Category Archives: Sacraments
20 You have nothing to do with corrupt judges, who make injustice legal, 21 who plot against good people and sentence the innocent to death. Ps 94:20-21 GNT
Yet popular Christianity has as one of its most effective talking points the idea that God exists to help people to get ahead in this world! The God of the poor has become the God of an affluent society. We hear that Christ no longer refuses to be a judge or a divider between money-hungry brothers. He can now be persuaded to assist the brother that has accepted Him to get the better of the brother who has not!
Too often, individuals and organizations look to get the best deal. How can their actions benefit themselves, or the group that they owe allegiance too. Even within orgranizations, there is competition between divisions and departments. It exists in churches and denominations as well. We want ours to get what it needs, even at the cost of others. Even if it means they shut down.
There is a name for this in scripture,
We can justify it all we want, but covetousness is contagious. It starts out small, like the man who tells the pastor that he doesn’t care what happens to the church – as long as it is their to do his and his wife’s funerals. There is little care for the people around him. It then extends out to churches and denominationals that see other churches as places to prey on – and so welcome and recruit people from other churches, offering them “more” of this, and ‘more” of that–to meet their perceived needs. It can go on, to people pushing agendas that prey on needed ministries to fund those agendas.
THis isn’t new, Tozer’s words acknowledge it 30 years ago.
You see it in the scriptures as well, as people go against the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, as the Kinsman passes his right to Boaz (who gets to slap him in the face with a sandle!) so his son gets the full inheritance. In the apostles who are jealous of others ministering in Jesus’ name.
Here is the option.
The word cHesed in Hebrew, often translated as love, loving-kindness, has the sense of loving loyalty. It is the word used in conjunction with a covenant, to express the attitude that one should do everything in their power, not only to keep their end of the covenant, but to help the other party keep their end of it.
Even if it means death.
This is what compelled Jesus to die on the cross, the promise ot help mankind receive all the promises made to Adam, and to Abraham, and the promises given to all naitons through Moses.
This is the heart of the matter in Luther’s understanding of the 7th commandment as well. In explaining it to dads, so they can explain it to their children, Luther wrote, “but help him to improve and protect his income and property.”
To do otherwise is to disobey God by stealing from one’s neighbor.
But when we do help them, when we invest in them, when we strive on thier behalf, we see God at work in them and we see God’s blessings upon them, and we get to share in their joy.
Is such easy? no!
Is such perhaps met with suspicion and reluctance? yeah… because of past history.
Is it worth it? Was it worth it to Christ.
Our being in Covenant with God means we are in covenant with all of mankind, and so cHesed – this loyalty/love/kindness compels us to these kinds of actions. May we welcome such compulsion, and turn our back on coveting that which God gave to someone else.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism: The Ten Commandments”, Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.
10 One day spent in your Temple is better than a thousand anywhere else;
I would rather stand at the gate of the house of my God than live in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 GNT
For the entire gospel testimony is unanimous that Jesus’ words and deeds flowed from his most intimate communion with the Father; that he continually went “into the hills” to pray in solitude after the burden of the day (e.g., Mk 1:35; 6:46; 14:35, 39). Luke, of all the Evangelists, lays stress on this feature. He shows that the essential events of Jesus’ activity proceeded from the core of his personality and that this core was his dialogue with the Father.
Thus the spiritual life of the minister, formed and trained in a school of prayer, is the core of spiritual leadership. When we have lost the vision, we have nothing to show; when we have forgotten the word of God, we have nothing to remember; when we have buried the blueprint of our life, we have nothing to build. But when we keep in touch with the life-giving spirit within us, we can lead people out of their captivity and become hope-giving guides.
A good deal of my time this year has been spent contemplating the question that is the title of this post. I’ve had three distinct possibilities, three times I was a finalist for a position, and once I received a call to pastor a different church. All three interested me, and I dread the idea of having to decide between my present call and them.
But the question about where I am supposed to be is far deeper than a geographical location, or what vocation I have. In fact, the locations where we live and what we do are meaningless without the insight of “where we are” offered by the psalmist.
We have to imitate Jesus, and rely on our location in response to our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our identity is determined by our awareness of our proximity to God. If we know we are in HIs presence, everything else takes on a new dimension, a new meaing. Our families, our workplaces, our hobbies all become a way in which to experience God’s love, and to see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
This is essential for the entire church – and it resolves with all of us taking our positions as ministers, as those who serve people, that they might know Jesus. Intimacy with God is the core of our spiritual leadership–it is also the core of our spiritual lives. Without interaction with God prayer, meditating on the gospel and the sacraments, there is little that we can and should attempt to do. Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI ) is correct – all we are and do flows from our intimate – yeah – intimate connection with God.
I believe that is what the psalmist knows, and puts into words… it is being there in God’s presence that is the most desirable place to be.
And then we can give people the hope we find there, with Jesus,… as they are called and drawn to the One lifted up on the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 17–18.
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 73). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
10 And then he said, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king.
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:10,21-23 GNT
It is in the intimacy with God that we develop a greater intimacy with people and it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that we indeed can touch the heart of the human suffering to which we want to minister. Do we really believe this? It often seems that our professional busy-ness has claimed the better part of us. It remains hard for us to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed, in order to be with him from whom all good things come. Still, it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that the minister becomes minister. There we remember that if anything worthwhile happens at all it is God’s work and not ours.
Something happened to King Josiah as the gospel, contained in the word of God was read to him. It went far beyond doing church, “right,” and being good, ethical stewards of the money entrusted to their care.
He didn’t have a time of silence and solitude as we normally think of it, but as the gospel was read to him from the word of God, the miraculous happened.
The Holy Spirit created the intimacy with God which made King Josiah unlike any other king, including Hezekiah and David.
He became a king who was also the pastor of his people. He realized part of his work was to free them from bondage to false idols, to bring them to the point of celebrating the Passover–something long forgotten among the people.
They celebrated it, in a way that reflects on their hunger and thirst for the presence of God, and to see and celebrate the work of God in their midst…now!
The people of God came back to life, they realized again what God was doing! Revival broke out–not because they were running the business of church right, but because their time was dominated by God’s revelation of His presence and care.
Nouwen is correct though, it is not our work that makes us pastors, priests and ministers. It is not from our agendas that we find the strength and ability to minister. It comes from the time when our darkness was invaded by the glory of God’s love, where His comfort and peace sought us out to heal us.
It is time, to gather around the gospel, to hear it–to realize the intimate presence of God–who loves us, cares for us, comforts and heals our brokenness..and then uses all of that, as we serve and minister to those around us…. as we guide them to the Altar– to our Passover…
Lord, may it be said of our time, that our moments of being gathered together and celebrating Your work in us is unlike any other, as You revive Your church as you did the people in Josiah’s day!
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 51). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
And so he left his country and went to live in Haran. After Abraham’s father died, God made him move to this land where you now live. God did not then give Abraham any part of it as his own, not even a square metre of ground, but God promised to give it to him, and that it would belong to him and to his descendants. At the time God made this promise, Abraham had no children. Acts 7:4-5 GNT
So it is in keeping with the core of Biblical tradition to look at the ministry in the context of remembrance. Therefore I will discuss our spiritual resources by looking at the minister as a reminder: first, as a healing reminder, second as a sustaining reminder, third as a guiding reminder.
We are a people who have been taught to live in and for the present. That we need to be free our past, and we cannot let our anxieties about the future color our present life. We only live now, in this moment… ( o wait – that moment is now passed..hmmm…)
There is a point to it – that things past and future should not handicap our present life.
That doesn’t mean that we should divorce ourselves from either. We need the lessons from the past, the remmbrance of God’s promise to work in our lives, to intimately be involved in healing what is broken, in sustaining us in the present, and in guiding us into the future. Fr. Nouwen was right – our ministry is based in these reminders, both from the scriptures, and in the promises given through the hands of priests and pastors who baptize, absolve and give us the Body and Blood of Christ!
Abraham is a great example of counting on such promises. Stephen talks of his trust, his faith in God such that it was generations before the promise would be realized. It didn’t matter, the faith was there. Abraham depended on God being faithful to His promise, even thought he wouldn’t see Moses guiding people to the Holy Land, or Solomon’s Temple, or the death, burial and resurrection of His Lord Jesus Christ.
He would pass that faith on through the generations, some would have it, some would neglect it, but it was there, as God called people back, to bless them, to continue the promise. To trust and walk with God, sieing tht the promise is not just for us in this moment, as Peter notes, “39 For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the “‘Lord our God calls to himself.'”
This is our ministry, facilitating the trust and dependence people have on God. It is not done with the strength of our character, rather by our ability to remember His presence, as He fulfills His promises to us, and those who come after us. And using the phrase, “our ministry,” I am referring to the church, not just to pastors, deacons and the like.
God’s promises will make the difference, and knowing about them is critical.
Lord, help our faith to grow like Abraham’s, and help us to minister to others – helping them remember Your promises and recognize Your presence! AMEN!
Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder: Service and prayer in the memory of Jesus Christ. Seabury Press; 1977, page 13
15The 50 prophets from Jericho saw him and said, “The power of Elijah is on Elisha!” They went to meet him, bowed down before him, 16and said, “There are fifty of us here, all strong men. Let us go and look for your master. Maybe the spirit of the LORD has carried him away and left him on some mountain or in some valley.”
“No, you must not go,” Elisha answered.
17 But they insisted until he gave in and let them go. The 50 of them went and looked high and low for Elijah for three days, but didn’t find him. 18Then they returned to Elisha, who had waited at Jericho, and he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?” 2 Kings 2:15-18 GNT
In other words, the church is not just any assembly that happens to call itself by the name of Jesus for whatever reason or purpose, or where there may be orders calling themselves holy and so on. To counter a current heresy, the church is not just “people.” That assertion may rightly controvert the idea that the church is a building or even an institution, but it too easily forgets that the church is a gathering called and shaped by the gospel of its Lord, Jesus Christ. The Christian church occurs where the quite specific activity known as speaking the gospel occurs and the sacraments are administered according to that gospel. Where that does not occur there is no such thing as the church of Jesus Christ.
I look at the 50 prophets that Elisha encountered, and I see me.
And I see the church today.
We can recognize the Spirit of God on someone; we see the call God has laid on their life, But when they speak for Him, it is as if we didn’t know them, or we doubted they speak for God, and we go and waste a couple of days, doing our own thing.
We do this with each other, and we do this even with the scriptures. Liberal and conservative alike, we look for what resonates with our emotions and our thoughts, blissfully forgetting those emotions and thoughts have been twisted by sin.
We see that to an extent in the claim that “people are the church,” when people are talking about the buildings, but even more about the structure and those in responsibility. No longer is the church where God’s word is preached, and He blesses people with the sacraments. Forde rails against this–for where is there hope given, where is life cleansed, where else is there a chance to be still, and be revived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
While church should serve man, it should not serve his desires. Elisha was grieving, but he was also aware the time had come for others to step up, for Elijah to rest. The 50 should have done the same, for they saw God at work. When we hear the gospel, when we see the miraculous sacraments, I pray that we can be like Elijah, and work from that place of communion, humbling ourselves, and repenting of our trying to replace God.
Lord, help us to recognize the Elisha’s in our lives, help us to hear Your word, and receive your sacraments, and then help us to die to self, and see Christ live with us. AMEN!
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 186–187.
34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34-35 (NLT2)
The holy Virgin was a real martyr for three days, and these days were harder for her than was the external pain of martyrdom to other saints. She had had such anxiety on her Son’s account that she could not have suffered any more bitter pain. For that is the greatest torture and woe, when the heart is attacked and tortured. That is only half-suffering when the body alone is afflicted, but when the heart is compelled to endure suffering, only great and noble spirits, with special grace and strength, are able to endure it. But why does God permit these afflictions to come upon his loved ones?
…..Thirdly, God does this that he may teach his saints to prepare themselves to find Christ and keep him. Mary and Joseph sought the child Jesus for three days without finding him either in Jerusalem or among their friends and acquaintances, until they came to the temple where he sat among the teachers and where the Scriptures and God’s Word are studied.
I never made the connection between the three days that Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, finding Him in the Temple, and the 3 days His body was in the tomb. That is, until I read Luther’s thoughts this morning. Knowing what she knew from prophecy would only make the anxiety more unbearable – “how could I have lost the Messiah?”–“could this wreck the plans God had to save Israel?” Her mind (and stomach) must have done more flips and somersaults than a Olympic gymnastics competition.
She must have thought that this was the answer to Simeon’s prophecy, this was the time that the sword pierces her soul.
For how could she know this One, the baby she held, the rabbi that was her Son would be tortured and killed? To wonder if He was alive, or to know He was dead. To wonder about all she had seen and heard, from her cousin’s son proclaiming that Jesus was the Lamb of God, to the miracles and the teachings. That was agonizing, and yet, as she would find Him in the Temple, she would find that death could not contain Him.
We, too, occasionally leave Jesus in the Temple, we occasionally leave Him at the altar. We head back home, only to realize we’ve lost our peace, and wonder where He is at. Realizing that, our life crashes down again, and only “finding Him” can lift us back up. The third reason Luter points to (i deleted the first two) is so that we know this can happen, we can find Him again, and keep Him. Or rather, find out He’s been keeping us the entire time. We can find Him where word and sacrament are offered, where His love and His mercy become tangible. We find Him and what we desperately need to live life in peace.
I don’t think Mary had as much anxiety the second time she found Jesus after “losing” Him. For the resurrection changed everything in her life, and the lives of those around her. As it changes our lives, yours and mine today.
I just need to ask…
have we lost Him in the midst our pilgrimage….and are we ready to find Him where He dwells with His people?
Heavenly Father, reveal our hearts, and in doing so let us never be content with leaving Jesus behind. Rather, make us hunger and thirst for your presence, and rejoice in Your satisfying our desire to dwell in Your presence. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 18–19.
*He made you go hungry, and then he gave you manna to eat, food that you and your ancestors had never eaten before. He did this to teach you that human beings must not depend on bread alone to sustain them, but on everything that the LORD says.” Deut 8:3 GNT
As Christian believers, we stand together in the evangelical faith—the historical faith of our fathers. Yet, we must confess that many congregations seem bogged down with moral boredom and life-weariness.
The church is tired, discouraged and unastonished—Christ seems to belong to yesterday.
The prophetic teachers have projected everything into the dim future where it is beyond our reach—unavailable! They have dispensationalized us into a state of spiritual poverty—and they have left us there!
But regardless of such teachers, the course of spiritual victory is clear; let us trust what the Word of God continues to say to us!
The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.
Divine service must be rendered with “one mind” and with “one mouth.” One needs Christ as much as another. We render divine service when we are harmonious, and when we recognize our common equality and our common blessings in Christ; when none exalts himself above another, nor assumes special advantages. We all receive the same baptism and sacrament, the same faith, the same Christ and Spirit, the same gospel—in a word, the same God.
Tozer saw a tired and discouraged church, not much different from the experts see in the church today. I know – I hear them in meetings, and read the books they recommend. Often the strategies they offer are taken from well meaning, but worldly business principles. Or they take what other churches, successful because of moves a decade ago are doing, and emulate the practices they observe, without looking closely at what lies underneath, what caused the actions.
And so we get to the other thing Tozer saw in the church: a lack of astonishment.
From what i’ve seen in the last 30 years, this is the most critical of the observations.
The lack of astonishment happens when we forget we dwell in the presence of God, when we forget the gifts given us through the conduits of word and Sacrament. When we forget God is at work, as Tozer says, way before we plead in prayer. Astonishment disappears when we fail to see that we have received the same baptism, the same sacrament, the same presence of God in our lives.
I get being weary and discouraged, been with many people who are, and for good reason. Yet, their hearts soar when receiving the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. Their energy picks up as they remind me that God is also with me, or as we recount the blessing experienced after a tired, long day.
Finding yourself in the presence of God, watching and hearing as His love for you is revealed, experiencing the reconciliation- that brings the astonishment we desperately need to endure. To realize His body was broken, His blood was shed for us… for us! Astonishing!!!!!
And this will restore a tired and discouraged church… even as it heals from wound de
For the Almighty, Everlasting, Merciful and Loving God is here… to be with us…Perhaps God allowed us this season of weariness so we can remember He is here, and we can rely on Him. And as the church remembers that – everything opens up – and despite the weariness, despite the frustrations, the church comes alive… and is drawn to His side. There, joy is known.
So I am discouraged and tired… that’ ok – He is here! And knowing that, recognizing His presence and His work in our lives, we find we dwell in peace.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 12.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 387.
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT
The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.
The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.
Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.
If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now. There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.
Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.
The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.
Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.
Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.
Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists. He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life! Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.
This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.
Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 195.
Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 473.
“I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.” Hosea 5:15 (TEV)
This is the human condition—to be without the true source of happiness, which is the experience of the presence of God, and to have lost the key to happiness, which is the contemplative dimension of life.… What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.
In the sacraments your God, Christ himself, deals, speaks, and works with you through the priest. His are not the works and words of man. In the sacraments God himself grants you all the blessings we just mentioned in connection with Christ. God wants the sacraments to be a sign and testimony that Christ’s life has taken your death, his obedience your sin, his love your hell, upon themselves and overcome them. Moreover, through the same sacraments you are included and made one with all the saints.
Hosea’s message is brutal, or at least it seems that way.
How could a good God consign people to suffering, to the pain that is endured because of their sins. Not just the individual sins, but the sins of the community and the sins of the world. (There is another post there, that sins, and their consequences are not individual issues – but every sin is allowed, and affects the community) Back to the thought, how could a loving, compassionate God be this petty?
What God is allowing is not the suffering. Scripture tells us over and over He would prevent that suffering. He would protect us from suffering, and He will heal us from the wounds that we and society embrace.
The problem is our search for happiness, and our hunger for pleasure that we mistake for happiness. Keating is correct, we become so desperate in our search for happiness, because we look for it in places that it cannot be found! Instead, those illusions of happiness only drive us harder to find it, even as we look for it in the places that have already left us dry, wounded, broken.
Money can’t buy us the happiness we thought it could. The perfect house/home, once found and purchased, becomes empty. The perfect job doesn’t fulfill the way we thought it would. Relationships require far more work to be completely fulfilling and sex only leaves us wanting more of the moments of pleasure, or leaves us disappointed as those moments aren’t achieved. Every form of pleasure, though echoing pleasure for a moment, ends and leaves us wanting more. When they don’t provide what we want, we turn to things to distract us from the lack of happiness. Or to anesthetize the emptiness.
In 57 years of life, I have found happiness in the sacramental life. Not just at the communion rail, or in a shut-ins home sharing in prayer and the Lord’s supper. More there than anywhere else, of course, but the promise of such moments sustains me in the most brutal of weeks…. I know the moment of seeing God, of receiving all the blessings of which Luther spoke, is coming. Like heaven itself, these moments, whether forgiving or being forgiven, communing, or seeing new life begin in baptism, show the deep intimate relationship the people of God have been given.
These are the moments of revival of life, and of joy, and of peace. The hope they reveal of a day without pain and heartache brings its own happiness, and empowers us to live, until we are welcomed home by the Father.
And so God allows us to look in places where happiness isn’t, guiding us back to where it is promised. In His presence, in knowing He is here, with us.
And so letting us wander, letting us search, is allowed by God in order that we are drawn home. The power that Christ from the dead is at work, drawing us home, and cleansing us, so that we may be presented without sin, unbroken, completely healed. This is what the sacraments promise, and what they see accomplished, for God has promised this!
Lord Jesus, draw us home from our wanderings, help us hunger for what does fulfill our deepest needs, needs fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 154
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 108..
Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory 2 to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! 3 Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80:1-3 (NLT2)
He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” Acts 10:31-33 NLT
Listening to someone personally beats hearing about that person second hand. Yet strangely when it comes to the mission of the church we settle for the latter. Too much of what passes for gospel mission is second hand information; it may be factual and instructive, but it’s not personal. It resembles advertising more than anything else.
Then he [Martin Luther] was asked whether the sacraments have a spiritual power in themselves, so that baptism would be consecrated water which by its own strength could wipe out sins, even in case the water were drunk by an ass. He replied, “Because the spiritual power of God doesn’t comprise corporeal, inanimate matter, baptism doesn’t accomplish anything at all as water existing by itself. But as an action (which would be in its use) baptism has power, so that if anybody sprinkles an infant with water together with a recitation of those words of Christ by which he instituted baptism and promised the forgiveness of sins, that action, and not the water, has divine power.
The experts that study the church have told us for years a simple thing about why people come to church. It is because a friend, relative or co-worker invited them to come, and made sure they knew they would be welcome. Maybe it is because we are tired of trying to motivate our people, or we’ve seen too many “invite-a-friend” Sunday fail that we fall for the glamour and hype modern marketing and business planning offers us. Mission statements, goals and objectives, strategic implementation all geared to help us sell our faith…
BUt we aren’t in the business to sell our faith. We are ind the ministry to share why we have hope.
Sharing why we have hope, giving the reason for it means that we have discovered a reason to have hope—God revealed it to us, It is an overwhelming hope, as God guarantees us an eternity free of guilt, shame, resentment, pain, sorrow. It is a life where His presence brings us peace during the trials and traumas of life. This is hope at its best, and assurance of God’s love and presence in our lives–a presence that is available to everyone.
What if our efforts were teaching people to pray like those who wrote the Psalms did, expectantly begging God to make Himself known to all of us?
What if we realized He desired to turn us and draw us to His side, to smile at us, to save us all?
Senkbeil mentions the importance of hearing from someone directly, and he is talking about hearing from God. Both Cornelius and Peter did, and responded to what the message God had given them. Luther takes it another step–it is listening to God’s promises in the words of Christ that make a sacrament a sacrament.
If the people who are the church hear God, hearing His word will transform them. That transformation will cause their hearts to break as they see people suffer without Him, and they will want them to know His peace.
That causes revival, the knowledge of God’s love and His work rescuing us…
Or, as we say at my church – we are the broken people finding healing in Jesus, while helping others heal.
Lord Jesus, reveal to us today more of the work you are doing in our lives, turn us again and draw us closer to You. Then Lord, help us see others as You do, and use our lives to draw them through You to the Father. AMEN!
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 226.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 358.