Category Archives: Martin Luther
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life o for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another. John 15:11-17 HCSB
It is the urgent wish of this Holy Council that the measures undertaken by the sons of the Catholic Church should develop in conjunction with those of our separated brethren so that no obstacle be put in the ways of divine Providence and no preconceived judgments impair the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.
During the early years of the Reformation Luther and others proposed again and again that a general council of the church be convened to discuss and arbitrate the questions of doctrine and practice that were in controversy…..
It is a hard thing tl o love people you do not know.
It is a harder thing to love those you think you know, and whom you think wish you ill, but whom you do not really know.
This doesn’t matter whether we are talking about large groups (i.e. the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Lutherans looking at each other) or whether we are talking about neighbors or “those” people.
if we are honest, each of us has people we think we understand, and whom we think we need to protect ourselves from, for we know they mean us evil.
Even so, we are called to love them, really love them. Even to the point of death…
Surely then, if that is the length we are to go, we could try to get rid of the preconceived judgments that Vatican II warns us of, trying to put no obstacle in the way of divine providence.
We know, as St. John’s gospel pointed out, the will, the desire of God to see us one. Surely indeed we could pray for that, and learn to love each other so that it would be possible? FOr is this not the fruit of Christ being at work in our lives?
In the title, I asked whether the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960’s meant these words in blue above. If we ask that question, it has to be without the preconceived assumption that they do not. (Luther’s idea of best construction) We have to rely on God to move in that way, for it is our faith in God that
I believe many of the leaders did, they saw the need for the future. It has taken a generation for that to trickle down to the parish level, for the people of the church to know this was even possibly a desire. And I think, from the priests I know, that it will become more and more a desire for the church. (The last three popes made it an issue, and I think Francis will continue that!)
Do they all? It will take time, and teaching, by both example and instruction. But I believe it will grow.
Now the question becomes, can we mean it? Can we, like Luther, seek our, not compromise but community?
And if I can ask that of these huge groups… can I ask it of me and that person?
The answer if found in the same place. In the love of God, in know His will, and the providence He supplies to His people. For as Vatican II noted,
The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit.
So let us pray to the Lord of mercy. Amen!!
Catholic Church. “Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio.” 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.
Devotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. v 4 “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said.
“What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!”
5 So he threw the silver into the sanctuary w and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5 HCSB
20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?
To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7.
Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15–16 and in 1 John 2 and 5.
Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.
In so saying, we finally discover the answer to the question with which we started. After the tearing of the Temple curtain and the opening up of the heart of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified, do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the “image”, through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.
In many ways, life would be easier without the celebration of Christmas.
For one thing, my cynical nature could use the rest. It gets tiring, seeing people spend millions on decorations (which Costco was selling in September this year!) and gifts and clothes for all the parties, while people they should know are living on the streets. In talking to other pastors, people who used to come to church on Christmas and Easter hardly do anymore, because they are too busy with celebrating Christmas!
It’s hard, all the extra work all the extra services ( 4 in 25 hours this year and add another on the prior Wednesday night )
And we know it all right? We all know Jesus was born in a stable, and the angels sang to him, and the wise men didn’t visit him in the manger that night, but later at the house where they were staying. ( Hmm you didn’t know that? )
So why not give everybody so more time to rest, some more time to spend with families?
I find the answer in the odd (given the season) reading in my devotions this morning. When Judas, torn up with guilt and shame, tried to find hope, tried to find mercy and was denied. The very elders ( read pastors) who were supposed to point him back to God instead they threw his sin back in his face. The very men who were supposed to give him a message of grace didn’t care.
He needed Christmas. he needed to know God would come to Him, forgive his sin, reveal His love for Judas, reveal that this was the very reason for the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, (later Pope Benedict XVI) had it right, we, like Judas, need to be given the capacity to know the mystery of God, reveal in the heart of Jesus, the one who embraced the manger and the crucifixion, for us. Or as Luther pointed out, we need to realize that this life is full of sin and trouble and Satan is at work to steal our peace. Just as that is done as we approach the altar, as God shares Christ’s body and blood for us, so we need Christmas.
We need to celebrate, even if it is sappy or too utopian in its portrayal, the fact that Jesus shattered the darkness by coming into our world, not just 2000 odd years ago, but today, now, here. That He is with us, that He loves us, that He is merciful toward us, cleansing us of all sin. Our world needs to know this, we need to celebrate it, we need to find out that God has found us.
Rejoice, for unto us a Child is born, and He shall be called Wonderful! Counselor! Almighty God! Everlasting Father! The One who Reigns with Peace…
the peace we are invited into, for that is why He came.
So celebrate Christmas, and see what is revealed to you this day. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1991. Print.
Devotional Thought for our Seemingly Broken Days:
9 These wise teachers will fall into the trap of their own foolishness, for they have rejected the word of the LORD. Are they so wise after all? 10 I will give their wives to others and their farms to strangers. From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed. Yes, even my prophets and priests are like that. They are all frauds. 11 They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:9-11 (NLT)
311 Everything seems so peaceful. God’s enemy, however, is not asleep… The Heart of Jesus is also awake and watching! There lies my hope.
Since the devil is not only a liar but also a murderer,3 he incessantly seeks our life and vents his anger by causing accidents and injury to our bodies. He breaks many a man’s neck and drives others to insanity; some he drowns, and many he hounds to suicide or other dreadful catastrophes.
116 Therefore there is nothing for us to do on earth but to pray constantly against this arch-enemy. For if God did not support us, we would not be safe from him for a single hour.
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
It has, in the last few years, become my favorite Christmas song, replacing “What Child is This.” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is based on a poem by Longfellow, whose story seems like a modern Job.
In the verse above, we see the paradox of peace. As we see it in the prophet Jeremiah’s description of his time, when those who taught and led Israel would tell them there is true peace, and ignore the gaping wounds and despair their people were suffering because there was no peace. Their proclamation of peace simply was a band-aid, not put in place to bring healing, but simply to hide what was underneath.
It is in recognizing the despair that we can know peace, it is dealing with the mortal wound, that we can see the healing fo God which leaves us in true peace. This is the paradox that peace is.
I have seen this too many times, even as recent as last night, when in the midst of tears, of heartbreak and grief, a sense of peace that leaves us in awe floods a sanctuary. Even as the tears flow, there is something, you hear it in the voices singing His praises. It is hard to address the brokenness – but it is so prevalent in our lives, we can’t just cover it up and ignore it.
I think the illusion of peace provides the scenario that St Josemaria mentions, where under the illusion, the facade of peace, Satan and his minions are not asleep, but hard at work. (And yes, Satan is real, not just a mythical explanation for evil.) He is the one who would have us project peace when there is not. He would have us dismiss the havoc, the anger, and hatred, the misery, and grief, allowing people to dwell in despair, blinded to the idea of hope.
That is how Satan can do what Luther describes him doing. Satan could not keep Christ in the grave, and so his desire now is not just the glorification of evil, that it simply a means to his end. His end game now is simple, to keep Christ from living in our hearts, in our lives, and through us redeeming the rest of the world. He would stop us from being drawn to Jesus, to the mercy and love, and the peace that comes when we depend on Jesus for all of our life.
You see, that is the greatest paradox of peace. It is known, not in the absence of conflict and pain, but it is found there, in the violence and anguish of the cross. It is not found in ignoring the mortal wound, but found in the wounds of Christ crucified, It is not found in covering the brokenness with a holiday facade, but in the body broken, and the blood shared.
For there at the cross where Jesus was broken there is found peace, for there, untied to Him, we find the glorious peace that comes from knowing the immeasurable love of God for us.
This is what we need to experience, a love so amazing, so overwhelming, that doesn’t hide the brokenness, but bring to its healing, and comfort. That notes the mortal wound and pain and brings healing through the resurrection.
This is our hope, especially in these days…
So be drawn to God, allow Him to comfort you in your despair, Then, you will dwell in the glorious peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, but which Christ guards you, your heart and soul and mind. AMEN!
The Forge (Kindle Locations 1252-1255). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
The Reformation Cry of a Broken Soul!
† In Jesus †
As God’s grace for us is revealed, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we find it easier to depend on Him completely, for we are His people and He is with us! AMEN!
Not a Battle cry!
As we’ve approached the 500th anniversary of Luther inviting people to discuss problems in the church, I have become more and more upset by what I’ve seen. I’ve seen some extremism creep in, as some have label Leather not a reformer, but a revolutionary. I’ve seen that said negatively by some, and some say the same thing with great pride as if we were celebrating something akin to the 4th of July.
As if Sola Fide (Faith alone) was a battle cry, a chant to get behind as we took on an evil enemy, and triumphed by the power of our will. For some Protestants, the 500th anniversary has become a chance for our touchdown dance. For some Catholics, we are still the impertinent upstarts who want to destroy the church for whom Christ has died.
But Sola Fide wasn’t a battle cry at first.
It was the cry of a priest named Fr. Martin, who had tried every way possible to be good enough for God, and yet remained broken and in great despair, tormented by the sin which had its talons buried deep into him, and wouldn’t let Him escape,
Until he listened to the words God spoke through the scriptures, the words of the mass, the worship service he led every day since his ordination, and found hope….
as he learned to depend, not on his on work, but on the work of Christ alone.
That is what Sola Fide, the great reformation cry of a broken soul means.
to depend on Christ, no other, to save us from our brokenness, the brokenness caused by sin.
That is why Sola Fide is a cry, a cry of a broken heart that has found hope, and will not let go of it.
The Brokenness of Those Who Trust in Rubbish
A couple of weeks ago, we heard that Paul tossed aside the rubbish he once depended on, what he thought proved he was a good man, what proved he was righteous, godly, holy.
We see that attitude in the people Jesus was talking to today. They claimed they didn’t’ need to be free from the sin, and the rubbish that they counted on to show them good enough for God.
We were never slaves!
They didn’t remember their own history that well, for scripture tells us these children of Abraham were enslaved by Egypt, (see Exodus), by Midian various Philistine groups (see Judges and the Books of Samuel), by Assyria and Babylon (see the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets) and eventually by Greece ( see Maccabees) and then, even in Jesus day, hey were the subjects, the slaves of Rome and Caesar.
But nah, they weren’t slaves.
Can you imagine someone who said they don’t struggle with sin at all? Or worse, that they never sin anymore?
That’s what we are claiming when we say we are good people, or when we say that person or this person is so good, surely they will get to heaven. When we say that – we are exactly like the people Jesus encountered, the people who thought they were okay with God, that their sin was insignificant.
The True Burden
In the Luther movie we watched last week, Luther’s mentor Staupitz confronted Luther, saying that of all the monks, his confessions were the least interesting! They were boring because none of the sins were interesting.
Yet Luther felt all too well the distance those sins led him from God. He despaired of the brokenness. A book I am reading on his life gave a little more detail. One of those times of private confession lasted over 5 hours, as Luther tried to account for every sin he committed in the last week. He walked away from that confession convinced that he wasn’t sorry enough, that he missed sins that wouldn’t be forgiven.
I get that. Part of me doesn’t want to look upon my own sin. I want to excuse it, find justifications for it, dismiss it as not as serious as it is. But when I am thinking seriously about my sin, for example when I am up here, and we have those brief moments of confessing, there are times I wonder why God has me up here, heck why He even let me in this place.
Like Luther, it would be easy to sink into despair, to believe that God wouldn’t accept someone a sinner like us.
How I wish we could take sin that seriously, for only one reason.
If we did, how much more would we be overwhelmed by the knowledge that He comes to us, picks us up, forgives of our sin and cleanses us of our unrighteousness.
Then we would know how much God loves us, as He embraces us, prodigals still smelling like the “rubbish” and pig slop we lived in, as He calls for us to be dressed in the best robes. As he tells everyone, my child is home.
hear again Jesus.
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I’m going to rephrase that a little, for clarity
“You are truly my disciples if you depend on my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus, the Son of God came for one purpose, to free you and I, and every other person from the power of sin. Jesus dying on cross shattered the hold it has on us. His resurrection comforts us, as the promise is clearly seen.
You are free of that sin, you are cleansed of that unrighteousness,
Depend on that as you approach the altar, confidently as the Book of Hebrews tells us to do, knowing we are in the presence of God who loves us.
Depend on Jesus, trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, for He alone is our Savior, our Lord, who brings us home to the Father.
And as you cry out, aware of your need, don’t be surprised that knowing He is God brings you peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Devotional Thought for our days:
5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:5-7 (NLT)
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)
80 If you are a good son of God, in the same way that a little child needs to be assured of the presence of his parents when he gets up in the morning or goes to bed at night, your first and last thought each day will be for Him.
Luther saw in this the very essence of Christian theology. God reached down not halfway to meet us in our vileness but all the way down, to the foul dregs of our broken humanity. And this holy and loving God dared to touch our lifeless and rotting essence and in doing so underscored that this is the truth about us. In fact, we are not sick and in need of healing. We are dead and in need of resurrecting. We are not dusty and in need of a good dusting; we are fatally befouled with death and fatally toxic filth and require total redemption. If we do not recognize that we need eternal life from the hand of God, we remain in our sins and are eternally dead. So because God respects us, he can reach us only if we are honest about our condition. So it fit well with Luther’s thinking that if God were to bestow upon him— the unworthy sinner Luther— such a divine blessing, it must needs be done as he sat grunting in the “cloaca.”
It is not what we think of as a holy place, yet it was.
A man who suffered incredibly from guilt and shame, whose anxiety nearly paralyzed him, when it wasn’t driving him mad.
And he finally had that aha moment while sitting on a toilet. During a particularly hard bowel movement.
Seriously? Yeah, seriously.
In a way, it is the perfect parallel physically to what needs to happen to us spiritually. We might call it thus, “The Kingdom of God is like a good laxative! We need to get rid of all the crap in our lives, the sin which binds us up! We try to eliminate the sin’s stench by trying to legitimize our behavior, to justify or excuse it. We do all things these, and all they do is cause us pain, and grief, and more foul air. And when God comes to us, all that crap is eliminated.
We need God to meet us there! And that is what Luther realized God would do, a God who loves His children so much that He will meet us even there. A God who would answer the cry of a child in pain, a God who would be there for us, no matter what we are dealing with in life. A God who knows the crap we’ve been messing around in, and loves us enough to set aside the stench and do what needed to be done.
As we realize this, how it changes us! How it reforms us and the way that we look at life! How it draws us to Him, to adore Him,, to love Him, to worship Him, even as we run to Him with confidence, assured that he can take care for the crap we cannot deal with by our own reason or strength.
This is our God, cry out to Him in confidence! Lord have mercy on me!
And assured of His love and grace, know the relief, the peace that His presence brings! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 498-500). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But now in these last days God has spoken to us through his Son. God has chosen his Son to own all things, and through him he made the world. 3 The Son reflects the glory of God and shows exactly what God is like. He holds everything together with his powerful word. When the Son made people clean from their sins, he sat down at the right side of God, the Great One in heaven. Heb 1:2-3 NCV
I conversed recently with a pastor who was agonizing over the conflict between his head and heart. Even though this person is a well-trained seminary graduate with an appetite to know and teach the Scripture and has a comprehensive view of the Bible, his heart feels empty and dry. “I’ve even attended to the disciplines of spirituality,” he said, “but they don’t do anything for me. I can’t seem to feel what my head knows.”
Eventually this pastor put his finger on the real problem. “I’ve done everything I can to make myself spiritual,” he said, “but nothing seems to work.”…. (a couple of great paragraphs then this critical one:)
I think this pastor and others like him have a hard time connecting head and heart and, as a result, experience the contradiction between what they know and what they feel for two reasons. First, they situate spirituality in something other than God’s embrace. Second, they look for spiritual nourishment outside of the church and its worship.
Martin Luther, in ch. 2 of his commentary on Galatians, says of this argument, “I believe that if believing Jews had observed the Law and circumcision on the condition which the apostles permitted, Judaism would still stand and that the whole world would have accepted the ceremonies of the Jews. But because they argued that the Law and circumcision were necessary for salvation and established their worship on this basis, God could not endure this and therefore He overturned the temple, the Law, the worship, and Jerusalem.”
To walk in hope is to walk next to Jesus in the darkest moments of the cross when things have no explanation and we do not know what is going to happen next.
With the exception of Pope Francis’s account, I could have quoted the entire readings I had today in the other selections. ( Maybe I am sill to put my words beside theirs – but I need to process these things in my own words, which is the real reason I write these words)
I know all too well the danger Luther speaks of, where we take our practices, the rituals and observances we practice and use them to justify our solution. Hey, I go to church, therefore I am a Christian! I study the Bible, I spend time in prayer, I even teach others. That should get me the deluxe mansion in heaven right? Or at least make sure I get in the door?
THat leads to the burnout that Webber talks about ( I highly recommend his book The DIvine Embrace – probably 50 times he put into words that which I struggle with experiencing, never mind describing!) in these two excerpts from a conversation with a fellow pastor. I have been there as well – looking for ways to be more spiritual – pushing myself with devotions, punishing myself with the reading of Leviticus, trying to spend hours, (okay half hours) on my knees in prayer. I know Paul’s misery in Romans 7, and what is worse – when I did do the things I longed to do, they didn’t sustain me, they didn’t make me stronger in my resistance to sin, they didn’t create in my a super preacher that everyone longed to come hear.
When we try to become spiritual on our own, we will fail, because spirituality isn’t the goal, it is a result, really a by-product of our walking with Jesus. Being spiritual is not about our behavior, it is about hearing His voice, of accompanying Him to the darkness of the cross, because there, our darkness is nailed to it, as we are united with His death, and with His resurrection. That is the point that Pope Francis makes, that Webber shares when he encourages his pastor-friend this,
I counseled this minister whose heart felt empty and dry to cease striving to be spiritual and see spirituality as a gift to contemplate. “Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”
This is why Luther could say that if the Jews didn’t count on following the law for the salvation, Jesus and the apostles wouldn’t have taken it away from them. They mistook things that would help them see Jesus, things that could help them walk with Him, for that which proved they were okay with God.
And we do that today, all the time. That’s why some who observe us find our religion empty but still want to know Jesus. The Jesus we know, but try to impress. We simply need to walk with Him, to delight in His role in our lives, to realize the work He is doing,
For He hears your cry of, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”
And I can tell for sure, His response is heard well in these words, “The Lord IS WITH YOU!” Amen.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
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.
Devotional Thoughts for our days:
10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10-11 TEV
A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great. And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking through the history, and how it affects the Church today. Not just my congregation, or my denomination, but the entire family of God’s children. And what it means to reform.
For example, in my news feed, this morning was a great story of Pope Francis and liturgical reform. If I dare say, it is very Lutheran. At the same time, there are those who are trying, with intent or ignorance, to divide the church further. Not in the hope of reform, but in the desire to keep what they know pure. And in the process, lose what Luther found the greatest comfort in, the love and mercy of God.
Ninety percent of the time I hear Luther’s classic hymn quoted in green above, it is done with the power and energy of a military anthem. Full crescendo Organs, loud brass, even clashing cymbals, as if it is a call to battle, something to unite the forces of good behind as we go to war.
Given that it is derived in part from Psalm 46, I am not sure that interpretation is valid. It is not a mighty anthem, but a recognition that we are not that strong, that we need a refuge, that we cannot have confidence if we are dealing with Satan or the World. I see Luther, inspired by the Psalm, writing this to a soft broken melody of one who knows despair, who is confused and hurt, and who is beginning to realize his hope is found in the one who was nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus who is portrayed on the crucifix he sol tightly grasps. I see this as the resolution of a man who has searched for hope, finding it with his last gasp… the music of reeds and deep strings.. as the words are whispered out…. from broken, contrite spirits that are finding refuge… and rest.
We have to have the confidence to hide in CChrist we must depend on Jesus’ mercy and his patience and to seek and find refuge in Christ, who we are united to in our baptism.
So stop fighting the world, stop striving against the powers of evil, (or those you just think are evil.) Have the courage, the confidence to trust in God. He is dependable, He is the one who has the victory, and in Him…
we are safe. we can rest.
TO do so takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength, to stay firmly planted in Jesus, despite every temptation to fight or flee. It, in fact, takes far more to endure, to wait on Him. Yet the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For the Spirit works through the church to remind us of this fact.
the Lord Almighty is with you, and God is your refuge. AMEN!
Martin Luther – A Mighty Fortress is our God
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
Devotional Thought for the Day:
57 Then they shouted loudly and covered their ears and all ran at Stephen. 58 They took him out of the city and began to throw stones at him to kill him. And those who told lies against Stephen left their coats with a young man named Saul. 59 While they were throwing stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” After Stephen said this, he died. Acts 7:57-69 NCV
This is the perpetual characteristic of the true church: it not only experiences suffering and is dishonored and held in contempt, but it also prays for those who afflict it and is gravely concerned about their perils.[i]
It is a necessity that we are reminded that Spiritual Warfare is not battling against flesh and blood, rather, the flesh and blood is what we are called to do battle on behalf of, to help free them from what would keep them away from the gospel.
Yet so much of our literature, so much of our training, so much of our attitude is about defeating the person, bringing them to submission, We have so bought into a competitive lifestyle, that it impacts and drives our ministry.
If we are that competitive if we see our spiritual warfare as against those we differ with, how we will nourish the faith and desire we need to pray as Stephen did?
How will we learn to plead for those who do evil as Moses, Abraham, and Paul would? How can we begin to imitate Christ, who asked the Father to forgive those who mocked, stripped, bet and tortured Him, even as He died to secure their freedom from sin?
We need to develop this characteristic that is found in Christ Jesus. We need to develop it not just as a measure of our holiness, but for their sake. As Luther said, we need to be concerned about the perils that the people who oppose us will face, especially the peril that would come if they never find out about God’s love.
This may sound imprudent, or impossible, It may seem that it is only for saints and the holiest of us, but holiness is not an inbred characteristic. Nor is the patience and compassion that this kind of ministry requires. Which should give us the key to the ministry. It isn’t about us being holy enough, it is about realizing the compassion and love of God show to us! It about trusting in God’s promises more than we fear them, or are shamed by the contempt and dishonor they would throw at us,
It’s the result of walking with God, of sharing in His glory, of realizing the love we treasure would free them.
It would bring about reconciliation.
And when it happens, it is amazing to see, it is wonderful and incredible to see
And so needed. It is our ministry, to walk with Jesus as He seeks and saves the lost.
Lord Jesus, help us love them as you love them. Help us desire that they would know you mercy, that they would experience your compassion and love, that they would find themselves sharing in your glory, as you claim them as your own. Lord, have mercy on us all. AMEN!
[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 2. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16 Under his control, all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]
In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” But how often do we look at what those words mean?
One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind. Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)
Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred. To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation. We are to walk (together) with God.
Catholic, the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history. When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time. We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other. We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.
Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther. Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field) Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.
Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them. As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them. This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.
We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.
No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood. This is our identiy as the people of God.
Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.
But remember – God goes with you through it all!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.