Category Archives: Pope Francis

Without Love We Are Nothing, But Do We Even Know Who to Love?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you did not speak the truth about me, the way my servant Job did. 8 Now take seven bulls and seven rams to Job and offer them as a sacrifice for yourselves. Job will pray for you, and I will answer his prayer and not disgrace you the way you deserve. You did not speak the truth about me as he did.”
9 Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did what the LORD had told them to do, and the LORD answered Job’s prayer
. Job 42:7-9 GNT.

13 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2† I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good. 1 Cor. 13:1-3 GNT

Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.

It is hard to communicate across Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It is even harder to develop relationships where we love one another. Yet these odd relationships appeal to so many.

I think part of it is the illusion of safety, the idea that we can have “friends” while still being autonomos. Yet these social media platforms are more addictive and the relationships less satisfying, and more frustrating. It is so easy to write off that person who has a different outlook in regards to religion, politics, sex, etc. And because the relationship is not really a relationship (in most cases) we just unfriend, unfollow, and even block those who annoy us.

Yet we have both a great capacity and a great need to love. It is what we are created to do. To deeply care, be deeply devoted to others, so much so that reconciliation is more important than frustration. That forgiveness is an automatic response rather than a thirst for revenge. ( I do believe that “unfriending” is more often a response of revenge than anything else!)

As St. Paul indicates, without love we are nothing. Without love, nothing is beneficial. Even sacrifice is worthless, if it is not done because of love.

As I was reading these passages this morning, I wondered why Job even bothered allowing his “friends” to hang around. Their words may have been sincere, but they were wrong! (And God let them know it!) They were annoying, they were judgmental, they didn’t offer comfort and support in the midst of some pretty dark times in the life of Job. Yet, he didn’t send them away. He would argue with them, he would struggle with their “help”, but he didn’t turn his back on them

Once Job was justified, he even did something for them that was remarkable. He prayed for their healing! He prayed that they didn’t get what they deserve! They were his friends, and so he did what they needed, no matter how much they had been a pain in the ass while he was suffering.

That is the kind of love that Paul tells us makes all the difference. That is the kind of love that makes life abundant. That is the love that tells us that while there is a time for solitude, we are meant to live in fellowship, in relationships that are deep, that result in our laughing when they laugh, and sobbing when they sob. (see Romans 12)

This is the love that transcends life, that happens because we know we are loved. For it is God’s love that enables us to set aside the zeal for autonomy, to realize the emptiness of narcissism, and risk truly loving those around us.

Even those who treat us like Job’s friends and family.

We need to know that we are loved. To look at the cross, to realize the depth of sin, our sin, that Christ would take on himself. To do so, because He loves us, and therefore could look at the cross and see the joy of reconciliation that would result from that cross, from that pain. His love is infectious, the more we explore its dimensions the more we can love, the more we desire to, and the more unfollowing, unfriending and blocking doesn’t make sense. Laughing and crying with people will be our norm, for that is what happens when we love each other.

And the more we want to see people face to face, and not settle for social media interaction.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Denying Someone Salvation. Who would do this?

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Devotional THought of the Day:

15 If you hurt others because of something you eat, then you are no longer acting from love. Do not let the food that you eat ruin the person for whom Christ died! 16 Do not let what you regard as good get a bad name. 17 For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives. 18 And when you serve Christ in this way, you please God and are approved by others. Romans 14:15-16 GNT

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.

The question asked in the title has a sobering answer.

Or perhaps, instead of asking “who would?”, the question should be, “who has?”

And the answer is even more sobering.

I have.

You have as well, and the sad thing is that we didn’t know we were doing it. Our focus was on being circumspect, being proper, following, in many cases, the rules, or interpreting the law in such a way that we can claim we were keeping not only the letter of the law, but every dotted “i” and crossed “t”. (proudly quoting Matt 5:18 along the way) Or maybe it is the legalist that you would condemn, and deny them forgiveness and mercy,

But every time we deny someone forgiveness and mercy, we do the same as the priest denying a baby the sacrament of baptism, or the pastor who justifies not communing someone because they aren’t members of his church (without finding out what they believe)

We may justify it, saying they are our enemy, they are our adversary, we may judge them as unrepentant of their sin, We might just not like them all that much, and therefore we don’t share with them the words of life that have been entrusted to all believers.

We need to become aware of our actions in doing so, so that we can repent, so we can ask God for help, to give us a heart that considers reconciliation more important.

Hard stuff..

Who would deny salvation to the least of these?

We’ve done it. Forgive us Lord, we ask trusting that He will. And He has.

AMEN!


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.

As Long As it Works Out Alright? Really?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God.
Job 2:9-10 GNT

Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and most sacred function of every priest. As for me, from the very first years of my priesthood, the celebration of the Eucharist has been not only my most sacred duty, but above all my soul’s deepest need.

For a while our dear God looks on and lets us lie between a rock and a hard place, and from our experience we learn that the weak, suffering word is stronger than the devil and hell’s gates. The devil and his followers can storm the fortress all they want. They will find something there that will make them break into a sweat and still not win the day; it is a rock, as Christ calls it, that cannot be overcome. Thus, let us suffer what we will; we will experience that God will stand by us to guard and protect us against the enemy and all his followers.

I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.

As I finished reading my daily readings this morning, I pondered aloud if there was something up. I mean the reading in Luther in green and starting the book of Job (In my read through the Bible in a year) could be considered ominous.

As in… what’s coming that I have to be prepared for it by all this?

I mention this aloud, somewhat as a joke, and one of my co-workers said something to the extent of, “it worked out okay in the end, so as long as it works out alright…”

While I know that it all does indeed work out in the end, and that GOd has promised it all works out for good, it is hard in the midst of trauma to focus on the end result. Indeed, it is more than challenging, and while we talk about patience, persistence and prayer, we also must admit that there is a drain mentally, physically and spiritually to the repetitive trauma that life and ministry throw at us.

So how do we learn what Job advocated for, this idea that we should not complain, but welcome the suffering of life, simply, because like the blessings, it comes from God!

Even as I looked at what I just typed, it strikes me as wrong, as unjust, and to be honest, impossible. I might be able to teach this as a theory, but an honest reaction is that this is not how I think, normally.

The key word is normally.

What i need is what Luther wrote about at the end of that citation. That Christ is the rock that cannot be overcome. We can endure suffering and struggles, aware of God’s presence, that He stands by us and guards us, even in the valley of the shadow of death that David describes.

In the midst of the suffering I need to experience His love, and there it seems even more sweet, more rich, more real, more comforting. In the midst of the struggle, when I take a breath (Psalm 46) and slow down, I can realize He is my God, He is my fortress, Luther is absolutely correct, aware of God”s presence we can echo Job’s welcome – suffering simply then becomes a tool by where we realize even more the blessing of being God’s people,

Which is where the other two quotes come in, and the role of the sacraments. You see, as much as it is a privilege, and my sacred duty to distribute the body broken and blood shed for the people of God, I need to receive it, I need to realize the blessing that it is, the presence of God there in my hands, even as it is given away and shared. Francis is right, as we administer the sacraments our hands should tremble, as should the hands of those who receive it.

For there, at the altar, over the font, at the bedside, there is the inescapable presence of God, there specifically for the people I am ministering to, and there for me. It is at that point I can release all the stress, and the pain. I can find hope for reconciliation, I see God’s mercy helping me realize my sins are taken away. It is there peace overwhelms us, and we realize God has answered our prayers, and come to us.

So even before it all works out in the end, we find what we need, what makes the difference, even if on a Monday we begin a journey like Job’s.

God is with us.

He is our sanctuary, our place where even Satan’s hordes and suffering cannot separate us from God.

Lord, as we struggle in life, help us not look past you. Help us to realize we dwell in your presence, that Your Spirit is there to comfort us, and enable and empower us to endure, and minister to others, revealing to them Your healing and grace. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!




Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 145). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 159). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 207). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Future Of the Church is Simple…Who will imitate you…?

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT

2  To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)

Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.

[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.

As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.

As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.

If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”

Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?

It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.

It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.

As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,

This is the future of the church, this is its hope.

Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.

It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.

Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!

This is our past, and our future.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT

To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)

The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.

For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.

There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!

But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”

It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.

The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.

It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.

For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.

Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.

This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.

And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….

Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Hope for Believers (and Churches) Burnt Out, or Just Going Through the Motions

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12  Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13  Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14  Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” 16  The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17  All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18  Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. Acts 19:11-18 (TEV)

We need to “go out,” then, in order to test and experience our own anointing and its power and redemptive efficacy into the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness longing for sight and prisoners under so many evil masters.

It may sound harsh, but I wonder today if the church is more like the sons of Sceva than like the Apostle Paul.

We go through the motions, we say the right things (at times) we have a good intent, but we lack the faith, the trust in a God we know, to truly minister to others the way we should.

As our efforts don’t result in any significant change, we slowly give up our our outreach. We begin to rely on what others have said or written, rather than express our awe of God directly. We rely on canned presentations, Bible studies written by someone we’ve never met, who doesn’t know the people we study with and/or teach. Prayer and meditation on scripture become things we will do “when we have time”.

And we wonder why we ministry seems a drain, why people don’t realize the blessing that church should be, and why they never are free of their demons.

The more we do, the more the church gets focused internally, the more church politics rips us to shreds, the more churches close their doors, or become places that focus on things other than Jesus, and exploring the incredible dimensions of His love, experiencing what we can never completely explain.

So what is the answer, how do we go from a church of Sceva’s sons, to being an apostolic church.

How do we live out the work of God that became possible when the Holy Spirit called us, when God the Father united us with Jesus, and the same power which raised Him from the dead gave us new life?

I think Pope Francis has the answer, just “go out”, trusting in God enough to go where there is need, to the broken, to those who are blind and suffering, to those who are prisoners . Asking God to make His annointing of our lives known in our lives as we minister to those He puts in front of us.

In order to know that, we have to know He has indeed redeemed us, that we are His people, not because we are so good, but because He has indeed redeemed us. As a pastor, everytime I baptize someone, everytime I give someone the body of Christ, whether the person kneeling at the altar, or the shut-in in their home, or the counselee, whose burdens are lifted as they experience the love of God, the lesson of my own redemption is renewed.

I’ve seen the same thing when parents assist in their child’s baptism, or a sponsor assists in the friend who has come to know God’s love. Our faith is renewed, our dependence on God becomes a great joy, and we realize the world without hope is indeed full of God’s hope.

You see the church may sometimes act like the sons of Sceva, but she isn’t. She may be depressed, and dejected, focused on survival more than mission, but her Lord is with her, strengthening her, giving her life, and urging her to go to the broken in the world, with the assurance she doesn’t do so alone, or on her own power.

We go with the Lord and Giver of Life, empowered by God to do the works He has planned.

This is our call.. this is who we are..

Let’s get back it, walking with our God.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 190). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Challenge of the Cost of Revival

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you rule in heaven over all the nations of the world. You are powerful and mighty, and no one can oppose you. 7† You are our God. When your people Israel moved into this land, you drove out the people who were living here and gave the land to the descendants of Abraham, your friend, to be theirs forever. 8 They have lived here and have built a temple to honor you, knowing 9 that if any disaster struck them to punish them—a war,d an epidemic, or a famine—then they could come and stand in front of this Temple where you are worshiped. They could pray to you in their trouble, and you would hear them and rescue them. 2 Chron. 20:6-9

If I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first.
Between a rugged Church coming out to the streets and a Church sick of self-referential narcissism, without doubt, I prefer the first.
When the Church does not walk, she falls apart like a sandcastle
.

The Lord requires us to go to the end of our misery, our poverty, our sin when we are before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Being poor, this is our title of nobility.

Perfect Churches don’t need revival, so they do not see it happen. The same goes for people who have it all together, whose lives are not crushed by sin, who have no worry about death, who never had to deal with temptation, or struggle with demonic activity.

Of course, the only churches and eople that are that good are those who are already in the God’s presence.

The rest of our churches are wounded and broken. Their people are not prim and proper, but are worn down, and look and smell like they’ve just finished a 10 hike in the mountains and desperately need a bath, a showed, and manybe another bath.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a church that is about to undergo revival, a person who about to experience God’s ability to transform them must be in the mdist of their misery, they must address their spiritual poverty. For there, they can cry out to God, in the place where He has set aside to remind them He is with them, they He is patient and desires to transform us.

For as we cry out, we begin to see the reality of His rescue, we being to see the salvation that He has promised is not far off, but that we are in the midst of it.

He will hear us.

For it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to call upon Him, to reach out, only to find He’s been there all the time.

And in awe at His work, His patience, His love, we find the life He has created us to live. A life that is not static, a life that findss meaning in revealing His love to others.

A life that llives for the moment when another person, or another community realizes that God is with them.

Lord, help us learn to stop hiding from our brokenness, but tather let you heal and restore us. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 185). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 123). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

50,000+ reads, 578 subscribers, 1866 posts, and a thought

This underground church blessed m with great peace…
I pray my blog has helped you experience it over the years.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT

The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in it there was no light. The second was the holy place; here stood a lampstand with seven arms and seven lamps. The third was the outer court; it was open to the sky and to the sun’s light. This is a metaphor for the Christian person, whose spirit is the holy of holies, God’s dwelling in the darkness of faith without light. For the Christian believes what is neither seen, nor felt, nor comprehended. The soul is the holy place with its seven lamps, that is, every form of reason,18 discrimination, knowledge,19 and understanding20 of bodily and visible things. The body is the outer court that is open to everyone, so that everyone can see what one does and how one lives.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.

This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.

Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.

And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.

There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.

Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?

It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.

You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.

Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.

That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.

The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.

It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.

Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.

That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.

Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


Why Can’t They Learn From Our Mistakes? (The difference between instruction and discipling)

We must all come to the place like Peter, where we let Jesus wash our feet….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10  He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11  Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12  Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13  In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)

The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ. However only those who hear the Word made flesh from their experience of personal sinfulness and weakness will receive his saving power. This is the reason why the Lord says he has come for the sick, not the healthy.

Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.

There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.

But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.

Or deal with the same issues.

Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.

It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.

Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.

Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.

And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.

The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.

But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.

And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…

Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Stephen Lawhead,
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30

The Church must live in the midst of controversy

In the midst of perscution and darkness, the church is still the place of mercy

Devotional thought of the Day

When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she answered.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”
John 8:9-11 GNT

The Church will be persecuted in the measure of her fidelity to the gospel.
The testimony to this fidelity bothers and enrages the world, making it kill and destroy, as it happened in the case of Stephen, the first among the disciples to shed his life for Christ.

Pope Francis’s words sound ominous, and they should.

But not because of the promise of persecution. That is something promised in scripture. We will be persecuted (see Mark 10:30, 2 Thes 1:4, 2 Titus 3:11-12, John 15:20) What is ominous to me is the idea that if we are not persecuted, than perhaps our fidelity, our faithfulness needs to be examined.

In other words, does the inverse of Pope Francis’s words hold true. Is the lack of persecution a testimony that we are not enraging the world, that something is missing in our lives given to Christ Jesus?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a great example of the rage the Church, when She is the Church, can create in those who observe here.

Jesus causes controversy in forgiving the lady everyone knew was guilty. He did this by pointing out their sin, confronting them on the very evil that lurked within their hearts. Unable to face the confrontation, their wander off, leaving her with the God who loves her, who would restore her.

Rather than rejoice that someone is shown God’s mercy, rather than celebrate the love of God revealed to someone who thought they were too broken, the world walks away. (and yes, the church is often more like the world)

Such mercy could be shown to the terrorist (the apostle Simon the Zealot and the government lacky, Matthew the tax collector), it can be shown to the prostitute, the murderer, even to the one who kills the pastors and leaders of the church (St. Paul)

You don’t like Trump? Christ died for him. You don’t like those who are “pro-choice”? God is calling them into a relationship where He will forgive their sins. You don’t like the person who is Muslim, Jewish, White Supremacist, the gang-banger, the alien, the rapid right wing republican?

So what? Love them or realize this:

As you judge and condemn them, for the sins you think you’ve caught them in, remember this story of the woman caught in adultery. And wonder, who are you in the story. The ones crying our for murder, the lady, or are you to be like the Lord, who pronounces forgiveness.

Imitate Jesus… even if it means dying to reveal to them that God loves them, that He desires to show them mercy, to forgive their sins.

And if your friends, neighbors and fellow church members want to kill you, or just cut you off from them for being merciful, remember these words,

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom!Matthew 5:10 (MSG)

So go in peace, serve the Lord, bring mercy to those the world says don’t deserve it…because God says He desires them to come to repentance, even as He drew you to this blessed place! AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 112). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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