Category Archives: Devotions

We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…

Prayers Answered in the Wounds of Christ: Part II: Cleanse Me!

Help Me Lord! Cleanse me! week 2 picPrayers Answered in the Wounds of Christ

Part II:  Cleanse me!

Ezekiel 36:23-27, 37:23, Titus 2:11-14

I.H.S.

 May your awareness of the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that your prayers are answered, that you have been made Clean!

Shamed among the Nations

In our reading tonight, there is a phrase that really makes me want to hide.

There, in verse 23, God tells Israel that they brought great shame on His name, that they ruined His reputation across the entire world.   That is how bad their sin was, that all the world through bad about God because of how evil they acted.

Some might wonder what they did, I think the Apostle Paul described it well,

29  Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31  They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:29-32 (NLT)

Sounds like a pretty bad crowd, doesn’t it?

Maybe, the words you said a few minutes ago described them accurately, as well,

Father in heaven, I have lived as You did not matter, and as if I mattered most, I have not honored your name by using it to praise and pray, I have not let your love rule my life, and so I have failed to love others. There are people I have hurt and failed to help.  My thoughts, my words, and actions have been soiled with sin….

That puts a different perspective on it, doesn’t it?

Is God talking about our sin as well as Israel’s?

As we take time during Lent to slow down, part of that journey is to realize how sin breaks us down, how it damages us.  But part of the damage it does is to how other people see our God.  To think about that helps, us realize how serious sin is, that even the smallest sin reflects on the God we claim to love, the God we claim to believe in, the God we trust, the God we adore.

Our brokenness reflects on our God, much the way that our behavior once reflected on our parents and the way they raised us, or the way people would think we raise our children when they misbehave when they were younger.

Our sin reflects on the God who created us, who died on a cross to save us.

That is pretty serious, a hard thing to digest, and it should trash our hearts when considering the words of the hymn,

“For it was my transgression, which brought this woe on me…”

Though we know that isn’t the end of the story, it takes a moment to understand that our sin impacts God, and His work to redeem mankind.  SO take a moment, and think about that…

Your sin, my sin brings disgrace upon God.

Our cry for cleansing…

This is why the hymn talks about casting our lives down before Jesus, about the fact that we deserve His wrath, but knowing that we dare to cry, have mercy!  Don’t send us away.

Cleanse me.  Strip me of my sin.

And faith is simply trusting Him to do so, that He would be faithful to the promise of bearing our sins, of cleansing us from them. Of loving us enough to hear our cry, and clean us with His blood.

Something he promised all along,

Think about those readings we heard earlier,

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.  Your filth will be washed away!”

“I will save them from their backsliding I will cleanse them, then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.”
“He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, to make us His very own people.”

The same promise, over and over… the answer to our cry, to cleanse us,

He cleansed us…

As He always intended, as He promised, He made us His own, and welcomed us into His presence, into His kingdom.

What a comforting thought, when all we can dwell on is the realization that we brought Him shame, and He loved us enough to clean us up.   That sacred head, so wounded, weighed down by grief and shame. Shows us the depth of His love for us!

Which is wonderful, glorious, incredible, unbelievable.

And as we look upon Him, as we consider His wounds, we find our prayers answered, we find that He has made us His own, by cleansing us, and calling us to dwell in peace!

AMEN!

We Need to Make the Time for the Miracle…

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our Day:
“No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace,  and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.”   1 Samuel 1:15-18

Does our daily anxiety about life seem so important to us that we can find no time to look above it? There is the daily anxiety about food and lodging for ourselves and for those who are dear to us; our profession, our work; there is our responsibility for society in general, for its improvement, and that injustice may cease to exist in it so that all of us can eat our bread in peace and freedom. Does not all that seem so urgent that everything else seems of no consequence? And is that the whole problem? Today more and more individuals are of the opinion that religion is a waste of time, that only social action can make a significant contribution to man’s well-being. As a result, it will require a kind of miracle to make us let ourselves be lifted up to what is higher. But God be praised, such miracles do occur even today.

Christ as a light illumine and guide me.  Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me, on my left and on my right. 
This day Lord, be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each that speaks to me.  This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, and yet all-powerful.  Christ as a light, Christ as a shield, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.

Joseph Ratzinger’s words this morning, written perhaps 20 years ago or more, ring so true today.  We see so many things that need to be done, so many things that need to be corrected, so many things that cause anxiety, so many things that have to be addressed, otherwise, we cannot find the time to eat our bread in peace, truly free. 

These things are so urgent that everything else seems. not to matter, not to be of importance.  Including our religion, our walking with God, our taking the time in prayer, to pour out our hearts like Hannah did.

Last night in our church service, I saw something I have long dreamed of and encouraged.  People staying at the communion rail, emptying themselves, even through the tears, finding the freedom that comes as we, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, find that we cannot leave until we have emptied ourselves until we are confident that God has heard us.

Do I like the fact that these people’s lives are so challenged, so anxious that they must look for comfort, for peace there at the rail?  No, but I do love that they have come to recognize that it is the place where miracles begin. Where they can unburden, where they can drop the stuff that oppresses them and find hope, where they can find the peace they need. 

We need to pray, we need to know what the ancient Celtic Christians reveled in, the presence of God in every moment of our lives.  God so intimately involved, so compassionate that He will bear our burdens, that He will help us cope with anxieties, (whether we know what we are anxious about or not) 

Prayer isn’t about duty, it isn’t just another task in our calendar, it is where we find the miracle of peace, where we are reminded He is there, where we can pour out our heart, and ask for the faith to leave the burdens behind. 

God is with you… prayer makes that truth come alive!!!!  

So take the time, see the miracle begin and lead in freedom and peace!  AMEN!

(and anytime you want to come and prayer… you are welcome too!)

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

from the daily office: morning prayer of Celtic Daily Prayer:  Book 2

Who gets the Best Reception Heaven?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

So He told them this parable: 4 “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field o and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, 6 and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ 7 I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.   Luke 15:3-7

But there is already the threat of invasion by the virtuoso mentality, the vanity of technique, which is no longer the servant of the whole but wants to push itself to the fore. During the nineteenth century, the century of self-emancipating subjectivity, this led in many places to the obscuring of the sacred by the operatic.

Among all those who passed away, there were two men.  The first was the most famous preacher of the time, and the other, a man who spent most of his life in prison, and only as he approached death, did he stop fighting, and God drew him close. There would be a worldwide celebration of the former man at his memorial service.  The latter man would have 2 or 3 at his graveside, with a chaplain in tears. 

They get to heaven, who do you think gets the better reception?  Which person gets the warmer welcome?  Whose arrival makes the biggest splash?

We might think it was the man who spent his life dedicated to serving God, whose life and messages affect more people than anyone can count, more than anyone knows. 

Yet, time after time Jesus tells us that it is not a contest, that the joy over the one lost is greater than the 99.  That the person hired at the last moment gets the same wage//reward as the one who worked from dawn. That John the Baptist, who was used by God to call many to repentance, is the least in the kingdom of God. 

And yet, even in the church, we applaud the famous, those whose charisma leads them to become popular, the opera soloist with the voice no-one can match, but who causes us to be reduced to listeners, to observers.  

God isn’t a respecter of persons, St Paul tells us.  Yet we are, I am not sure why, but even in the church, we are.   We need to remember that they are sinners, saved by grace, that is why they are saints, even as we are.

All because of Jesus.

It’s all because of Him.

Going after you and me when there were 99 back at the ranch, rescuing us, carrying us, working to heal us.   Just as the Spirit is still drawing people to Him, through us.

WHo gets the best reception in Heaven?  

Jesus… who made it all possible, and has invited us all to that feast, as the guests He so dearly loves!

 

 

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

Christian, do you ever feel like your life is a waste?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the day:

16 Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his •slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception v they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, w x and therefore I’m unable to come.’
21 “So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’ 
22 “ ‘Master,’ the slave said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’ ”   Luke 14:16-24 HCSB

The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.

Vivification.  That incredible blessing as the Holy Spirit pierces our heart with the law, and then creates life in a person, creating in them the ability to believe in God, and the ability to depend upon Him.  We talked about Justification a lot, and Sanctification some, but Vivification?  Not so much!

To put it in less technical language, Jesus brings us to life, all of us, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The older versions of the creeds talk of being quickened, and that is what we are talking about.  We were dead in sin, and in baptism intimately linked with Jesus death, and then so united, we rise to new life again. This is how the Holy Spirit makes us born again!

Too often though, we don’t encourage each other to live this new life.  We talk about being united with Jesus in life, but we too often forget we are united in His mission as well. To use the parable from Luke, we forget the importance of the party and choose instead to waste this new life away. 

We come up with so many good excuses though!  I can worship God on my own, I don’t have time for long prayers, or studying His word.  We don’t have to do these things -because we don’t earn our salvation!  We keep making the excuses, we keep telling ourselves we will get back to church later, that we will open that dust-covered Bible, that we will spend more time in prayer, and we will try to love our neighbor, and our enemy.

And with each excuse, we choose to not walk with Jesus, we choose to ignore His wonderful invitation, and we fail to see the Spirit work through us.

This isn’t “do this or you won’t be saved”, it is “this is what salvation is”, walking with God, knowing His love, ministering to others, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is having a life worth meaning, a life we can look back on and truly say, God was with us!”

Lord, have mercy on us, forgive us of making excuses, and help us live in everlasting life, with you!  AMEN!

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

The Necessary Ingredient of Heroism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)

821      Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.

We are no different than the children who put on superhero costumes for Halloween.

There is a part of us that wants to be the best, at something, anything. 

Especially the idea that we are the best at what we do, whether it is a parent needing the hero for their kids, or being the superstar at work, the one everyone turns to, that everyone counts on, the person who is indispensable.   

We want to be the heroes

We’ll even attempt to the difficult, the impossible if that will lift us up, not just for the praise, but for the acceptance.  For heroes are always accepted, aren’t they?  They always are welcome, aren’t they?

But this desire to be accepted, to be the hero, to be indispensable will fade, or we will fail. For we can never do enough, not for those whose favor we want, but to assure us own hearts that we will never be forgotten.

Compare this drive to the idea of humility, the idea of knowing who we are based on who God is, and what He does for us.  I love that St. Josemaria says that humility is counting first on God’s blessings.  Humility then is not a matter of self-abasement. It is not primarily an understanding of who we are, of recognizing our talents and limitations.  That comes into play, but even then, that should drive us back to the first step.

Who God is: our Father, our Brother, our COmforter, our deliverer, our Lord, and Shepherd.  WHat He does for us, creation, reconciliation, and as we are united to Jesus, the miracle of holiness happens to us.  We are holy in Him, in no other way, yet so incredibly transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This happens as the Spirit enables us to trust, to depend, to have faith in God, who loves us.

You want to be the hero?  Why?  You have one, and that Hero has provided what you need, accepting you, making you His child, treasuring you!

Humility is found in depending on this.  The Lord, your God, is with you…always!

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2912-2916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can We Recognize the Ministry of the Average Christian? (and help them accomplish it?)

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12  to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13  until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]  (Italics mine)

Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.  (Italics mine)

Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time.  I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition.  I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.

There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley.  The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people.  A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate.  It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people.  It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!

We don’t always get this correct.  Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church.  Pastors don’t save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church. 

We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).  He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.  

Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don’t understand this.  They don’t get that the ministry is God’s, entrusted to the entire church together.  It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God’s desire to reconcile all to Him.   Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry. 

Such a responsibility isn’t to be hoarded like Gollum’s precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks.  Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines.  It is best done, when all, so in awe of God’s love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God.    Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.

We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.

It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world.  AMEN!

[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

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

Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)

Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours

Isaiah 53:7-11

† I.H.S. †

The Mark you bear….the passion it represents

A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead.   Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.

Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.

As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden.  We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.

Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….

The prayer tonight?  It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”  
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”

An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight.  A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.

The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross

Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away…  Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.

Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.

We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness.  To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.

And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.

The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!

The Mark of Bliss 

As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.

The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,

10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)

 It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish.  The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears.  All that is necessary for a time.  But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,

The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.

In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…

Make Me thine

And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.

He has made us His own.

We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”

The Transfigurations: The Light Shines! A sermon on 2 Cor. 3:12-4:6

church at communion 2The Transfigurations: The Light Shines!

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the transformation God is working in your life, as the Holy Spirit causes you to shine with God’s glory!

Two transfigurations?

If you looked carefully at the title of the sermon, you would have seen that the word transfiguration is plural.  You would also see the reading the sermon is based on is not the reading of Jesus transfiguration, that amazing day that stunned Peter, James, and John as Christ was transfigured, right before their eyes. 

Can you imagine being there, having Jesus revealed in all of His glory?  Would you drop to the ground in awe, or would you put your foot in your mouth like Peter did?  John would speak of it later with these words,

 14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

But this sermon is not about the transfiguration, it is about the transfigurations.  It’s not based on the Gospel according to Mark, but what we call the second letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.

It’s about the transfiguration the Holy Spirit is working on this morning, the transfiguration that is occurring to you and to me, as the glory of God is seen in our lives.

And because this is about our transfiguration, it, of course, it is about Christ being revealed to us, in all His glory as well.

What blinds you?

For the Jews in the time of Jesus and Paul, the Old Testament served as the veil which Paul describes.  Oddly enough it was voluntary at first, as people were so troubled by the glory and love of God that they couldn’t even look upon a reflection of the glory seen glowing in Moses.

They choose the veil, and they hung on to it as if seeing God, would overwhelm them.  Paul identifies that veil as the Law, the Old Covenant that allowed them to focus on all the law, on all the minutiae. On all the ways they can try to prove they are God’s choice, or on all the ways they fail and fail to see God’s mercy that is available to them.

But we have our veils as well, things that we think hide us from God, or at least His holiness, His glorious love from us.  Our veils are just as much a challenge, and we choose them and bind them about us.

The first veil is the one the Pharisees and Sadducees often wore.  It is the self-righteous we wear, that would melt away if we compared it to the glory of God.  We might consider ourselves good because we go to the best church, or because we have the better political beliefs, or because we don’t sin as blatantly as others.  We try to measure up to God’s law, well at least the commandments we haven’t overtly broken.  I mean, no one here murdered anyone this week, or committed adultery, or robbed anyone else…. Right?   ( I won’t mention “bear false witness- gossip” or “be envious of others homes, spouses, job, pets, – but I will project that on the screen!)

The other veil is self-condemnation, looking at all the rules and realizing that we can’t keep them, about living with the tears and shame that comes from hiding behind a veil, and realizing how we are wasting away in a prison of our own making. Thinking that because we can’t overcome sin and self-centeredness on our own, that this means we will never escape how it crushes us.

And we, who think we can hide behind a veil… often move from being self-righteous to being self-condemned, fluctuating day by day, sometimes far more frequent.

The veil stops us, but how can it be removed?

Only God Can And Has

It is removed when we trust in Jesus, as we depend upon Him to keep the promises made to us, about cleansing us from the sin we so hate.

This is the work of the Spirit, as we are turned to the Lord, as the Spirit takes away the veil, as Christ Jesus is revealed, and His work is made known.  As that happens, our lives are being changed,  our lives begin to reflect Christ, not as a mirror would, but something deeper.  For the Spirit begins to transfigure us, this is the same word that Mark uses in His gospel.   We are transfigured as we look to Christ, as we dwell in Him!  We begin to show His glory, as the Holy Spirit makes this happen!

We are changed for the glory of Christ didn’t just reflect from our lives, but as it made its mark there.  His glory, which we stand in awe of acts like a branding iron, forever marking us as His own people, a people who become more and more like Him. What a glorious thing!

It is why Paul says we can be bold, so assure of God welcoming us, His children, into His presence.  It is why we don’t give up, and why we strive to do things the right way, keeping this powerful word of God straight, undistorted, focused on Jesus, reveling in the fullness of His love!  It is so incredible, as Paul says, we don’t want to talk about ourselves, but rather the love of Jesus, and are willing to serve people to help them know that!

That is why Paul said we work so hard trying to reveal Jesus love to others. Hear His words again,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

The assurance of sharing in His glory, the assurance of being loved by the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit!  For one with Christ, you are being changed into one who shines with His glory.  This is the transfigurations!  Rejoice and rest in His peace!  AMEN!

Can the Church Leadership Quit Lusting for Power and Control?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2  to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3  Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

A society that tends to turn people into puppets of production and consumption always opts for results. It needs control; it cannot give rise to novelty without seriously compromising its purposes and without increasing the degree of already existing conflict. It prefers that the other be completely predictable in order to acquire the maximum profit with a minimum of expenditure.

I often receive advertisements for books and seminars about Christian leadership.  Books that talk about the management of the church, the proper way to administrate things.  Some bring the best and brightest of secular management and leadership theorists into play.  This is nothing new, as names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Steven Covey have long tried to bridge the gap between secular leaders and leaders in the church. Most of the church consultants I know use those kinds of models, those kinds of systems.

By leaders, I mean anyone who leaders, whether it be the Sunday School leader, the deacons, elders, or altar guild, or the pastors and denominational leaders that go by terms like Bishop, President or even Pope. My favorite title for a leader, and I have heard every Pope in my life refer to it, is their title, “servant of the servants of God.”  Not the King, or the Lord, or high exalted leader but the servant of those who serve.

Back to leadership itself.  I think the problem we often see when secular leadership style and theory come into play in the church is the idea of profit.  Not necessarily monetary, but the idea of profit as in return on investment (ROI).  I’ve seen this as churches prepare budgets, as denominations determine where to plant new churches, and whether to close other, smaller churches.  The latter because they use up too many resources (money, land, building space)

St Josemaria calls us o think differently, to work with the love of God.  Not just putting in the hours, but truly investing our talent, our knowledge, our competencies, all bathed in the love of God.

Francis likewise warns of turning the church into a puppet kingdom, where we strive for results and growth, forgetting the person’s needs, and basing outreach on maximum profit for minimum expenditure.  I’ve seen this in meetings where rather than come alongside smaller churches in urban areas, advisors tell them to become legacy churches, closing and selling their properties to help growing churches thrive.  We want predictable and sure methods for growth or revitalization, something with a quick turnaround, rather than something that might consume us.

We come full circle back to Peter’s epistle then, where he tells us not to do out work for pay (whatever the “payoff is – it might not be money)  Rather we should do our job from a desire to serve, even as our Lord served.  To work, not demanding this and that of those we are entrusted to, but by being examples to those we care for, investing in them, not expecting them to invest in us first.  We need to love them, not manage them,  Just as Christ loves and guides us, with gentleness and care.

This is contrary to modern business practices, yet it is the nature of ministry, of serving others, it is the nature of imitating Christ Jesus, who expended it all to save a bunch of corrupt and often shameless sinners like you and I.

May we lead our people into the peace and wonder that is found as Christ is revealed, as He ministers to, cleanses and makes us Holy. May we all find that healing available only in Jesus, as we help others heal.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter But Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

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.

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