship something that is able to be constrained within a man-made,, man-defined organization?

And into that equation today is thrown a few more things to consider.  Two scripture passages, a quote from Vatican Council II’s Lumen Gentium, and a quote from the Lutheran Confessions.

All point to something we need to remember, fellowship is defined by God, as being united, first and foremost with God.  There is only one church, one body of Christ.  Paul is explicit in the quote from Ephesians, as he is in First Corinthians.  We are united to Christ, that is what defines us as the ecclesia, those called, those drawn into Jesus, and united to Him at the cross.

That’s why the Roman Catholic Council notes that there are many ways we are linked, including in our baptism, that we are honored by being called Christian. Even though we don’t agree with all they profess, and we don’t recognize the Pope as the successor of Peter.   That’s why the Lutheran Confessions clearly point out a time when the church chose unity over what had been declared doctrine, and praise and encourage loving our brothers enough to celebrate God’s grace, even if they are mistaken about the day and date.

Can we be comfortable with error?  Is there a point where the links are no more, where what binds us together is severed?  I suppose that if what bound someone to Jesus were severed, then the link between would be cut as well.  But the work of the church, even then, is to reconcile the one severed from Christ because of sin back to Christ.  There is still a link there, just as there was with the prodigal, though the prodigal didn’t know it.

And the Lutheran Confessions make it clear, there are some errors that seem extreme at the time, (i.e. food offered to idols, the dating and celebration of Easter, even the use of the spiritual gifts i  1 Cor. 14) that should not divide us, but that we can overlook those minor errors for the sake of the church, His church.

This means in the caring process, we may not commune together for a season, but it doesn’t stop us from praying for them and with them, it doesn’t stop us from talking, it doesn’t stop us from having the goal of being united in Christ Jesus.  Of making every effort to be united in the Spirit.  These times, where discipline is broken, where unity is hindered, the goal is still that unity, unity found in the grace and forgiveness and restoration that is the reason Jesus came in the first place.

So next time you look to win the argument, consider whether winning gives you the idea that you are the better or the more orthodox or Biblical believer…and consider whether your actions are conciliatory, or divisive…..

And then, do what builds up the body of Jesus….

 

 

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

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

Our Life in the Christ: revealed in our Church’s liturgy, music, artwork..

Concordia Lutheran ChurchDevotional Thought of the Day:
10  And he gave these orders: “At the end of every seven years, the Year-All-Debts-Are-Canceled, during the pilgrim Festival of Booths 11  when everyone in Israel comes to appear in the Presence of GOD, your God, at the place he designates, read out this Revelation to all Israel, with everyone listening. 12  Gather the people together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living among you—so they can listen well, so they may learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, and diligently keep everything in this Revelation. 13  And do this so that their children, who don’t yet know all this, will also listen and learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, for as long as you live on the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.Deuteronomy 31:10-13 (MSG)

Christ has died.   
Christ has risen
Christ will come again
We were dead in our sins
Now we’re buried with Him
We are risen in Christ
We are given new life
And Christ will bring us home
Making us his own
Christ has died
Christ has risen
Christ will come again!

The Christian images, as we find them in the catacombs, simply take up and develop the canon of images already established by the synagogue, while giving it a new modality of presence. The individual events are now ordered toward the Christian sacraments and to Christ himself. Noah’s ark and the crossing of the Red Sea now point to Baptism. The sacrifice of Isaac and the meal of the three angels with Abraham speak of Christ’s Sacrifice and the Eucharist. Shining through the rescue of the three young men from the fiery furnace and of Daniel from the lions’ den we see Christ’s Resurrection and our own. Still more than in the synagogue, the point of the images is not to tell a story about something in the past, but to incorporate the events of history into the sacrament. In past history, Christ with his sacraments is on his way through the ages. We are taken into the events. The events themselves transcend the passing of time and become present in our midst through the sacramental action of the Church.
The centering of all history in Christ is both the liturgical transmission of that history and the expression of a new experience of time, in which past, present, and future make contact, because they have been inserted into the presence of the risen Lord. As we have seen already and now find confirmed anew, liturgical presence contains eschatological hope within it. All sacred images are, without exception, in a certain sense images of the Resurrection, history read in the light of the Resurrection, and for that very reason they are images of hope, giving us the assurance of the world to come, of the final coming of Christ.

324 Looking at his mercy, faith comforts and consoles us. Our opponents teach wrongly when they praise merits in such a way as to add nothing about this faith that takes hold of mercy

The readings this morning were just crammed full of thoughts that I needed to hear.  I could have doubled the amount I quoted, and foregone writing.  Except that I need to, for as I’ve said before, my devotions have to be thought through, meditated upon, and brought together in my writing.  It used to be called spiritual journaling, and someone once suggested i put it out there to be shared.

Today, it seemed like a lot of my readings were set up to talk about living within the story.  About faith is a life of dependence on God, living in harmony with Him, rather than a statement of what theological statements we hold to be true.

We see that in the words from the Lutheran confessions, as we take hold of mercy. That is faith, this incredible love of God that is revealed to us, that floods our lives so that we can hold onto it.  For faith is an engagement with God with not our mind at first, but our heart and soul.

Pope Benedict in the longest quote talks about this in the imagery in the early church and the synagogue, when visuals made our sacramental life part of the narrative poured out in visual representation.  And all of that representation is reflected in the resurrection, the very summit of our being made one with Christ.  For we are united to Him in His death, in order that we can rise to our new life with Him.

That is the reason for the reading of the entire community of Israel, over 2 million people, plus the foreigners that make their home among them.  (Note that part about the aliens!) They were to know the covenant, so that they could be in awe of God’s love and provision for them!  Even more than that, this awe was lived out before Him. In other words, not just in His are of vision, but right before Him, in His presence.

As I was reading all of this, I thought of my friend’s version of the liturgical hymn, the Memorial Acclamation.  Chris is not only an incredible musician and professor of worship but has a great understanding of sacramental covenant theology.   So when he recomposed this ancient part of Christian worship, he not only told Christ’s story, but he made clear what was inferred.  That we share in that death, and in that resurrection, and in Christ’s coming again.  What has become veiled and vaguely visible, Chris revealed in a glorious way. ( You can hear a rock version of it at the link!)

Every aspect of our ministry, from the music to the artwork and images, to the words we speak and lessons and liturgy are geared to help us make this transition.  We are not just people reading about history, we aren’t just witnesses to the story, we are the characters in the story, living and interacting in great awe with God.  Just as people have done since Adam and Eve walked through the garden.  Our people may not realize this, so we need, like Israel, to teach them more and more.  They need to know it, they need to experience His love. as do we, as do our communities.

May the Lord make this happen, opening our eyes more and more to His love!

AMEN!

 

The Memorial Acclimation by Rev. Dr. Christopher Gillette
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSOPkjcqfF4

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

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

A magnificent song sung by a pregnant, unmarried teenager, that needs to be heard!

Mark Jenning's Madonna

A Painting of Jesus and Mary by my friend Mark Jennings. You can find all his art (and order copies) at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46  And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; 48  because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, 49  for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, 50  and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. 51  He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. 52  He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. 53  He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. 54  He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love 55  —according to the promise he made to our ancestors— of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. Luke 1:46-56 (NJB)

When faith takes hold of Christ, the mediator, the heart is at peace and begins to love God and to keep the law. It knows that now it is pleasing to God for the sake of Christ, the mediator, even though its incipient keeping of the law is impure and far from perfect.

It is called by many in the church, The Magnificat this song by a teenage girl who was pregnant before she was married.  Her name was Miriam, or as we know her, Mary.  Back then, being pregnant would be a serious offense.  Cut off from her family, mocked and scorned by all, sent away from her family to a distant relative. We need to remember what she faced, as we hear her song.

For her song is one we need to hear, it is one that the world needs to hear.  When life is broken, when life seems unfair, when we can’t really understand all that God is doing, we need to hear this song!

Go back and read these words again, hear the voice that is broken, yet whole because the Lord is with her.  Note as well that this song isn’t just about God providing for her, but it includes God providing for those who He raises, who He saves, who He feeds, and helps.  

This song isn’t about a personal relationship with God, it is about God caring for all His people, as He has promised those who came way before Mary.   In the translation I used, not all the italics, those are the words woven in that were the words of others, words of prophets and leaders, words that were interwoven as good, no better than any preacher or theologian could ever do.

This song is about God’s faithful love, His faithful love for Mary, and for us.

And it has an effect on us, an effect that is described in the other quote, the one from the Lutheran Confessions.  When we start to perceive Christ’s faithful love, when know He’s got a hold of us, and is saving us, things change. The peace of Christ envelops us, just as it did Mary.  We learn to love God (and therefore love those He has created)   Our souls can’t help proclaiming the greatness of our Lord…for we see His mercy… and His love!

So sing with Mary, sing your heart out, for God has come to you, to help. because He loves you and is faithful.  AMEN!

 

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.   Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV

 

Are All Our Works Filthy Rags?

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:
5  You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? 6  We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. 7  Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. Isaiah 64:5-7 (NLT)

193 To disparage works like the confession of doctrine, afflictions, works of charity, and the mortification of the flesh would be to disparage the outward administration of Christ’s rule among men. Let us add a word here about reward and merit.
194 We teach that rewards have been offered and promised to the works of the faithful. We teach that good works are meritorious—not for the forgiveness of sins, grace, or justification (for we obtain these only by faith) but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and in that which is to come, as Paul says (1 Cor. 3:8), “Each shall receive his wages according to his labor.” Therefore there will be different rewards for different labors.

In the middle of the quote from Isaiah I underlined and italicized a “popular” verse. 

Popular for those who abuse it, as they use it to call people to convert, or to repent.   Some will wax on with great eloquence about how wrong EVERYTHING we do is, how even our best words are nothing more than filthy rags, or as the ESV says, “polluted garments”, those things made unclean because of blood or other bodily fluids.  SOme, trying to get the gut check factor in, will assume that the blood is from a female’s menstrual cycle.  But the idea is that everything we do is horrid, unclean, unable to please God.

I have heard this used as well, by good meaning pastors who are trying to properly distinguish between law and gospel, saying that all our works, even after God has baptized and cleansed us, are still nothing more than filthy rags, that we will never be able to fulfill the “Law”, and therefore we shouldn’t encourage people to try and keep the Law, or even try to apply it to our lives, lived in Christ Jesus.  (In Lutheran theology, we would refer to this as denying the Third Use of the Law)

Theologically, that isn’t the Lutheran position, as you can see in the quote in green above, from the Lutheran confessional document known as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.  It clearly states there that we cannot disparage works of man that demonstrate Christ’s rule, His benevolent work in and through men and women.  It even talks there of mortification of the flesh, the work that Paul talked of in 1 Corinthians 9.  The confessions do quickly remind us that these works don’t merit salvation, but they do merit a reward from God,  Even if that reward is simply hearing Him say, “well done. my good and faithful servant!”  (that comment alone would bring me joy that would last an eternity, as I assume it would for any Christian!)

I would draw your attention to the very passage the quote about filthy rags comes from in the first place.  This is not a theological passage by literary style.  It is a narrative, the words of the prophet, repentant and contrite, pleading with God.  Pleading with God to rip open the divide between heaven and earth, to come into our midst, and save us.  To come and mold is, to do the very work Paul will describe in Phil. 2:10 – where we are described as God’s poiema – His masterpiece, as we are led to do the works God has prepared for us. Isaiah’s pleading is one of repentance, one of praying that God would reconcile and restore us.  That God would come and save us, bearing our sin, and suffering that we would be healed and restored.  This section about filthy rags was hoping for Jesus to come and die on the cross, and for us to be reborn with Him. 

And that my dear friend, has surely happened.

No wonder the Lutheran first generation talked of denigrating the work of God’s people as denigrating the very work, the very ministry of God! 

So be careful how you fling around this passage, and the doctrines you create or try to sustain it. For teaching, those things to people will give them the wrong idea, and you will liable for trying to paralyze the people of God.

Know that God works through His people, all His people, as He walks with them, and will do amazing things!  And proclaim this and encourage it, as God renews and revitalizes the church!

AMEN!

 

 

G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

The Truth about the Ministry.

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

Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…

16 “I am not able to,” Joseph answered Pharaoh. “It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 
37 The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone like this, a man who has God’s spirit o in him?” Genesis 41:16, 37  HCSB

33. Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful34. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read “which were written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace.

It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.

One of the most challenging things to teach on in the church is the concept of the ministry.  Specifically, who can and should preach and administrate/officiate the sacraments.  

Some would open up the doors to anyone to do so, and God can and does choose a group of diverse people to serve Him, that doesn’t mean all can/should preach, or administer the sacraments.  To follow this path leads to chaos, and everyone teaching what is right in their own eyes.  Even worse, when someone is speaking on God’s behalf, and by His order, there is doubt about it.  When we make the ministry about our “rights” to be the pastor, we aren’t listening to God.

Others would follow the opposite extreme, reducing every part of ministry to those who are called and ordained as pastors.  This would include things like evangelism and even to teach Bible studies.  This leaves the church weak, undernourished, and unable to meet the needs of a broken world.  The pastor surely is the primary messenger, when he is speaking God’s word” but that doesn’t make him the only servant of the church!

I wish it would be as simple for us as it was for Pharoah, that every person could see clearly whom God chose to shepherd them. That every shepherd could do their job perfectly, without fault or hesitation. Such a thing would be an incredible blessing.

Pastors and priests are human though, and we do screw up, sometimes royally.   We stand in God’s presence as we lead His people, and there are times we do act as Jesus, speaking for Him, feeding His people, drawing them to Him at the cross.  It is in those times where it is not our perfection that matters but His. We are at our best when we realize as Joseph did, that we aren’t able to, but God can.

You see the ministry is never about the man, it is about the Man whom he stands in for, the Man who works through our voices and our hands.  The ministry is about those who receive God’s word and promises, whom the sacraments, these sacred moments are there to bless.  And when we make it about the man standing there, preaching, standing there, putting Christ’s body into the hands of hungry souls, that we have sinned.  We then have taken our eyes off of the Lord, off of the promises, and orbit outside the relationship in order to critique and judge it.

This is contrary to the gift Jesus gives the church, as a simple gift of men He calls the church to recognize His call upon.  Men who are qualified to serve based on God’s teaching.  Men whom He will speak through, and limit their words to drawing people into God’s glory.  men who see the ministry as simply God and the church, and find great joy in seeing them together.

 Focus there, on people hearing God say, “you are my people” and the people saying “You are our God!”  

Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

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

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