Category Archives: Devotionals
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God. Job 2:9-10 GNT
Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and most sacred function of every priest. As for me, from the very first years of my priesthood, the celebration of the Eucharist has been not only my most sacred duty, but above all my soul’s deepest need.
For a while our dear God looks on and lets us lie between a rock and a hard place, and from our experience we learn that the weak, suffering word is stronger than the devil and hell’s gates. The devil and his followers can storm the fortress all they want. They will find something there that will make them break into a sweat and still not win the day; it is a rock, as Christ calls it, that cannot be overcome. Thus, let us suffer what we will; we will experience that God will stand by us to guard and protect us against the enemy and all his followers.
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
As I finished reading my daily readings this morning, I pondered aloud if there was something up. I mean the reading in Luther in green and starting the book of Job (In my read through the Bible in a year) could be considered ominous.
As in… what’s coming that I have to be prepared for it by all this?
I mention this aloud, somewhat as a joke, and one of my co-workers said something to the extent of, “it worked out okay in the end, so as long as it works out alright…”
While I know that it all does indeed work out in the end, and that GOd has promised it all works out for good, it is hard in the midst of trauma to focus on the end result. Indeed, it is more than challenging, and while we talk about patience, persistence and prayer, we also must admit that there is a drain mentally, physically and spiritually to the repetitive trauma that life and ministry throw at us.
So how do we learn what Job advocated for, this idea that we should not complain, but welcome the suffering of life, simply, because like the blessings, it comes from God!
Even as I looked at what I just typed, it strikes me as wrong, as unjust, and to be honest, impossible. I might be able to teach this as a theory, but an honest reaction is that this is not how I think, normally.
The key word is normally.
What i need is what Luther wrote about at the end of that citation. That Christ is the rock that cannot be overcome. We can endure suffering and struggles, aware of God’s presence, that He stands by us and guards us, even in the valley of the shadow of death that David describes.
In the midst of the suffering I need to experience His love, and there it seems even more sweet, more rich, more real, more comforting. In the midst of the struggle, when I take a breath (Psalm 46) and slow down, I can realize He is my God, He is my fortress, Luther is absolutely correct, aware of God”s presence we can echo Job’s welcome – suffering simply then becomes a tool by where we realize even more the blessing of being God’s people,
Which is where the other two quotes come in, and the role of the sacraments. You see, as much as it is a privilege, and my sacred duty to distribute the body broken and blood shed for the people of God, I need to receive it, I need to realize the blessing that it is, the presence of God there in my hands, even as it is given away and shared. Francis is right, as we administer the sacraments our hands should tremble, as should the hands of those who receive it.
For there, at the altar, over the font, at the bedside, there is the inescapable presence of God, there specifically for the people I am ministering to, and there for me. It is at that point I can release all the stress, and the pain. I can find hope for reconciliation, I see God’s mercy helping me realize my sins are taken away. It is there peace overwhelms us, and we realize God has answered our prayers, and come to us.
So even before it all works out in the end, we find what we need, what makes the difference, even if on a Monday we begin a journey like Job’s.
God is with us.
He is our sanctuary, our place where even Satan’s hordes and suffering cannot separate us from God.
Lord, as we struggle in life, help us not look past you. Help us to realize we dwell in your presence, that Your Spirit is there to comfort us, and enable and empower us to endure, and minister to others, revealing to them Your healing and grace. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 145). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 159). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 207). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Romans 12:16-18 (NLT2)
20 You clash with the character of one person or another…. It has to be that way—you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone. Besides, without those clashes which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges—imperfections and defects of your character—and acquire the order, the smoothness, and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection? If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.
I have never liked conflict.
Like many people, I would go to great lengths to avoid it, and I fear its approaching.
I think this is, in part, because we don’t know how to understand it, and we either fight for victory, or we settle for compromise. As a result we are not aware of the sweetness of harmony, the true peace of living in concord, and the hope that comes from finding the true peace that happens when we reconcile.
As a result, we dwell in a time where conflict is played out strategically, in back rooms and parking lot conversations, via text messages and other social media we gather our side, and are ready to go to war, or run away from our opponents.
And all suffers.
Living in peace with everyone is not about being liked, it is not about being popular, it is about working for true reconciliation, true unity that is not at the cost of diversity, or does it force conformity to anything else but Jesus. ANd since the Spirit is in charge of that transformation, the very clashes we, can lead to reconciliation.
Real peace is found there, not in the apparent absence of conflict.
It is a hard lesson, and to be honest, one I have refused to learn, even as I prayed for such a peace to grow in my life. Yet I have begun to see it, I have watched God at work bringing together those who trusted Him enough to be honest, and desire to see Him honored more than to be proven they are right. I have seen it in those who journy together. I have seen it at the communion rail, and in the passing of the peace.
So trust God, be willing to pay the price for true peace, knowing God will help, He will be there, and the person you are in conflict may come to realize, as you do, that you are on the same journey, being drawn by God into His presence.
Heavenly Father, help us to trust and depend on you more than we fear and avoid conflict. In those situations, help us to honor you, and seek the peace that is found in reconciliation, not settling for compromise or avoidance. Give us the patience to see this happen, in Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 209-213). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT
2 To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)
Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.
[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.
As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.
As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.
If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”
Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?
It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.
It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.
As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,
This is the future of the church, this is its hope.
Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.
It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.
Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!
This is our past, and our future.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. Romans 12:1-3 GNT
The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”
for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)
Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.
Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)
But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.
Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?
It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.
Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?
I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.
We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.
It is about the stuff of life.
It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.
It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.
It is what being a pastor and priest is about.
It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.
So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”
And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)
Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. 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. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional thought of the Day:
10 Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12 Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Psalm 51:10-13 (TEV)
And so they rejected him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his hometown and by his own family.”
Matthew 13:56-57 (TEV)
953 I think it is very natural for you to want the whole world to know Christ. But start with the responsibility of saving the souls of those who live with you and sanctifying each one of your fellow workers or fellow students. That is the principal mission that the Lord has entrusted to you.
Whenever I hear of people rejecting Jesus, it amazes me it is the people that knew him best, the people he grew up around, the people of Nazareth, including his own relatives.
It is not an unusual phenomena, and you see it in scripture, Joseph struggled with his brothers, (even when they were together in Egypt), David His dad and uncle struggled with each other, and even among the apostles, there was competition.
It is almost enough to say, Lord, send me anywhere in the world to be a witness of you, but do indeed send me! I don’t want to stay home and minister. They won’t listen to me anyway! After all, they didn’t listen to Jesus, right? Or we use the rule that physcians shouldn’t treat their families, so we decide we don’t have to minister to our own.
We are so desperate to see them know God that we often come on to strong, or too condescending, We don’t know their brokenness, because we don’t take time to listen. We try to find a reason to jam our beliefs down their throat, without introducing them to God’s love.
So we find excuses not to minister to those around us, and our faith becomes more individualistic, more isolated, more personal. The result is that we will never go out to share our faith, and eventually that faith will atrophy, grow stagnant, and shrivel up.
So how do we minister to these people that know all our weaknesses, the times where are hypocrisy has been so blatant, where our sins have shown for all to see?
I think we see the answer in Psalm 51, in this prayer in whih David pleasds with God,a s we should, not to banish us from His presence, where he begs God not to take the Holy Spirit from us.
To realize the joy that comes from realizing God has rescued us, the incredible truth that we are His children, co-heirs with Christ. To be able to pray, with confidence for the ability to really obey God, to hear His word and welcome the changes the SPirit makes in transforming us.
You see, the work that changes the messenger is what often is realized by the one the message is delivered to, and no one would recognize the change more than those close to us, those used to our patterns.
Lord, help us to spend so much time, and spend that time well adoring you, hearing your promises of Love and being changed by the Holy Spirit that those around us realize our zeal comes from being healed of our brokenness, and help us to see them healed as well. Thank you Lord!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3865-3867). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
35 Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36 Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40 because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40 (TEV)
The Bible contains stories of salvation which are completely paradoxical. In the tales and the stories of the world, we learn that the heroes were young, beautiful, strong and that they set off on an adventure. In the Bible, they were old, sterile and powerless and God chose them (e.g., Abraham and his wife Sarah). For us it always starts on the wrong foot! What is important in the Bible is not so much to be healthy or ill, but to be with God. One is healthy and holy when one is with God Who comes to meet us in our weakness. The place of our wound, our vulnerability, is the place where God meets us
There is a picture that people post on the internet that annoys the heck out of me. Well, actually there are a lot of them, but one in particular drives me up a wall.
It is a drawing of Jesus, surrounded by “superheroes”, Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America, those kinds of guys. And it contains the quote, “and that is how I really saved the world.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like the Marvel and DC ficitonal superheroes. They are a cool escape, and I understand their role in our society, giving people hope, and possibly giving them some moral lessons. But they are simply modern fables, they are nothing more than that.
Jesus on the other hand, and those who follow him, are more than that. Living in fellowship with God the Father and depending on people, they really save people’s souls, and oftne their lives.
They aren’t perfect either, as the quote in purple points out, their brokenness is declared clearly in scripture, which makes their work, done depending on God, all the more phenomenal. They don’t have a weakness – they have all of them.
They even doubt God at times.
But they depend on Him, and they dwell assured of his presence
For He has come to dwell with us, to heal us, to reasue us, to support us. To not just fly in and out, but to really care and help us in our lives, especially the dark and challenging parts.
Not just a symbol, but a God who inspires us all to depend on Him, even as we serve others.
And those who do depend on Him, whether old fogies like Abraham, or the ladies who teach preschoolers to sing, “Jesus loves me”, or the pastors in the inner city, caring for those too often left behind, or the missionaries in the Sudan and Cameroon and Nebraska – they are my real heroes. So are they who have gone through the darkness, those abused, those broken beyond imagination, those incarcerated, and those ill ( one lady who has battled cancer for 7 years – 5 years past the time doctors gave her and is going strong) These who found God waiting for them in their darkness and simply hang on.
They know God loves them, they know He is faithful and they go where He sends.
May the Lord help each of us to realize He has done the same with us!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 112). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT
Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.
Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.
I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.
That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”
This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.
The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.
Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.
That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.
You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.
Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.
To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.
This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.
It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.
And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..
This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.
Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? 7 If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music? 8 If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle? 9 So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what’s the point of opening your mouth? 10 There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. 11 But if I don’t understand the language, it’s not going to do me much good. 12 It’s no different with you. Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? 13 So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don’t hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. 14 If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. 15 So what’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind. 16 If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what’s going on know when to say “Amen”? 17 Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it.
1 Corinthians 14:6-17 (MSG)
He (Luther) had labored hard to put the word of God into the everyday language of the German people so that hearing and reading the scriptures would inform their biblical spirituality. He considered the gospel more as an oral message (mundhaus) than as a literary text (federhaus).
I read a lot of books.
From a lot of different genre’s, from a lot of different sources.
A lot of them are novels ( I love 18th-19th-century naval historical fiction) and a lot of them are religious works. Some are written very technically, with a vocabulary that often causes me to pull out my dictionaries or a Biblical Encyclopedia (or a Greek, Hebrew, Latin lexicon) Those are more challenging, yet they have their place. But they are a different language.
Their place is not in worship, or in Bible Study with my people.
Maybe in a class or individual study, maybe in a gathering of pastors, but it is not necessary for the people of God.
We don’t need to speak in “another tongue” when we lead worship or preach, or when we teach. And yet, far too often, we do that very thing.
That is what Luther is getting at when he speaks of the gospel as more an oral message than a literary text. It is a message that is to be communicated, not just analyzed. It is something that speaks to the soul of a person, not just their intellect. It is something that gives them hope, peace, and joy, even when they are in the midst of trauma.
That is what Luther wanted to do, he wanted to make his work, trying to reveal the love and grace of God to the people he was entrusted to care for, and to those who didn’t have shepherds, or whose shepherds didn’t do their work.
So we need to examine what language we use, in our sermons, in our lessons, in our liturgies, and whether those words are in common language. Not just vocabulary, but the style in which we write. It has to be common English, words that affect and encourage their walk with God.
As St. Paul says, “Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy.”
The intimacy to walk with God, to revel in His love, to find rest in His peace, to savor what it means to be forgiven.
This isn’t just about teaching them “our language.” This is about pastors ensuring we explain and reveal God’s love in a language they understand and giving them the ability to praise God in words that mean something, that resonates with them.
Imagine a church, where people we able to be still, to be quiet and just know that God is our God and that we are His people. That is what the prayer that Paul instructs us in has as its goal.
Not that they would be able to diagram the communication of magisterial attributes of Jesus…
But rather that they would burst into tears of joy when they hear, “The Lord is with you!”
Abba Father, Lord Jesus, help us to be so overwhelmed by Your love and mercy that we have the insight and ability and desire to bring others into a relationship with You that leaves them in awe. Help us to speak clearly, and rejoice as we see this happen. Send Your Spirit to inspire us, and guide us in this we pray. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. KLrey, Trans.) (p. 119). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day”
51 Listen to this secret truth: we shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed.
53 For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die. 54 So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!”
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (TEV)
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. Colossians 2:12 (TEV)
4 By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. 5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. Romans 6:4-5 (TEV)
Christ is risen! In old chronicles we read how the faithful in Russia used to embrace each other with this greeting. They had undergone tangible renunciation during the period of Lent, and now that this period was over, they experienced a real, immense overflowing of joy. By entering into the rhythm of the Church’s year they knew quite tangibly that life had triumphed and that life was beautiful. We still celebrate Easter today, of course, but the grey veil of doubt has spread over the heart of Christendom, robbing us of joy. So is Easter obsolete, a word powerless to inspire hope?
A few years ago, I wrote an Easter sermon called “So what”. And as I took the church through the Easter Acclimation, I asked them to respond one more time:
Pastor: Alleluia! Christ has Risen!
Church; HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!!
Pastor: And therefore…
Church: WE ARE RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
The concept worked well, and with Great energy, they responded. It worked so well, we used that call and response for the rest of Easter (which is celebrated for 7 weeks in our church)
But what I would have never expected happened the next year, when I was planning on only doing the traditional Acclimation, and one of my elders, seeing me pause, enthusiastically and loudly proclaimed the “And therefore” and the entire church responded with the “We are Risen Indeed!”
It is now tradition!
And some poor pastor 30 years from now will have to consider whether it is a tradition he is willing to pay the price of changing!
But I love it. It helps drive the meaning of Easter home. In a world where, as Pope Benedict notes, Easter has become obsolete ( You rarely see church attendance go up on Easter anymore, when it was once the only day some would show up) this little tradition is making a difference.
It makes people realize the Resurrection is personal, they have a major stake in it. THeir role in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is talked about throughout scripture, and especially in Paul’s writings (there are more than the ones above)
And what we now know as a promise, and see hints of here and there, it is guaranteed. We will be changed, we are immortal, and our bodies will one day resemble this. We dwell in the presence of God, and death’s defeat is sure.
Easter matters, and however it takes to make that something we realize, for ourselves and can teach with conviction to those who follow is a not a bad tradition to have.
With Christ, you have risen indeed. Alleluia! 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. 126). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.