Category Archives: Good Articles

I have created this category for articles I’ve come across – other blogs, writings of others that will benefit you.

Enjoy

Why I Gave Up Exegetical Preaching for Apocalyptic Preaching

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
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. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (NLT)

“The key is not to offer commentary but to help the people in the pews understand what is happening in the text so that they can understand what is happening now and respond in faith,”  (1)

Just as steel must be warmed before it can be molded or bent, the human heart must be warmed by the love of God in order to overcome fear and be molded by the truth of Gospel, the archbishop said. Without encountering the love of Christ, “the faith simply looks like rules and regulations.” Ultimately, priests and deacons foster an encounter with God when they preach Christ crucified, he said.  (2)

When I was a Bible College Student, the method of preaching that everyone was being trained in was called expository or exegetical preaching.  You went through a book of the scriptures, chapter by chapter, sometimes verse by verse, explaining the background, the language, the details so that people would have a deep knowledge of the passage.  This was the method of greatly admired preachers like Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Haddon Robinson, and within my brother at the time, pastors like Ben Merold and Max Lucado.  Denominations like Calvary Chapel still make the claim that this is the only way to preach.

It was such a popular method that 3 of my four undergraduate courses in preaching were based in it, as were most of the 40 units I had in Bible.  I have a good friend who has his MDiv and another graduate degree in it. I was trained in that way, and I still teach some Bible studies that way.

But I don’t preach that way anymore. Haven’t in a while.

And as I am teaching a course in preaching (called Homiletics) at the present moment, I’ve been thinking about it.  How do you describe the style of preaching?  I was reading the article the blue quotes come from, and I realized the word I was looking for to describe the style of preaching.

APOCALYPTIC

Now, before you get the idea that I am talking about end times scary stuff, that is not what apocalyptic means, nor for that matter what the apocalypse is about.

Apocalyptic preaching is revelatory! It reveals! It is about teaching what was hidden, what was concealed.  Apocalyptic preaching is about that which was hidden behind the curtain (not the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, but the one in the Tabernacle/Temple.)  It is what Paul is talking about to the church in Colossae – our hope is found in the secret being revealed.  The secret of Christ being in us, being united to us, and us to His cross and resurrection.  That united to Him, we will share in His glory, we will live eternally in the presence and love of God the Father.

Revealing that secret to people who are broken by this world, by its sin, just as the people ere in the days of Jesus, and all the days since Adam and Eve were broken.  That God desires to bring healing to them, not just understanding.  That God wants to reconcile them, not just demand from them. The sermon is to reveal Him to them, the relationship He desires to have with them, it should strengthen that relationship, help they trust Him, depend on them.

That isn’t always done if you are worried about defining the minutiae.  What needs to be done, – show them their need for God, and show them, God, not just wanting to meet that need, but desiring to, no matter what it costs. Or what it costed. This is what gets us through the tough days, this is what gives us hope as we try to cope without our brokenness and the worlds.  It is what gives us hope, even as we deal with death.

One last quote from the article.

“Sobering recent statistics reveal many Catholics (I would say Christians of many stripes) don’t even think it’s possible to have a friendship with God, so they certainly don’t know, with every fiber of their being, that they are loved, infinitely and passionately, by the One who has made it all,” he said  (3)

Helping then know that, this is the nature of apocalyptic preaching. It is giving them the reason we have hope.  To know that are cry, “Lord have mercy” is heard.

May everyone who preaches this weekend do that, and may people see revealed the love they need… and have.  God’s.

(1)  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-to-priests-heres-how-to-not-give-bad-homilies-17455/

(2)  Ibid

(3)  Ibid

Why Teaching People to Obey God Isn’t Nearly Enough…..

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:
16  The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18  Then Jesus approached and said to them, All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NAB)

280      You know that you will never lack God’s grace, because he has chosen you from all eternity. And if this is what he has done for you, he will grant you all the help you need to be faithful to him as his son. Go forward, then, with assurance and try to respond at every moment.

As I continue to see debates about faith and works online, as I continue see to people demand full obedience to one commandment and not another, I am saddened.  For people hyper-focus on the law, and debates about it, much as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Herodians did in the age of Christ.

Because of this, I know quite a few people who leave the church, dismayed either because of hypocrisy, or because of a burden that they are expected to keep, that they cannot on one hand.  On the other, they are dismayed because despite what scripture says, they don’t see the life of those claiming to be believers to be all that different.  There are the same kind of sinners, justified not by the blood of Christ, but because of their own justifications, they still go about life, unchanged, and in chains to sin.

My contention isn’t that we need to teach people to obey the commandments, or to simply live free of them.  My contention is that we don’t do nearly enough in teaching people to obey God.  We go about it wrong in teaching them to obey, and when we reduce it simply to God’s commands, we do something even worse.

First let’s deal with “obey”.  In the very well known passage called the great commission, about half of my translations use obey, some use observe, and a few older translations use keep.  I think the idea of obey comes from that old KJV era use keep, but they in doing so, they cause a problem.  The word in Greek comes from the word to watch over, to guard, to treasure, to protect.  As I have noted before, the keep in a castle was the place of the greatest possible defense, the final point of resistance, the place where children and wives were kept, along with the treasure.

Guard them, treasure them, doesn’t make as much sense when we combine it with command.  or at least it seems awkward.  But consider how much the psalms rejoice in God’s law, in His commandments.  (for example in Psalm 119) Consider the opening of Proverbs 7,

1  My child, remember what I say and never forget what I tell you to do. 2  Do what I say, and you will live. Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes. 3  Keep my teaching with you all the time; write it on your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (TEV)

1  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2  keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3  bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (ESV)

I put the two translations here for a reason, there is something more to commandments than what meets the eye.  Normally we think of commands as God’s law, the Decalogue, what are referred to as the Ten Commandments.

I would contend that we would be less confused if we replaced commandment with a synonym, commissioned (we call it the Great Commission, don’t we?) But we have a slightly different meaning.  Commissioned doesn’t reduce what is taught to the “do’s and do not’s”.  It beings out the scope to include all God has ever commanded about you, as well as what He has commanded you.

For instance, the declaration of our righteousness, the work of Christ’s life, lived with one mission.

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed 19  and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” Luke 4:18-19 (TEV)

it includes His work in completing what He began in us, and in the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us.  It includes the entire covenant – promises as well as regulations.  That is why spending time heaing and meditating upon what God has commissioned brings such joy, not just bondage to a law.   (btw, the commission concepts works with the Decalog/Ten Commandments)  as well, including what some dismiss as the prelude – the key to understanding it.

This is why the joy is so complete, for what God has commissioned for you and I is wondrous.  It is the full measure of His love, not just His plans for our lives.  It is that we are to become His worksmanship (Eph 2:10), a people He made for His own.

Teach His people, those He has claimed in baptism this Truth, for they are His disciples, His children.  And the joy will be unsurpassed.  As they treasure what God has called and commissioned into their lives, the obedience will follow, naturally and assured of His empowerment.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1137-1140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Resurrection: Getting What God Wants

These words that Will Willimon writes are as applicable for Lutherans as for Methodists.

Do we believe the promises of the third article of the Apostles and Nicene Creed?  Do we realize that Easter is about, not just the forgiveness of sins, but our resurrection and the life of the world to come?

Or does somehow that take a back seat in our lives, and in our ministry?

A Great Article for pastors and congregations

The fears mentioned in this article are real… I’ve know pastors that have gone through these very things.

Keep your brothers in prayer.. even as they devote their lives to serving you and those in your community… (and teach you how to do the same)

http://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/2013/08/21/four-fears-of-pastors/

Some thoughts on Church Leadership. EC XVI

Discussion thought of the day:

 I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: 2  give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. 3  Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 4  When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory. 5 In the same way, younger people, be subject to the elders. Humility towards one another must be the garment you all wear constantly, because God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.   1 Peter 5:1-5 (NJB)

“There is, obviously, an issue of theology here. How a man understands his priesthood will have a lot to do with whether he succumbs to the worst aspects of clericalism: pretentiousness, ambition, jealousy of others who are advancing faster in their “careers,” and an inability to relate as both leader and brother to the people who have been given into his pastoral care. Thus, the way the theology of the priesthood is taught in seminaries will be a crucial factor in building the right kind of priestly fraternity, in which the priests of a diocese think of themselves as fellow members of a presbyteral college, with and under the local bishop, for the service of all the People of God. Clericalism, understood as the identification of a priestly caste with “the Church,” is an impediment to the full flowering of Evangelical Catholicism, and an antidote may be found to it in the example of Blessed John Paul II. Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, was a priest’s priest and an inspiration to countless numbers of priests and seminarians. He nevertheless found many of his friends among laypeople— men and women whom he had first known as a university chaplain, and who remained among his closest friends throughout his life. There was no confusion of identities or roles in this network of friends; he was a priest, and they were not. But even more fundamentally, all were disciples who understood that the gifts they had been freely given, be they gifts of intellect, athletic or artistic skill, or personality, were to be shared freely with others. And in that mutual exchange of gifts between a priest and his lay friends, there was a continual growth in discipleship. 9 It is a pattern that might well be emulated throughout the world Church.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I “picked” Wiegel’s book, between our national convention, and trying to prepare for vacation, and taking a class, I haven’t had time to contemplate and sift through what he writes to apply it within my own framework.  He’s writing about what is necessary in the Catholic Church, I have to translate it into my own form of Lutheranism.  But I again find the principals one’s I would strive for – even if others label that goal naive.

The same temptations, the same drives. the same attitudes can caustically erupt, no matter the brand of the man wearing the collar. (or polo shirt with church logo!)  The challenge instead is to be a servant, to be a man who recognizes that God has surrounded him with gifted people who compliment him, whose gifts are there to overcome his weaknesses, to serve alongside each other.   It is a symbiotic relationship – it is not that they are dependent on me.

The same goes for leadership in the church, Bishops (or District Presidents) and in my denomination, circuit counselors, aren’t to treat others as if they are dependent on us, or even as if we are their “bosses”.  We exist to minister together, as Weigel says, as a presbyterial college.  It’s not just me and my church, my territory and your territory.  It’s our work together, in Christ, Our being there for each other.  Yes, there are those whose wisdom we seek out – both officially, as sadly in circumvention of official offices. There are those who we can assist as well.  The idea is one church, on baptism – and one Lord of all (see Eph. 4)  It is in Him we live, the greatest example of servitude, the greatest example of pastoral care, and yes, the one in whom we are united.

May we serve, may we work alongside the people God has entrusted them, teaching them the necessity and the blessing of crying out:

“Lord, have mercy!”

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 148-149). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

  

The Core of Pastoral Preparation: The Cross (Evangelical Catholic XVI)

Devotional thought of the Day:

15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV) 

For unless a man is a radically converted Christian disciple— one who, in gazing upon the Cross, knows himself to be looking at the great truth at the center of human history— he will not be able to bring to the world, through his ministry, the truth that “God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” [John 3.16].

As I continue reading through Weigel’s Book, Evangelcial Catholicism< I am once again both pleased and disturbed by what I read.  ( I am disturbed because one again, I find him so in agreement with Luther – and yet we are still divided )  

English: Christ on the Cross

English: Christ on the Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The quote above comes from the section on the priesthood – how the movement that started to reform the church and resulted in Vatican II and is still trying to come to its fullest fruit.  Weigel shows the idea that the priesthood is not some kind of clerical caste, some kind of special profession – but it is above all, focused on the cross – and therefore missional. (I’ve written about this elsewhere – numerous times – we are not, pastors and priests – professionals…. we serve alongside our Lord.) 

Everything changes because of the cross – everything in history focuses on that point.  

And its that which is the center then of our ministry – as we bring people to Christ’s cross – so that the sin in us can be killed off, so that we can be brought to life in Him (again – see Ezekeil 26:25ff and 37, Romans 6 and Colossian 2-3)  That is the core of our ministry, whether we pastor a church of 10,000 with a television ministry, or we pastor a church that is simply a few families.  The only thing we can offer people is simple – it is the love and mercy of Christ that meets them where they are at, and transforms us.  Anything else but that at the center of our ministry is simply unacceptable.   It is not the calling that has been placed n our lives – the calling we have is to reveal Christ, to make Him known, to show the cross as the way in which He brings us to share in His glory.

As we prepare to preach and to hear our pastors and priests preach this weekend… may we remember why we do what we do… that all would come to know God, and be transformed by His love! Amen

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 140). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Being in Ministry: a Profession or a Vocational Life? (Review of Evangelical Catholic pt. XV)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The F...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: 

5  I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6  an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7  For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8  He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9  He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it. Titus 1:5-9 (TEV)

“In the first decades of the twenty-first century, many, perhaps most, Catholic priests in the developed world still live a Counter-Reformation model of Church and a Counter-Reformation model of priestly ministry in which the priesthood is a kind of religious trade union. They believe, with real conviction, in the truths of the Creed in which they lead their people in prayer on Sunday, but their lives are more consumed with management than with evangelism; they talk more easily of “the Church” than they do of “the Lord Jesus”; and for all their devotion— and it is genuine devotion— the career aspects of their lives fill the horizon of their imaginations (and dominate their conversations, especially among themselves) rather more than the vocational aspects of their ministry.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I personally thought through what I do, and how I approach my ministry.  I spent a few hours doing so last year, when one of my deacons entered seminary.  But a serious review, taking a week or even a month and thinking through how and why I do what I do.

A couple of my recent blogs have addressed this – as I’ve reviewed Weigel’s book and considered his vision for what Bishops (in my case Circuit Counselors and District Presidents) should be like.  It’s a healthy application of both Law, and to an extent gospel.  I fall short of my own expectations, but yet, I have to admit – God is doing something in this place, in the lives of people who are finding healing from brokenness.

This week’s “highlight” again looks at this idea of what is my role as a pastor – at its foundation.  Is it simply a profession, a calling to I what I will do to be able to have a home, and food, and take care of my wife and son?  Is it about finding the best place to do that work, with the best pay and accommodations?  Am I more involved in the management and secular side of my role?  (As Sr. Pastor, i have the responsibility of being head of staff, and tasked with their development – not as saints but as teachers, office admin, etc)

Or is my role purely that of a vocational life?   That while I have to do administrative things, the very way I do them is as a shepherd, as the pastor of those with whom I interact?   That my vocation is not just the 50ish hours I am “on duty”, but that I am a pastor in my off hours as well?   Where and how do I draw the line between my vocation and my “personal life?”  There are differences in theology involved as well of course. But a vocation is far more encompassing than a profession.  It does encompass us, and while we understand this in regards to the judgment of our moral behavior, (we can’t have one set of morals for while we are on duty, the change them like a shirt  when we are off duty) I think we need to realize that our vocational attitudes and focus on caring for souls is as encompassing.

Weigel hits briefly on something most pastors/priests don’t ever want to admit to anyone.  It’s not the question of, “Do I want to “climb the ladder”” or “can’t I find a more… mature church to pastor?  I don’t even think it is a question of wanting more pay, or better benefits.  It’s more illusive than that, a deeper need.  It is like asking the following question, quite bluntly:  Do I seek validation from knowing I am “wanted” by others?  I have to admit, pastors/priests face a temptation there – when we hear someone is considering us, or the sense why not us… when we hear of other friends receiving  3 and 4 calls.  It’s not that we are dissatisfied where we are at, and even the most brutal of parishes has those things that bring us enough joy and strength to stand firm.  It’s not that we would want the pain again of making those decisions between “who needs me most”, and “where can I be most effective” and the real question – where does God want me. It just somehow affirming to be a wanted man.  Yet – when we realize the thoughts are simply a need for affirmation – that can be dealt with… even as we see the gratitude on people’s faces as we feed them with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

As we realize this is a calling, a vocational life, our outlook changes.  Our professionalism slides aside as we spend the time needed, not the time allotted.  Meeting agendas become less important than the lives of those in those meetings, and it becomes easier to become patient in tough situations, waiting on Christ’s leading  showing itself in consensus, rather than our own wisdom or inner compass.  That we are dedicated to being where God wants us to be, without accounting the cost.  We become more willing to be there in the painful moments, aware that there is where God’s grace is seen with the greatest clarity.    As this attitude manifests, as this vocation takes route, that is when our people begin to realize that our vocation is one they share in, for they are the priesthood of all believers.  For in this – they show the true teachings of Christ.. the reality of the call to come walk with Jesus.

One thing is for sure… there is a lot of room to grow…

Lord have mercy – and let this growth be accomplished, that through it, you Lord would receive great glory.

 

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 137-138). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

A Challenge to Pastors and Priests: Evangelical Catholic “review” part XIII

English: Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament insid...

English: Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament inside Saint-Benoît-du-Lac abbey. Français : La chapelle du Saint-Sacrement à l’abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion Thought of the day:

5  I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6  an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7  For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8  He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9  He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to itTitus 1:5-9 (TEV) 

George Weigel, in the book I am finding more and more remarkable, continues on his list (which I commented on 2 points of last week) for the standards for priests:

3.     If this priest has been primarily engaged in parish work, have his parishes grown through his ministry? If his principal work has been in a seminary, college, or university, have his students flourished under his guidance, spiritually as well as intellectually?              

4.     How does this priest celebrate Holy Mass, in specific and concrete terms? Does his liturgical ministry lead those in his pastoral charge into a deep experience of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension? Does his manner of leading the Church in liturgical prayer honor the baptismal dignity of his congregants? Is he regularly found with his people in Eucharistic adoration?              

5.     How many men have entered the seminary under this priest’s guidance? How many women have entered consecrated religious life through his influence? Does he foster holy marriages and stable Catholic families that are themselves “little churches”? Does he encourage lay movements of Catholic renewal? Does he guide popular piety well? Does he promote frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance, and does he devote significant time to his ministry as a confessor? Does he encourage his people to read the Bible daily? Is he, in other words, a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself?

Obviously, there are a few differnces in terminology and practice between men who are Lutheran pastors and Roman Catholic Priests.  (for example – while many of us will meditate on the passion of Christ and confess it is Christ’s Body and Blood, we don’t have a service of Eucharistic Adoration) this lists thrills me, and yet… well…. let’s just say I am convicted by it – especially point 5.

But a pastor/priest of whom these things are true, is one people will entrust their souls to, as the one appointed/ordained to care for them, a call of God, recognized through the church.  They will confess their sins to him, and receive absolution ( I do need to devote more time to make myself available for this) I love the prahsem, “a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself.”    Such a man is one whom can be what old Lutherans calls a seelsorge – the caretaker of the soul.

We desperately need that, these days. Recent events and conversations in my life more that confirm it, and to me it ticks me off, until I ask the same about me.  Are my people willing to let me care for their souls?  Have they grown to know I will be there for them, that I will speak to them God’s mercy – with more zeal and energy and desire?  Will they also be encouraged to walk with God, forsaking all that would be the world’s preference?  Will they lay down their worries, their burdens and concerns as I encourage them?  They need it, we are the ministers of the gospel, the good news… need to provide these encounters with Christ where they will see His love revealed to them….

Will they grow in trust of God, will their dependence on His love and mercy and presence deepen?

It’s not all up to me, I know this… and God will work, even through my errors.  (although that is no excuse)

But do i desire to see my people know what I’ve known?

Yesterday, a dear friend came and spoke to some pastors in my area.  He talked of coping with a family member who was significantly challenged.  And he spoke of his own battles with darkness.  In the middle of his self-disclosure and hope in Chirst, he quoted this passages.

3  All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT) 

Lord, Have Mercy on us, that we might show that comforting mercy to others….and have mercy that they will desire it more and more!  AMEN!

 

 

 

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 122-123). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Laity and the Clergy – proclaiming the gospel together! Evangelical Catholic IX

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, A...

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, Article VII, “Of the Church”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day:

Thus the priest, like the bishop, is first a preacher, teacher, catechist, and sanctifier before he is an administrator. Priests are leaders of their parishes, as bishops are of their dioceses. But in a fully embodied Evangelical Catholicism, deacons and other qualified lay members of the Church will handle more and more of the routine business of parish and diocesan administration. The pastors— bishops who are true successors of the apostles, and priests who form a presbyteral college with and under the bishop (as the bishops form an episcopal college with and under the Bishop of Rome, the pope)— have more urgent matters to which they must attend. Yet the lay vocation, as understood by Evangelical Catholicism, is not primarily one of Church management, in which only a small minority of laity will be involved. The lay vocation is evangelism: of the family, the workplace, and the neighborhood, and thus of culture, economics, and politics. As Evangelical Catholicism rejects the clericalism by which the lay members of the Church were simply to pray, pay, and obey (or, as a nineteenth-century aristocratic English variant had it, to hunt, shoot, and entertain), so it rejects a clericalized notion of lay vocation as primarily having to do with working in the parish office or diocesan chancery. 34 There is important work to be done in those venues, and lay Catholics can and ought to do more of it, thus freeing priests and bishops for the work they were ordained to do. But the primary lay vocation, as John Paul II taught in the 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, is to bring the Gospel into all of those parts of “the world” to which the laity has greater access than those who are ordained: the family, the mass media, the business community, the worlds of culture, and the political arena, for example. (1)

I’ve mentioned before that I am sort of reviewing this book – Evangelical Catholic – slowing – digesting the differences between how its author describes the changes manifesting now in Roman Catholicism – and what I see in the present and in the hsotiry of Lutheranism – which was originally called – “evangelical catholic”.    Not as a devotional persay, but it ends up being so for me.

Today is no different – as I think about the deacons I train  (historically assistants in the college – as they were/are ordained )and about the work of the people here in my church.  Wiegel’s point about their having a primary vocation of evangelist is an awesome point – I highly agree – and it is their primary vocation, as they bring the gospel into their homes, into their friends homes, into their workplaces and the conversations they have out there in the not so “real world”.  

Some would argue that the proclamation of the gospel is the role of the clergy and indeed it is.   But it isn’t only the clergy’s work – it is the work of the family of God – YHWH & Son’s (and daughters!)  The pastors and priests (and bishops and deacons ) preachin a way that the laity comprehend the grace of God, which the Holy Spirit actively embodies in every moment of their lives – bringing joy and peace into some of the most challenging situations that they, and those around them, encounter.   It is there – that the gospel is shown through their lives, through their loves, through the hope they have – even in the midst of situations that would be considered hopeless.   Places that wouldn’t necessarily be a place where my black shirt and collar are welcome.   

But that is a harder calling for the priest and pastor, to preach in that way.  It is a more demanding way, is a sense from the people who sit in the pews.

It is, and isn’t. 

For Evangelism isn’t a duty, it is an act of love.  It is realizing that what has brought healing and peace to our broken lives will bring healing and peace to others lives.  Such healing and peace – in the midst of such brokenness, that we cannot bear to see those who are broken in such a way continue in it.   In love we come to them – to help them with their burdens, to calm their anxious souls, to bring healing to shattered lives and shattered relationships.  That means – that most of the time – it is the laity that see it first – that come alongside them – that bear them to us, were we continue the word and sacrament minsitry together.  

It’s not the laity or the clergy – it is the people of God – as He has called and equipped and sent us…. to bring His love. 

This is a good thing!   A very incredible thing!  God using us all…. how awesome!

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 80). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Necessity of Teaching People Worship and the Liturgy: Evangelical Catholic IX

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the day, please discuss and meditate on it:

 2  Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved. 3  As the scripture says, “You have found out for yourselves how kind the Lord is.” 4  Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5  Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 2:2-5 (TEV)

 “This emphasis on beauty in the liturgical life of the Church is another reason why Evangelical Catholicism takes sacramental preparation and adult catechesis so seriously. Absent a true understanding of what the liturgy is, grounded in a firm grasp of what the Gospel is, those who “come to church” do not grow in living faith. Liturgy without Gospel is superstition, or self-worship, or both. Thus evangelical Catholic parishes take care to provide ongoing liturgical catechesis; this is primarily done through preaching, but it is also done through the various other means by which pastors communicate with their people. Pastors who understand that liturgical catechesis is a matter of empowering their people to exercise the priestly gift that is theirs by reason of Baptism will be likely to be effective in building worshipping communities that celebrate the sacred liturgy nobly, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Evangelical Catholic liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Having been lifted up to the threshold of the Throne of Grace through the dignified celebration of the Church’s liturgy, evangelical Catholics leave Sunday Mass with a new charge of missionary energy. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.” (1)

I recently began a new class at our church, one that is, at once a review of our our faith and of the what and why of our Liturgical Worship.   I need to start off with a disclaimer I suppose, that I find an incredible richness in the liturgy, yet because of the uncommon language, and the unexplained movements, that richness is mostly hidden.  When I comment to that extent some have accused me of being a proponent of anti-liturgical or aliturgical (i.e.  Contemptorary Worship) even though I have noted the same errors in those groups. The church (and I mean the church in its entirety ) in the twenty-first century simply doesn’t do a good enough job teaching people the way in which we worship.  This is true whether it is in the uncommon language and movements of Liturgical churches, or the Contemporary services where the simpler movements are still not explained, and are often far removed from the interaction of a Liturgical Service.

In Wiegel’s article – there is much that is true to the church outside the auspices of Rome. (As well of course, as the Church of Rome about which he writes.)  Specifically of the quote above, and the Bible passage, I would highlight these things.

1.  Worship/Liturgy without the Gospel is empty superstition
There is a part of me that loves to describe food, for example the sizzling of a thick slice of bacon, with its incredible flavor investing the air throughout a home.  It’s because I love watching people uncontrollably begin to react.  You can’t help it.  The same thing should happen within the liturgy – when people are so aware of the grace, the gospel, the love, the mercy and peace  that is about to be shared, that they cannot but begin to react in expectation.  Like those babies in Peter’s letter, there is a desire that builds within us, when we know about what we are to receive.  Absolution, being reminded of the promises of our baptism as we make the sign of the cross, the fact that we are welcome into the Father’s presence, not only that – He desires our presence!  Then, the incredible feast – that which we must give thanks and praise.   ( I hope maybe you are longing for communion like deacons hunger for bacon.)

But imagine not knowing what bacon tasted like?  Imagine not knowing what the flavor that is carried throughout a home where it is cooked.  How could you know how good, how alive the flavor would make your mouth come alive?  The same is true with the liturgy – we rob people when we don’t show them how the Liturgy delivers to them everything of Christ – His presence, His mercy, His love, His comfort, forgiveness, peace, healing…… to them.  This is true as well – when the service is robbed of liturgical elements, when we don’t take the time to realize that that’s the Lamb of God, sent to take away  our sins as well as the sins of the world,  or,  my gosh – we have seen His salvation,  or even as simply as hearing that every burden we have, God desires to take away from us, that we may realize that indeed His is the glory and the honor and the power….as we pray as He taught.

2.  Teaching the people the Liturgy, (and how it delivers to them Christ) is something that empowers them, that helps them realize the gifts given to them in their baptism.  Heling them know that they are God’s children, priests and kings.  As Peter says, as we are joined to the Chief Cornerstone in our Baptism – we are used to build that spiritual temple – where we all work together, serving together, as His priests, where our work is acceptable to God, because it isn’t ours, it is Christ’s Jesus. (see Romans 12:1-10)  People need only realize what is being given to them, if how the liturgy teachings them, shows them, how to dance with God through life, even through the slow and somber times.  Having realized the incredible power of God’s love, having been taught what they need to know about Christ, having realized how God has ministered to them through word and sacrament…how could we not be empowered?  Look at Acts – every time someone proclaimed the Gospel of Christ’s work, the sermons weren’t even completed before someone did something.  Because they proclaimed the gospel – and the people heard it.

May ours do as well.

3.  And that is why the third thing happens:  liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic (insert your own “brand here) Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.

I love that Wiegel described what it means to be missional, to have an apostolate.  It’s not about recruiting people to become members of the organism.  It isn’t about getting them from their churches to ours, or to convert them for the sake of numbers.  I love the way Wiegel puts this…it is so… well Lutheran.  Worship is a means (and it contains the means) to meet Christ, and enter into a relationship with Him.  A relationship where He no longer calls use servants – but indeed, friends.  This is what it is all about, this is why we do what we  do.

They need to know Him – and this liturgy – honed and translated into the language of the people, does that very thing….. so well.

So I encourage you – if a pastor or priest, church musician, worship leader, singer – know  why and what you do – and share it with those who need to know Jesus….. and then watch your liturgy come alive…..

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 74). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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