Category Archives: Martin Luther

Am I crazy… enough?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day:

13  If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT2)

775    Lord, if it is your will, turn my poor flesh into a crucifix.

22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift.

There are some that would say I am not quite normal, and I think they might be on to something!

But beyond that, there is a certain part of Christianity that doesn’t make sense, that does seem crazy, that is beyond our ability to reason out.

This idea that perfection comes not from discipline and self-correction and an unbending will, but through facing our brokenness, and being compelled to let Jesus deal with it, to let him have it as He hangs on the cross. To let Him draw us into the suffering and death on the cross, , that we can know the peace and healing that only comes from seeing the body, broken for us, and the blood, poured out that we would be cleansed by it. 

What was once a torture for Luther, (and Staupitz whom he confessed to!) hours in the confessional trying to get free of his sin which shattered his life, confessing his lies, and lust, his envy, and anger. He couldn’t find relief for it, and he mistook the sacrament of confession for a chance to atone for his sin, to be beaten up for the things he thought and said and did that were wrong.

Then he realized that this was a sacrament, a moment where God would come, and bring us through Christ’s death on the cross, through His death, so that we could be renewed, that we could be re-born.  Confession and absolution as a blessing rather than a curse,   Death with the promise of being made anew, without the brokenness, without the guilt and shame, but a new life dwelling in peace.

It may seem illogical, it may seem counter-intuitive, it is definitely scary at first, but allowing our sin to be nailed to the cross, as crazy as it seems, is a source of hope, a source of healing.  Not because of our action, but because of His presence and promise., because of His love and mercy, because this is where we find hope for healing and for eternity.

If it sounds crazy, blame the craziness on me, yet still, know this. God is with you, and you can give Him everything, the good, the bad, the horrid, and at the cross, it will be taken care of, and you will know peace!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 459–460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Do We Get That Church (the gathering, the mass) is a Celebration?

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Do we go to church for our benefit, or God’s?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Hallelujah!
Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker;  let the children of •Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds.   Psalm 149:1-5

39 In conclusion, now that we have the right interpretation and doctrine of the sacrament, there is great need also of an admonition and entreaty that so great a treasure, which is daily administered and distributed among Christians, may not be heedlessly passed by. What I mean is that those who claim to be Christians should prepare themselves to receive this blessed sacrament frequently.

Since I started studying for the ministry in 1983, I have usually been taught two things about what happens when the people of God gather together. (You may call this a worship service, a divine service, church, or the mass; but I am talking about the main time a group of people are gathered by God together, where they sing, hear scripture read, a teaching time (called a sermon or homily) and perhaps (more about this later) sharing in our communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood.

Both teachings focused on service.  The difference is who is serving whom.

In the first theory, we go to church to serve God.  We go out of obedience to the commandment which talks about keeping holy the Sabbath. We go to church because it is our duty, and if we miss doing our duty, God will punish us, either actively, or perhaps by withholding the blessings He would have poured out for us.

The problem is that looking at this “active” view of church reduces it to mere duty, and then we start to ask how much is enough.  Can I serve God by going once a month instead of weekly?  Can I get by with once a year or one a quarter?  How active do I have to be to be a Christian?  Why can’t I just be with God at the beach, or in a forest?

The second theory is that we go to church to be served by God. That His servants exist to make sure we receive what we need through explaining God’s word and giving us the sacrament.  This breeds a consumer mentalism to church as well, as we go to the church that feeds us the best.  We want the purest doctrine, explained in an enjoyable way that drives away our sin and weaknesses and makes us stronger in our faith and the way we approach life.

Both of these ways make sense, and in part, they both are true., in that in a church service, in the mass, we should be serving God and He, most assuredly,, serves us.

But the reason we go to church, the reason we are gathered into the assembly of His people (and those that are becoming His people) is neither.

The reason we are gathered is that it is a celebration,  It is a time for us, as the Psalmist says, to sing and dance as we rejoice in the presence of our King, our Lord, our Heavenly Father! It is likewise a chance for God to take pleasure in His people.  It is, as one of my professors was known to utter, “the people of God gathered in the presence of God”

It is why our forefathers called it the “Celebration of the mass” understood as the “Gathering/Communion of the saints”.  Yet this gathering, this celebration is that not just of the saints, bit the saints gathered around and in fellowship with God.  That communion, that fellowship, that time where we and God are together, His people and Him, that is the treasure we find in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (which is why the passage from Luther’s catechism described it being offered daily!)

This church service/mass and Lord’s Supper/Eucharist isn’t a solemn occasion, though certainly, it is one we should treasure and celebrate with all we are. It is God and man, together, living as one, because of Christ.  It is a Thanksgiving feast, a celebration of peace with God, and the welcoming of the prodigal home.

It is a time we celebrate with an abundance of Joy, it is one God where God looks out on His people and is pleased.  It should be an amazing time, where we realize what God has done, adopting us as His kids, and we adore the one who loves us.

Celebrate this, my friends. and jealously treasure this time with the One who loves us, and draws us together.

Heavenly Father, draw us together with greater and greater frequency, with a hunger to know You, to explore and experience Your love.  We pray this all in Jesus name!  AMEN!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 451). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

When Luther Bashed “Faith Alone”

christening the dew the priest

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT2)

28 Our know-it-alls, the new spirits,4 assert that faith alone saves and that works and external things contribute nothing to this end. We answer: It is true, nothing that is in us does it but faith, as we shall hear later on.
29 but these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe—something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be Baptism in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through the water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of his name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his Word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains?
30 Now, these people are so foolish as to separate faith from the object to which faith is attached and bound on the ground that the object is something external. Yes, it must be external so that it can be perceived and grasped by the senses and thus brought into the heart, just as the entire Gospel is an external, oral proclamation. In short, whatever God effects in us he does through such external ordinances. No matter where he speaks—indeed, no matter for what purpose or by what means he speaks—there faith must look and to it faith must hold.

760    Here is a thought that brings peace and that the Holy Spirit provides ready-made for those who seek the will of God: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit—“The Lord rules me, and I shall want nothing.” What can upset a soul who sincerely repeats these words?

One of the challenges that all public speakers and authors having is being understood.  People hear one thing you say, they read one thing you write and they latch onto one phrase and interpret it in a way that appeals to them.

I see this with Luther, and especially with His statement that gets dissected about the fact that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed in scripture alone (you can add through Christ alone and to the glory of God alone to the mix as well)

When I became a Lutheran some 17-18 years ago, (although my friend always thought I was, and that I didn’t know it) I misunderstood this phrase, breaking each Sola/Only phrase apart as if they were bullet points  First understand this one, then that one, then add the third.  They don’t see them as a continuous phrase, that radically changes its meaning f you divide them.

Yet Protestants do this all the time, especially with faith alone and scripture alone. And when you see Catholic criticism of Luther, it is offered by criticising what people think Luther said.

This isn’t new by the way,  Both Zwingli and the Anabaptists did this during Luther’s lifetime, and in the quote from the Large Catechism, we see Luther confronting the misrepresentation!  These “know-it-alls” in redefining “faith alone” separate from the rest create an anti-sacramental version of what Luther taught and personally depended upon.  When they separate faith alone, they dismiss any work that is done, saying no works matter, even Gd’s.

And this one is critical. For in taking Luther’s phrase out of context, they steal from believers the security God provides as He baptizes and seals us into His family.  It’s not about the water as Luther clarifies, but the word of God that infuses the water with His promise.

This is what faith grabs a hold of, it is what faith depends upon. Not something vague, not something that we do, but something God promises and does as He gives us a new birth and new life in Christ.  A specific action of His, mixed with a specific promise wherein God is the change-agent in our lives.

To have faith in Him means to depend on Him, to trust in His words as He makes good on them specifically in each of our lives.  As St. Josemaria says it is recognizing that the Lord rules, that his action He does so care for us, so changes us that we want for nothing,   This is something Zwingli and the Anabaptists don’t offer, an assurance based on God’s tangible work.  It is also something the Catholic Church didn’t catechize well in Luther’s time, as people just assumed baptism worked because they were told it worked because the water was holy.

It works because of God’s promise, because of God’s love poured out on us in action He ordained.  Knowing that brings comfort and peace, something to personally hold on to, a promise that guards our hearts and minds.

May we all hear Him, hear His promises

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1769-1771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why is He Standing at the Door, Knocking?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT2)

117 Thus you see how God wants us to pray to him for everything that affects our bodily welfare and directs us to seek and expect help from no one but him.
118 But this petition he has put last, for if we are to be protected and delivered from all evil, his name must first be hallowed in us, his kingdom come among us, and his will be done. Then he will preserve us from sin and shame and from everything else that harms or injures us.

Our God is so eager to forgive that at the slightest sign of repentance he is ready with his mercy. He does not forget the covenant he made with our ancestors.

716    “I don’t know how to conquer myself!” you write me despondently. And I answer: But have you really tried to use the means?

As I read the passage from Luther’s Large Catechism (in blue above) this morning, I found words that explained a key to what we need to do as those who disciple others, or who act as spiritual directors. 

Luther nails it so well, as he explores the Lord’s prayer.  It is something we get so confused as we disciple people, as we serve as their spiritual directors and/or pastors.  In reality, we put the cart before the horse, asking people to believe in God’s mercy, in God providing for us, and in God’s forgiveness before God’s presence is established as a reality in their lives.   We want to help them know they are free from their past, and to be strong enough to overcome temptation.

St. Josemaria’s thoughts are similar, as he wonders about the person who can’t overcome the compulsion to sin and fail when confronted by temptation.  His question about the means of grace come to a similar conclusion as Luther’s.  If you haven’t been brought into the presence of God through hearing His word, and partaking in His sacraments, how can you ever be assured of His mercy and protection?  How can you know that He is guiding you and that all things work for good in your life, as you grow in loving Him?

Which brings me to the title of the blog post today, why is Jesus standing at the door and knocking?  Is it simply to call us to account for our sins, clean us up, forgive us our sins, strengthen us against temptation and then leave us to fight the good fight on our own?

Of course not!  

He comes to spend time with us, in fellowship, sharing in life.  TO feast with us, and for us to know we are there for Him.  It is all about the relationship, not just the things that He does that makes the relationship possible. That’s why Luther says we need to see His name made Holy, to see His kingdom established, to see His will be accomplished among us. All these things are based on God being present in our lives, walking with us, living with us.  This happens before we can know His provision, His protection, and really the power of what it means to be forgiven and free. 

You can’t know those things apart from the relationship described in Covenant, where God promises us that we are His and that He is ours.  That relationship is why He stands at the door and knocks.   He wants to be with us, it is sharing our lives as we share His.

For those who pastor, for those who disciple or direct the spiritual growth of people, (and if you are being served by such) this has to be the priority.  To explore the breadth and width the height and depth of God’s love as we experience it.  This is the end of the means, this is the purpose we exist for, and as we learn ot live in it, we find it easy to ask God and live in the assurance that He will answer our prayers for daily bread, for the ability to forgive as we are forgiven, to overcome temptation and not fall into evil.

Never forget this, the Lord is with you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 436). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 223). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1679-1680). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Context of God’s Love

Devotional THought of the Day:

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who •fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.   Psalm 103:11-14  HCSB

When we say “God loves me”, we should not only feel the responsibility, the danger, of being unworthy of his love, but we should also accept the words of love and grace in all their fullness and purity, for, by implication, they tell us also that God is a forgiving and benevolent God

88 Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray, “Dear Father, forgive us our debts.” Not that he does not forgive sin even without and before our prayer; and he gave us the Gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness, before we prayed or even thought of it. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness.

So many songs that talk about how great the faithful love of God miss the incredible, glorious context of how and when His love is communicated to us. Even greater is the measure of His love when we realize that He doesn’t just love us when we are holy, perfect and mature in our faith.

The psalmist puts it into context for us, the reason we know His love, His compassion is that He has removed our transgressions from us. He loved us when we are broken, in bondage to the sin and sinful desires which so easily entrap us. Luther notes that this forgiveness, this removal of sin was accomplished even before we prayed or thought to pray. Pope Benedict writes that we should accept these words of love, for they tell us God is forgiving and benevolent.  He desires the best for us, even when we aren’t at our best.

This is the love of God, and it is what Satan and the demons that work alongside him would have us forget.

Yet, we need to know our God and His love that is so clearly described in verse 14.  The Lord knows us!  He knows what we are made of and that we’re dust without Him.  He realizes how broken and shattered we are. He realizes our struggle with temptation, and the guilt and shame we live in, which we hide or grow callouses to cover our guilt and shame.

He knows it all.

And still is faithful in HIs love, committer in His mercy and compassion.  In Hebrew, the word cHesed is used for all those, the dedicated love, mercy, and compassion that is always faithful to those in the relationship with God.

And how wonderful it is!   He loves you!  He forgives you!  He knows You – and still loves you!  The context of His love for you is your brokenness, which He is healing!

How amazing, how glorious!  This is our God!


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 215). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 432). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press..

 

God’s “safe place”…the place He fits in…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  1 Co 3:16   HCSB

1 How lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD of Hosts. 2 I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 64:1-2 HCSB

37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

King Solomon once asked if there was ever a place God could fit in.

As I read the readings quoted this moring I thought of Solomon’s words at the dedication of the temple, and as I read that we were God’s sanctuary, I didn’t think about it in view of a huge cathedral’s sanctuary, but the place for someone seeking a home, seeking a place where you “fit in”, where You were loved.  To quote the old song from the show “Cheers”, the place where “everybody knows Your name”.

A sanctuary is a place where you are at peace, where you can rest, and be yourself.  Where it is safe.  Where you are worry free and free to discover who you are, and live as you were meant ot live. Some people mock those described as “millenials” for wanting such a place, for struggling to understand this world and the chaos we have seen it become.

Yet even as the Psalmist desires to be in the dwelling place of God, (something I resonate with a lot, as I struggle with my own sin and the sin of the world)  I find it comforting to know God seeks this place as well.  That God would look for His safe place, the place where He would be who He knows Himself to be, to create and find every part of His sanctuary.  God is far more desirous of that place than we are, and the extreme measures He will go to create that place, to found the place where He fits in, to dwell in the place where everyone knows (and praises) His name.

People reading this may think that I am picturing God as a wimpy needy person, just as they picture the millennials who they berate and mock.  The need for a safe place and a call for it by the younger adults of this day is not about them being wimps, it is about their keen sense of the dissonance that sin causes, the brokenness that our hearts and souls cannot tolerate.

And neither should ours.

We, especially those in the church, should be crying out to God, to make His presence know, to help us to understand that He dwells in our midst, that we are the sanctuary we so eagerly seek out.  We can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, see those out searching for a place, drawn to Him, pointed there by our words, by our lives.  For this church is the place we find ourselves in the heart of Christ, and it is there, as the Spirit dwells in us,.

This is the sanctuary God desires more than anything, for Jesus, died to establish it.  This is the community that is called holy, that is set apart to know and love one another, where everyone knows your name, and everyone knows His. This is His masterpiece, this church made not of wood and stone, but of hearts and souls, the place figured in the words of John 1, where it says he came and made His home among us. This is what all creation culminated in, this sanctuary, this safe place God has made to dwell in with us.

Realize my friends, you dwell in Him, and you are His sanctuary.  For this is His desire, to have this sanctuary for Himself.

Lord,, help ys to realize that in the Sabbath you rest, and envisioned us finding rest and peace with You.  In making us Your Holy People, you created a place where You fit in, where You would rest in peace with those you call by name, who call You by Name and call upon that Name. Help us to do so often so that every burden is lifted, and every praise is sung.   AMEN!

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Our need for community, a special community.

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44  And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

As the Father is called Creator and the Son is called Redeemer, so on account of his work the Holy Spirit must be called Sanctifier, the One who makes holy.
37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

We often talk about the Body of Christ from a functional or clinical viewpoint.  That is, we will talk about it as we try to find people their place in the church, finding out what part they will play, what gifts they have.  Or we might use the concept clinically when one person is disrupting the unity of the church, and we appeal to them, reminding them that they are a part of the whole.

I think Luther, in explaining the work of the Holy Spirit, brings the topic up from a view that is not primarily functional.  Rather it is experiential, that the Holy Spirit brings us into the special community to reveal to us the dimensions of God’s love and transform us.  That transformation is called “sanctification”, which is another way of saying making us holy, setting us apart to a special relationship, to be one with God and all His family.

His family, His holy people, His holy community, His communion.

This is easy to say, but hard to accept, this idea that we are one body, that we are one community (no matter how fractured or impaired)  That we are one in Christ, which makes us one, even as Jesus and the Father (and the Spirit ) are one. That we live and move and have our being in Christ, as the Spirit sanctifies us, removing every bit of sin, causing us to live, reflecting the glory of Christ into the darkness of a world that doesn’t know hope.

We are, whether we want to admit it, one, holy, catholic (all of us in all places/times) holy and apostolic church.  This isn’t our work, it is what the Holy Spirit has established and drawn us into, even while we are being saved. This isn’t just a theological teaching or a pragmatic tool to use.  It is our reality, it is where we together explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ.

Let us pray, as Jesus prayed, that we all may be one!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Who would deny them grace?

Devotional THoguht of the Day:

44  While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message. 45  The Jewish believers who had come from Joppa with Peter were amazed that God had poured out his gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles also. 46  For they heard them speaking in strange tongues and praising God’s greatness. Peter spoke up: 47  “These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them from being baptized with water?” 48  So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay with them for a few days. Acts 10:44-48 (TEV)

In our ecclesiastical circumscription, there are priests who do not baptize the children of single mothers because they were not conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are the hypocrites of today, the ones who “clericalize” the Church and prevent God’s people the access to the source of salvation.

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.

As I read the words of Pope Francis this morning, I was, I don’t even know the words to say.  Perhaps horrified, but also angry, and in a sense humiliated that there would have been priests (and Protestant pastors) at the time of my birth that would have denied my God’s grace.

My birth mother, (who I met decades later and admire) was not married when I was conceived. She put me up for adoption, but even so, it is scary to think that someone ordained would deny me God’s blessing.  Or for that matter, how such a decision would affect the single mother.

Baptism, (and the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution) are sacraments where God pours out His grace upon us. Where He promises and reaffirms the promise that our sin is forgiven, that because of Jesus death, we have been recreated, made clean, redeemed, reconciled to God, delivered, saved.

Where we know that God is with us. 

I think this talks about two things.

First, our role as pastors to urge people to receive the sacraments, to not forsake baptism, neither getting baptized or in recalling the promises of it regularly.  Also to be frequent at the altar for communion (or if you are a shut-in, ask for the church (your pastor/ priest to bring it too you!) We need to encourage our people to confess their sins, and have confidence that as they do, assuredly God forgives them of their sin and cleanses them from ALL unrighteousness!

We cannot set up barriers to salvation!  

But at the same time, we must teach people why these sacraments are so incredible, why we need them so much.  I included Luther’s words above about the Lord’s Supper for that reason.  He was convinced and so am I, of the spiritual significance of the Lord’s Supper. What the Eucharist gives is the knowledge of God’s love and His presence within us.  Not knowledge just as in intellect, but the knowledge that is “on-the-job”.  The experience of His blessed presence as we take and eat, as we drink the cup of salvation. 

God is with us! 

We need to know that, and woe to anyone who would stop, hinder, or simply not make it available to those in need.

Heavenly Father, help those in your church to pint out your promises of love, the mercy and forgiveness you pour out in Your word, and in the sacrament. Help us to do everything we can to encourage people to come near, and know You are with them.  AMEN!

A question of the day:  Do you think the church can minister to those who have been hurt by it before?  How?

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 208). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Luther, M. (1991). Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

The Church’s Obligation to Welcome the Stranger in Need

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

41  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Away from me, you that are under God’s curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42  I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink; 43  I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.’ 44  Then they will answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we would not help you?’ 45  The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’ 46  These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.Matthew 25:41-46 (TEV)

In short, thievery is the most common craft and the largest guild on earth. If we look at mankind in all its conditions, it is nothing but a vast, wide stable full of great thieves.
229 These men are called gentlemen swindlers or big operators. Far from being picklocks and sneak-thieves who loot a cash box, they sit in office chairs and are called great lords and honorable, good citizens, and yet with a great show of legality they rob and steal.
230 Yes, we might well keep quiet here about various petty thieves in order to launch an attack against the great, powerful arch-thieves who consort with lords and princes and daily plunder not only a city or two, but all Germany. Indeed, what would become of the head and chief protector of all thieves, the Holy See at Rome, and all its retinue, which has plundered and stolen the treasures of the whole world and holds them to this day?
231 This, in short, is the way of the world. Those who can steal and rob openly are safe and free, unmolested by anyone, even claiming honor from men. Meanwhile the little sneak-thieves who have committed one offense must bear disgrace and punishment so as to make the others look respectable and honorable. But the latter should be told that in the eyes of God they are the greatest thieves, and that he will punish them as they deserve.  (and then a few paragraphs later)
247 If, when you meet a poor man who must live from hand to mouth, you act as if everyone must live by your favor, you skin and scrape him right down to the bone, and you arrogantly turn him away whom you ought to give aid, he will go away wretched and dejected, and because he can complain to no one else, he will cry to heaven. Beware of this, I repeat, as of the devil himself. Such a man’s sighs and cries will be no joking matter. They will have an effect too heavy for you and all the world to bear, for they will reach God, who watches over poor, sorrowful hearts, and he will not leave them unavenged. But if you despise and defy this, see whom you have brought upon yourself. If you succeed and prosper, before all the world you may call God and me liars

There is a struggle in the church today, one that is neither simple nor easily solved.

It is dealing with the issues of social justice, and how we treat the homeless, the needy, the stranger in our midst, that comes to us, asking for help, crying for a place of refuge.

And far too often the church looks at the situation as if the problem is them  How do we solve their problem, how do we help them live within what the laws (federal, state, local) demand of them, at the same time,  helping them as we ought to.

The words I encounter in my reading in the Large Catechism, and in the gospel show me the problem isn’t with them, but with us.  It is them we look at as if they were the disgrace, yet our lack of love is more disgraceful.  It is their cries, unanswered byt the world of the church, that rise up as prayers to God.  It is our hearts that need to be confronted, broken, and restored by God’s mercy.

Hear that again, it is those that have, and especially those who are in positions where their actions take what little the needy have to rely on, that are more in need of mercy, God’s mercy, than those who cry out to Him.   For if they understood that mercy, it would result in their caring for those whose situations may indeed be shameful, or disgraceful, even such that in desperation they turn to crime.

And then what is to be said for those who vote for those people, or invest in their companies, or work with or for them, or do business with them?  DO we not bear a burden for those sins as well, and thereby need God’s mercy?

The other day I was touched by a friend, one who doesn’t have much herself but gives what she has and even buys somethings intentionally to give to the homeless that live between her work and her home.  She wondered where the homeless had gone to, for she had a trunk full of food and water for them.  What a wondrous thing, someone who understands that while she can’t do much (in the world’s eyes) she can do something!  And she hurt because she couldn’t find those she regularly helped.

Jesus tells us we will always have the poor and needy and the alien among us (Stranger in the Greek is Xeno – alien, those not of us,) but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to love them, to assist them, to defend them.  For in doing so, we encounter Jesus, and in doing so, we encounter the mercy we ourselves need, as we find forgiveness, and restoration, and the power of Christ in our lives..

Lord, have mercy on us!

 

 

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959).( Explanation of the 7th commandment of the Large Catechism), The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 396). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Church, Know Who Your Enemy is… and isn’t!

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

the devotional thought of the Day:

12  For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:12 (TEV)

1  To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else. 4  But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-4 (Phillips NT)

The circumstances of various regions being duly considered, students are to be brought to a fuller understanding of the churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Apostolic Roman See, so that they may be able to contribute to the work of re-establishing unity among all Christians according to the prescriptions of this holy synod.
Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions, so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions, in God’s providence, possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.

66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Even back to my childhood, I remember people telling me who the enemies of God are, and therefore who the Church’s and my enemies are.  And often, far too often, we would rise up to figure out how to start a new Crusade to crush this new enemy.

Some of the enemies were external to the church.  Atheists and Agnostics who were so burnt by the church that they felt they had to “save” people from it.  Other religions that were out to convert us (before we converted them!)  Some of our enemies were internal to Christianity, (ex the Catholics pointing to Luther, the Baptists pointing to the Catholics, the Pentecostals pointing to the less emotional Presbyterians and Methodists.  And some of these enemies were even in our congregations, like those who went to war over worship styles, or those that supported t this change, or those that just wanted them to remain the way they always were.

But we treat our enemies as if we were on a holy crusade against the heretics and infidels of our times.  The church too often focuses on witch-hunts rather than ministering to those who are in need.  Especially the ministry of reconciliaiton, and the ministry of deliverance,salvation.    Deliverance from sin, deliverance from idols, (see Ezekiel 36:25) deliverance from the broknness that plagues our lives and relationships.  THat should be our focus, to the believer and unbeliever, to our brothers and sisters in Chirst, and towards our enemies and adversaries, who, we pray, will become our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As Paul says, we don’t battle against them, but aginst those that hold them in bondage!  Vatican II and Luther note that they have some ideas of God, What they know isn’t enough, because while they understand that God must be just, that there has to be “karma”, a payment your have earned for the sin you have committed, they have no idea that God could be, that God desires to be merciful.

That is our message, that is why we need to understand their religions, not to defeat them in battle, but to realize what they do teach about God, however they have veiled Him, and reveal Him fullu, so that they can depend on Him fully.  We need to tell them the good news about God’s mercy and love, so that the Holy Spirit will fulfill the promise of working through the word, to illuminate their hearts.

We can’t have that kind of focus if we remain in ignorance, nor can we see this as our mission, what we’ve been sent to do, if we think of the people as our enemies and adversaries.  This is why scripture commands us to love our enemies, because, in the final analysis, they are not our enemies.

Get to know them, share wth them the reason that we broken sinners have found hope…. and look to God, who loves you so much, and has an eternity planned for you that is beyond comprehension.

The Lord is with you!

Question of the day:  If we know God is with us, why would we fear those with different beliefs?

 

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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