Category Archives: Martin Luther
Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. Psalm 66:5 (CSBBible)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSBBible)
When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
When somebody inquired whether a person [under the papacy] would be saved if he had not embraced this teaching of ours, he [Martin Luther] replied, “I really don’t know. God might have had regard for his baptism. This could do it. Even so, I have seen many [monks] die with a crucifix held before their eyes [as was then customary]. In spite of everything else, the name [of Christ] proved to be effective on their deathbed.”
When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and specially the grace of holy perseverance. This is the principal effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.
Most of my college professors were focused on reading, studying, and preaching the Bible verse by verse. That is called exegetical preaching. Exegesis is the art of drawing the message from the text. All the professors taught this way, except one, my preaching professor. He would criticize me to no end, saying that “unless you preach the gospel, you may have given a good message, but you haven’t preached. And that gospel requires you to bring them to the cross. (Doug Dickey, multiple times in 1984-1986. He wanted you to include God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, and if you didn’t – back to the library you went until you did!
I think that needs to be a rule, not only for preaching but for worship. We need to bring the people of God to the cross – We need to be there as well! Oh, do those who preach and lead worship need to come to the cross! We need to see with the Psalmist – the wonders of God as He acts on our behalf! We need to see Him take on death and destroy it! We need to see Him triumphant over our sin! That is why the Lord’s Supper explains the giving of Christ’s Body and His Blood shed for us! The entire service needs to focus there to journey with the cross throughout the week!
The cross needs to be there; the sermon and the sacrament need to draw us to Jesus! Look at the monks Luther describes, as they die, they just wanted to focus on the crucifix, to be in awe of God’s love for His people.
Can you preach verse by verse and still proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? I believe so, but will the cross and the resurrection be your primary focus? The same question may be asked to those who preach topically,
who do a series on marriage or faith. Or those who preach from the pericope, the rotation of verses over 1 or 3 years. You must go to the scriptures, see how they point to Jesus, and work on that passage until you figure out how! The same as the worship service is formed, how does each song, each reading, each prayer draw people into Christ and make them more aware of His love! Of course, the decision on whether to offer commune fits there as well! Where else is the work of God as manifest at that moment, as people commune with the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)
It is not preaching unless Christ crucified is revealed, nor is it worship if we are not brought to that cross in awe and celebrate that death was for us. This is why we gather… this is the refreshment given. It is time to celebrate!
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), 125.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 87–88.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 224.
Devotional Thought for this day:
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man* to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. John 12:23-26
If you want to be faithful and fruitful, our homilies should always disseminate and harvest hope.
Later they will know that they are to be educated to be pastors. Afterward they will offer their services when some position is unoccupied. That is to say, they will not force their way in but will indicate that they are prepared, in case anybody should ask for them; thus they will know whether they should go. It is like a girl who is trained for marriage; if anybody asks her, she gets married. To force one’s way in is to push somebody else out. But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.
There is a lot to being a pastor, to preaching the word, to ensuring people receive the sacraments. It is a calling from God and recognized by the church. You go when you are needed, as Luther discusses. And yet, there is a question of recognizing the need, and responding to it.
The passage in red, from the gospel is one message that needs to be proclaimed. It seems to ask for a lot, for the believer to follow Jesus and sacrifice himself for the needs of others. It seems different than Pope Francis’s words about providing and havesting hope.
Do I preach about self-sacrifice and Christlikeness? Or
Do I give a message of hope?
Or is there a third option, to so clearly preach about being in Christ that one realize the hope found in self-sacrifice. That is the challenge when presented with the dilemna of preaching this or that. It is not one or the other, it is where they intersect, and that intersection always is found where we meet Jesus. For our greatest hope is found when and where we are closest to Christ, when the Holy Spirit is transforming us into His image. There, no matter the sacrifice, the work of God is seen, a work that is joyful beyond anything else we can experience.
It’s not preach self-sacrifice or preach hope. It is both/and… in Christ Jesus
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), 110.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 80.
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB
26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB
Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”
Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession
Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.
Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.
Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.
God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.
They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,
That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.
It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.
Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.
That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.
God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.
That is what it all boils down to…
We are in Jesus…..
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 41.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Though of the Day:
32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Matthew 6:32-33 (CSBBible)
On account of my great sins [against the first table] I can’t get to the others in the second table.”
Accept me, O Lord, and dispose of me as Thou pleasest. I will never again complain, O my love, of Thy holy dispensations; I know that, as they all take their source in Thy loving heart, they all will be full of love, and for my good. It is enough for me to know that Thou willest them; I will them also in time and in eternity. Do all that Thou willest in me and with me; I unite my entire self to Thy will, which is all holy, all good, all beautiful, all perfect, all loving. O will of my God, how dear art thou to me! My will is ever to live and die united to and bound up with Thee.
Luther’s words in purple this morning scare me. They actually terrify me.
For those unaware, the 10 Commandments can be divided into 2 sections. The first group are those that deal with our love of God. Have no other Gods, don’t use God’s name the wrong way *but use it t call uoin Him) Spend time with God, finding rest with Him. Great stuff!
The second group are those that define how we should relate to others, Don’t kill, be faithful, don’t take there things, don’t damage their reputation with any kind of gossip or slander. Don’t be so jealous that yuo scheme to get what they want.
If the second group was followed, we wouldn’t see the division and the hatred spewed toward people today. Stop thinking only “they” do that – because you are adding to my terror.
Everyone wants peace, everyone is promising we will be unified, once we get rid of them, once they realize we are the ones who have it right. I have seen this in politics at every level in the last year. From school boards to the congress and presidency. I have seen it in church denominations, as catholics fight over a word from their liturgy, and my branch of Lutherans fight bitterly over worship practices. I have seen it in congregations, and in families.
And in the midst of it all, I hear people try to justify their division with a cry to be united.
What is the terrifying thing of this is what Luther holds out to be the hope for unity, the hope for loving relationships.
We have to stop sinning against God.
We have to seek His kingdom first, not our own. We have to pray that His will be done, not ours.
We have to realize He is our Lord, and relate to Him in that way.
There are days I think that concept is harder to understand in the church than out of it. Until we humble ourselves and walk with God, we will see people not as the assests they are, but as risks to our preffered way of life.
I read the prayer of de Ligouri, and an amazed at the words. I know that is how we should pray, it reflects the first few petitions of the Lord’s prayer, and prayers like Psalm 25. I want to pray this way, but I realize what it will cost to do so. And I realize that unless I begin to… how can I expect others too, and if none of us prays this way…. if none of us seeks first His ways….
then unity is a vain dream, and an empty hope.
Rather than face that, and sink into depression, I must trust in God, I must prioritize communion with Him. I know I treasure those times, so why not find ways for them to increase. I need to find ways to grow in my trust of Him, of His promises, of His work. The way to fulfill the first group of the commandments is simple. to live life in reaction to His love and mercy.
All of this will grow, as I think on His presence, on the body broken and blood shed for you and me.
My you find the unity you seek with others, and you are drawn into Chirst Jesus.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 53.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 150.
Devotional Thought for this day:
Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (CSBBible)
When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”
The workers in the marketplace had all day to spare. The one who buried his talent wanted to kill the passing hours. The one who should have been looking after the vineyard went off elsewhere. They all prove insensitive to the great task the Master has entrusted to each and every Christian, that of seeing ourselves as his instruments, and acting accordingly, so that we may co-redeem with him, and of offering up our entire lives in the joyful sacrifice of surrendering ourselves for the good of souls.
There was a commercial series that ran for a long time. It had a man walking around, in all sorts of places, asking someone on his cell phone, “can you hear me now?” In Deserts, forests, rain, sun, no matter where or how he was, he always made sure he was connected to someone. (we never did hear whether they could hear him)
As I read in 1 Samuel this morning, I realized that Saul’s issue was that kind of issue. He couldn’t hear God, and even when he could, too many things drowned out what he heard.
Saul was so unlike the dog who focused on the food forgetting everything else. He was more like the one who buried the treasure entrusted to him. Or the ones who abandoned the vineyard or the sheep because the wolves were near.
I am not any better, for just a moment ago, while writing this, an ad for a Can-Am Ryker caught my attention. I lost my focus on what God was trying to communicate to me. I lost track of this idea of focusing on Him so completely that His task becomes ours. So completely that we don’t think of the cost to us, but the blessing of others, as they come to know the God we say we love.
But how do we grow in our ability to pay attention to God? How do we mitigate the distractions? I do not believe it is something we force ourselves to do as if we simply whip our bodies into submission. It cannot be, for even the most disciplined people will eventually fail and give up.
I think Luther was on to something as he referenced the dog. The mongrel knows the meat’s taste, and it is beyond his power to not respond. He locks in on it, using every tool to make it his own; pleading eyes, speed, power, all of the tools to try and gain that which their heart and stomach are focused.
The Psalms testify to this desire as well!
1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (CSBBible)
Some things cause us to respond, we don’t have to even think, because we have learned to treasure them. The smell of coffee does it for some, the smell of bacon for others. It might be playing that perfect instrument or driving a particular car, being on a golf course, finding the perfect shoe; these things are triggers for us. Once we sampled it, we have to return to it.
Following God is like that if our focus is on Him. The more we’ve experienced His love, the more we can’t live without it. The more we see Him work through us. The more we realize our role in redeeming this world, the more we want to see more people freed from the power of sin, Satan’s influence, and the fear of death, the more we want to see it happen and again.
Ministering to others becomes our meat that draws our attention, for there we know we are in God’s presence, we know He is there, and the transformation He has done in our lives…. A transformation that means He can work through us… as He ministers to others.
Lord, help us hunger for You and then satisfy that hunger by working in and thru us. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son†, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 37–38.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. 22 The LORD will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people. 1 Sam 12:20-22 CSB
These theologians have wished to apprehend God through speculations and have paid no attention to the Word. I recommend that speculation be laid aside, and I should like to have this rule adhered to after my death.”
“The Confessio has an excellent signification; by means of the elevation the minister in a powerful manner calls attention to the words: “This is my body, etc.” as much as to say: “See, dear friends, this is the body which was broken for you.” The elevation is not a symbol of sacrifice, as the Papists foolishly affirm, but an exhortation to move the people to a hearty acceptance of the doctrine of the Real Presence. In this there is not a syllable concerning sacrifice.”
The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it and receive instead the divine nature. God does not improve man. He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus.
There is some brutality in these quotes this morning, Especially the words of Luther (in blue) and Tozer ( in green) I have seen far to often where the word of God is bypassed, if not dismissed, as the answers to life’s problems are sought. I have seen us desire to live the way we want, rather than accept that we have died and risen in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Some will say this situation isn’t addressed in scripture, that what we need to good God has given us common sense to do. The speculation insists that Christ would do something like what they want to do, justifying it with this action, (clearing the temple is a common one) or giving part of the answer (“neither do I condemn you”- omitting “go and sin no more!”
Such speculation needs to be laid aside. Sin is sin, evil is still evil.
It still needs to be dealt with, not the symptom – the sin itself, but the nature of the sin. That requires the killing off of the “old Adam”. A complete change of our heart and mind, replacing our broken, sinful selkf with Jesus’s heart, His mind and soul.
Samuel encourages us in these moments, where our sinful nature and the Spirit of God wage war in us. We are told God isn’t going to abandon us becauese we did evil . Instead focus on Jesus, worship the God who loved you enough to die, that you might live.
We have to take this seriously, you and I. We can’t, as Hebrews notes, “neglect this great salvation.” We have to realize the love of God which calls us to Him. He is determined to make you His child, to remake you in His image.
That is why Loehe would back the lifting of the Bread and Wine, the Body and blood of Christ. To help us see the presence of God in our midst, under the bread and wine… to realize His presence in us, as we commune with Him. As deLigouri would write, “OUR holy faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the consecrated Host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of bread.“
And therefore present in us…
For even as we need to realize we must die, and rise united in Jesus, so to we have to realize that unity, and God’s desire to see it happen.
Heavenly Father, help us to drop everything else in life, even for a few moments, and hear Your voice. May we hear of Your great desire and determination…. to see us as Yours. We ask this in Jesus’ name, who died for us, and even more lives with us. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 35.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 45.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 113.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 (CSBBible)
It can’t be otherwise. It’s annoying when one has the best of intentions but things don’t turn out well. Surely this is murmuring. I do the same, and I can’t banish the thought from my mind when I wish that I had never started [this business].88 So likewise when I wish I were dead rather than witness such contempt [for the Word of God and his faithful servants].89 Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this. Cases of this kind are exceedingly important. One should not dispute about them in a speculative way.
14 “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.
I resonate with Luther’s words in purple far more than I want to admit. When he questions his very life because of what he observed, his writings hit hard to things I dare not admit. (for friends readings this – not today)
He’s not the only one – Jeremiah 20:7 is a favorite passage, and has been for over 30 years. Yet, only over the last decade have I learned to give voice to that without feeling guilty and ashamed.
It is good to know at least Jeremiah and Martin Luther understand this – and were able to give voice to it… and still trust in God.
You see, it takes more faith to pray in this way, to be this honest, this transparent. To depend on God to be with us in the places where we are exhausted, the places we don’t have the answers, or the answers are not pleasant to consider. The points where God calls us to action in the ways we can’t imagine.
Once we give voice to it, once you’ve come to trust God in that moment, then the wisdom of Escriva’s comments make sense. Depending on that grace, we find the abiltity to set aside our own pain, and minister to those around us.
This isnt to deny it, but to trust God with it. Embrancing and moving past it, we find those scars a critical element in our ability to serve, in our ability to praise God.
Jeremiah would do that – continuing his prophetic ministry through the rest of this book and Lamentations as well. Luther would move forward in minsitry, even more resolved to help people understand the grace of God. He would come to the point of taking action, finding it was the time for impatience, not patience. It was time to act, knowing the presence of God meant He would be sustained.
That’s the key in these things – find your refuge in Jesus…find your rest in Him and you will find yourself ministering to others.
That is the miracle and the paradox….
That is walking with Jesus.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 30–31.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB
Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.
“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.
Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.
It is Christmas Eve.
It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.
This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.
It is Christmas Eve.
I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.
I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.
This is Christmas Eve.
This is Christmas Eve…
And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.
I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.
I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.
For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…
But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.
Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…
It is Christmas Eve…
It is Christmas Eve!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 19–20.
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), 406.
Devotional Thought for this Day:
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)
“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.
Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.
Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.
It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.
It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.
It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.
Preach on Joy! That was our call…
Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.
That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.
The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.
Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.
THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…
My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.