Category Archives: The Small Catechism

I can’t do this! (God says, “Here, I will hold your beer”)

Rainbow at ConcordiaDevotional Thought of the Day:
12  My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13  God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14  Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15  Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16  as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Philippians 2:12-16 (CEV)

That false humility is laziness. Such a “humbleness” leads you to give up rights that really are duties.

I could come up with 1000 parables about this, the Marine Recruit who doesn’t think he can climb the wall, the student who doesn’t think they can handle algebra, the new employee who is convinced they can’t do the job on their own, the pastor who…

O wait, I can’t make this too personal.

I can’t direct it towards me, after all, I am nobody.

( I say this, despite reading Exodus for the last couple of weeks… )

St. Josemaria’s words cut me deeply, as I think of all the things I claim I can’t do. After all, I have a load of ready-made excuses.  Genetic ones, you know, the kind I don’t want pity for, but heck, I will take a lesser burden if you want to help a poor guy out.  And then there is this lack and that lack. And then there is the fact that I am a sinner. I obviously cannot do this.  A man has got to know his limitations, at least what the theologian Clint Eastwood said. And I know mine, and I am not capable. I know this.

In fact, I don’t know that.

But is my focus on my inability a sign of laziness?  If not, what if I am just afraid of what God might require?

Either is a possibility if I am honest.

For what I forget when I do my self-evaluation is the work God is doing in my life, and in yours. God has saved us, and we need to realize that means we are changing.  That we can listen to God and hear His vision, what He wants us to do, whom to forgive, whom to love, who to reach out to, in sharing that love.

He gives us even, the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him, what He has created us to do, what He has called us to do, what the Holy Spirit has equipped us to do.

Maybe it is time to stop procrastinating, stop finding excuses, and simply let God lead us, as He builds His Church.

Lord God, Heavenly Father, remind us that You are the potter, that even as Jesus obeyed and went to the cross we can bear our crosses with the joy You have set before us, knowing that You will be with us all the way! Thank you Lord for not giving up, but calling us and working in us, giving us the desire and ability to be Your faithful children.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Realize What is Going On Around Us?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting. Exodus 33:11 (NLT2)

We might even venture to say that what God does is always an answer to this kind of appeal from someone who prays. This does not mean that God is like the potentates of this world who want to be asked before they bestow a favor. No—it is so because it must be so by the very nature of things, because it is only when we pray, when we transcend ourselves, when we surrender ourselves, when we recognize God as a reality, when we open ourselves to him, only then that the door of the world is open for God and that space is created in which he can act for and on us men. God is, it is true, always with us, but we are not always with him, says Saint Augustine. It is only when we accept his presence by opening our being to him in prayer that God’s activity can truly become an action on and for us men.

THE SECOND PETITION (of the Lord’s prayer)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us

One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha’s servant had no clue what is going on around him. He sees what the prophet and he will face, and not realizing the power of God, falls into despair.

We do this often, for our faith is weak, and our memory of God’s presence is not so good. We struggle in the face of the problems, the trauma, and the self-doubt that is caused by sin and temptation. We may not want to admit it, but everyone struggles with that self-doubt. For if we can’t do what we want to do, what is right, and we can’t stop the self-defeating sin that has ensnares us, we end up living in a world that is broken, and we can’t find a way to cope with it. Deny it, get distracted from it by our addictions, we just keep going.

Elisha’s servant hadn’t learned what to do yet, but Elisha did. He simply prayed. The servant then saw the truth, and what was real! He found out what was really going on, and it was a different story.

THat’s why Luther and Pope Benedict talk about prayer the way they do. If we don’t pray, it is not that God isn’t active, for He is. What is missing is our awareness of what God is doing.

It is impossible to know what is going on around us, if we don’t see what God is doing.


Prayer is the beginning of that, as we talk with God, much as Moses did, or Enoch or even David. Blunt conversations, face to face, as we would have with a friend. Allowing God to, with all His wisdom and power, to intervene in our lives, as He reveals His love and the mercy which forgives and heals us. That is what Benedict XVI is talking about, as we transcend ourselves in prayer, and meet with God and talk. It is what LUther referred to when he talked of God’s kingdom coming among us.

We see His reality then, as it is revealed at the speed and fullness He knows we can take. We see His love, His concern, we see the power of God at work reforming us into a masterpiece.

Lord, help us to talk with You, as Moses did. Not just face to face, but as a friend talks to a friend. Lord Jesus, help us depend on You, not neglecting You and talking with You. Open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!


Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–287.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.

Is This the Faith We Teach?

Teaching the faith.. isn’t like this!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. 2  The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’S splendor, see his greatness and power. 3  Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. 4  Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…”
Isaiah 35:1-4b (TEV)

At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things. Yet, not knowing them even now, they go to baptism and the sacrament and use everything the Christians have, even though those who go to baptism should by right know more and have a more complete understanding of all Christian teachings than children and pupils chasing their ABC’s. To be sure, for the common crowd, we have not gone farther than the three articles,16 which has been the custom from ancient times in Christendom, but seldom rightly taught and practiced.

Once when I arrived at a new mission, fresh from experience of painful and humiliating failure, feeling heavy and useless; on the first day my Superior introduced me to a man we were caring for. He immediately took my hand and led me to another, who was dying. He said; ‘Norman, we have a new Sister and she understands us’. In that moment, I became aware of how my own personal sufferings bonded me to them in their suffering. I saw the cross as precious, a sign of greater love. Miracles happen in the times of our greatest sufferings. This is true even if we do not suffer well.

As a pastor, I love what Luther encourages (the purple quote) that the head of the household invest time in building up the faith of those in his care. Not only those who are his children, but those he works with, who are his “employees”. He does so, not by lecturing, but by questioning them, helping determine the places where they need to grow.

It is a different form of “teaching” a form that must be different, for what is being taught is different. It is not doctrine that is being taught, but faith. It is not data, but that we can trust and depend on Jesus, and on the Holy Spirit who is active in our lives. It is something that is experienced not just memorized, it is something that is shared with those we love, not just drilled into them.

It is what Isaiah refers to, the lessons of faith that enable us to see the Lord’s glory, which is actively giving strength to the tired hands, and the trembling weak knees, It is the life lived within the truth that discouragement is not conquered by determination and inner-strength, but rather in the fact that God has come to rescue us.

That is what the young nun realized, as she went to minister to those who were suffering. That is what the moms and dads, the employers, the teachers are called to “teach” by asking the questions that reveal the lack of knowledge of God’s presence and His work in our lives, for that is what is revealed in word and sacraments. It is that work, that love that causes us to trust, to depend on, to have faith in God.

Is this what we teach? Is it what we work and guide people in developing? Is it what those we count as mentors and pastors, teachers and “fathers” in the faith give to us? Will we/they walk alongside those (including us) understanding the broken, for we have seen God work in our brokenness?

Will at the end of the day, and at the end of life, they know they can depend on God, for they know His presence?

If they do, then we have taught them well…

Lord Jesus, help us to teach those who are part of our “homes”, the people who are family by blood, and those who are just family. Help us stimulate their trust in You, asking them the questions that help them find themselves in Your presence, and rejoice in Your caring work in their lives. 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.) (pp. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 185). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Substance of our Message, our Ministry

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: 29  for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 (ASV)

1   I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul! 2  Wake up, my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun. 3  I will thank you, O LORD, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 4  Your constant love reaches above the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies. Psalm 108:1-4 (TEV)

A woman phoned our convent in Vancouver and said ‘I am a Witness of Jehovah and lately I am getting a strong interior message to go inside a Catholic Church; can I come to see you?’ She came. As I walked into the Church ahead of her, towards the tabernacle, thinking of how to explain the red candle, etc. Suddenly she screamed loudly and ran out of the Church. I also ran to see what was happening and she shouted: ‘God is in there! God is in there!’

Never, ever, should they think that they have completed learning these parts of the catechism or know them well enough, even though they think right away that they know them all too well. For even if they learned and knew all these things perfectly (which is, of course, impossible in this life), they would still, in any case, find it useful and profitable to read it daily and incorporate it into their meditations and conversation. For the Holy Spirit itself is present during such reading, conversing, and meditating and always gives more and new light and devotion. Thus it tastes better and better and is digested, as Christ also promises in Matthew 18[:20], “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

He points the way to Holy Scripture and reveals it as the center from which every perplexity of interpretation is to be resolved. He points the way to the word of God, to the primordial words that are preserved in the third and fifth books of Moses—words about the love of God and neighbor. When we hear these words, we observe first of all that they begin, not with a commandment, but with a profession of faith in something that is already known. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mk 12:29). It is the core of Israel’s belief, and Jesus makes it the fundamental core of Christian belief as well. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Every one of these words is important. Before doing comes hearing—comes acceptance of reality. Man is a being that answers. If we are to act rightly, our gaze must first be pure and our ear open. It is impossible to act rightly without truth.

I wonder, if after our church services, our people reflect the attitude seen in Psalm 108. Do they have confidence in God, are they desiring to praise Him more, to lay all of their burdens down and trust in Him.

If they aren’t, we have to re-examine the words of our sermons, the songs and hymns we sing, the way we worship, the way we teach our Bible studies, the way and the amount of time we spend in preparation, and more importantly, prayer.

Do people run from our sanctuaries, from our Bible studies, from our prayer meetings, screaming that God is “in there.” (Hopefully from joy!)

Or do they come, week after week, finding some rest, but not finding out they are loved by God, not experiencing the love that is too great to understand, that they can barely begin to explain?

As Luther points out, do we think we know it all, that they have learned the curriculum? Or are they, like the old hymn noted, “hungering and thirsting to hear it (the new of God’s love, of His presence) like the rest?

We need to teach this with authority, not from the point of observation, but from the point of experience. To be able to share that our God, the Lord, is One, that He is here. As Pope Benedict urged, we need to hear, before we can work. For that leads to an eye witness testimony, that leads to hearts that actually adore the God we sing the praises of, that leads to beginning to be overwhelmed by the love.

Whether we are the pastor, or the person who cleans up communion, or the visitor who doesn’t have a clue about the service, each person who walks into our sanctuaries needs to encounter God. As we leave those holy places, the people we encounter need to see the glory of God, reflected from us. They find that encounter, as they encounter those who have encountered God, rather than just learned about Him.

That is why the sacraments are so essential! That is why our sermons have to expose God’s grace, in all its beauty, in all its unbridled power, in all of the holiness. This is why spending time with each other, caring more about each other, comes more naturally after encountering God. As Paul shared,

Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. Colossians 1:27 (MSG)

We need to help each other see this. That is why we gather…this is what we do… and then watch as people run screaming for joy, as they encounter God.



Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 180). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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.) (pp. 186–187). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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. 239). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Will We Let The Holy Spirit Get Back to Work?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20  do not despise inspired messages. 21  Put all things to the test: keep what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (TEV)

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.

The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.

My youngest years were spent on the fringes of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Roman Catholic Church. And like many, I witnessed abuses, the one lady who always had to have a prophecy, the crowd of people mumbling their prayers, each one trying to be louder than the next, the people that claimed spiritually giftedness, only to go hang out after the prayer meeting talking in ways that weren’t godly. I know too many people who bore scars and are afraid of churches because of those days.

(Note: I have seen similar folk in most of the churches and denominations I’ve been associated with over the years.)

And noting the extremes of such movements, if people stay in the church, they end up in churches that deny the Holy Spirit works in any miraculous way today. They come so close to embracing a form of deism, thinking that God left us the scriptures (and maybe the sacraments) and therefore we need nothing else, even His presence.

You really can’t claim that Pope Benedict or Martin Luther were charismatic or pentecostal extremists. In fact, most would assume they are contrary to the position of those movements.

Yet they both see an incredible need for the church to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Their words resonate with St. Paul’s about ot restraining the Holy Spirit, but heeding the Spirit’s call, and taking joy in the work of the Holy Spirit, as He calls, gathers, enlightens us and makes us Holy.

Such is a miracle, it is a supernatural work. It goes beyond on anything we can control, and therefore it makes us nervous. Theologians and people who need to understand get anxious, and as we realize God’s ways are not our ways, that who He sends us to serve, that those He brings us to love are not whom we would choose. Nor it the way we are to minister to them the way we would prefer.

As Pope Benedict notes, this isn’t the most comfortable of places to be, as we are directed by the Holy Spirit, given gifts and abilities, insights and a new heart (see Ex 36:25ff) that resonates with the will and desire of God.

So how do we listen and hear? How are we guided by the Holy Spirit? How do we know if what we are hearing is the Spirit’s guidance?

Luther would say prayer, meditation, and faith-building stress. For the more we look to Christ- the more we realize He is our hope, our life, the revelation of the Trinity’s love, the more we are hearing the call, the more we are gathered, made holy and used by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glorious love of God into the darkness of this world.

So don’t hold back the Spirit… don’t depend on your own reason or strength, but rather depend on God, as He reveals Himself in scripture.

And dwell in His peace!

Luther’s Small Catechism: Part 2 The Creed: Article Three

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. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Will Skepticism Rob Us of the Incredible Gift?

this Body, give for you. This blood of the New Covenant, shed for the forgiveness of your sins.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18 They deliberately put God to the test by demanding the food they wanted. 19 They spoke against God and said, “Can God supply food in the desert? 20  It is true that he struck the rock, and water flowed out in a torrent; but can he also provide us with bread and give his people meat?” 21 And so the LORD was angry when he heard them; he attacked his people with fire, and his anger against them grew, 22  because they had no faith in him and did not believe that he would save them. 23 But he spoke to the sky above and commanded its doors to open; 24 he gave them grain from heaven, by sending down manna for them to eat. 25 So they ate the food of angels, and God gave them all they wanted. 26 He also caused the east wind to blow, and by his power, he stirred up the south wind; 27 and to his people he sent down birds, as many as the grains of sand on the shore; 28 they fell in the middle of the camp all around the tents. 29 So the people ate and were satisfied; God gave them what they wanted.
Psalm 78:18-29 (TEV)

But the Eucharist is more than just a ceremony, more than a liturgy. It is a form of life.

HUME: What do you fault about my method?
SOCRATES: As I said, it seems highly rationalistic.
HUME: And as I said, I am the enemy of the Rationalists!
SOCRATES: As an epistemological theory, yes, but not as a method. Your method, like theirs, is to reduce the data to the explanation, the complex to the simple, the rich variety of experience to simple universal formulas.

Israel was given manna, and they could not get past the idea of food to truly appreciate it. They did what Socrates accused Hume of doing in the fictional account of their meeting before the judgment. They explained manna simply as food, and they neglected the greater nature of it being a fellowship meal, with the “bread” supplied by the hand of God.

They simply reduced it to what they could see, which is why they hungered for more.

I wonder if we do the same with the Eucharist, with the Lord’s Supper. We reduce it to being simply part of the liturgy, simply part of the process by which we receive the gospel. We reduce it to being the approved conduit of the grace we need.

And so we reduce it from a fellowship meal with God to just a “means of grace” Our skepticism quietly sneaks in, and while we still claim it is a sacrament, our focus on the substance causes us to lose focus on the intimacy of the life we have with and in Christ, and His life in and with us.

The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is truly something incredible, a moment of we, a miraculous moment if we can only be in that moment, to have revealed and to revel in the presence of God who in a very specific, very intimate way comes to be with us. WITH US! YOU AND ME!

(This is why Paul finds it so dangerous to not perceive the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament in 1 Cor. 11:27 )

That’s why Pope Benedict XVI, writing when he was still a cardinal speaks of it so powerfully. For surely in those moments, when our skeptical, cynical nature is pushed aside by the presence of Jesus, w find the life as God means for us to live. In His presence, sharing in His glory, understanding that we are truly His.

This is why theologians can never perfectly define the sacraments. It is Paul describes knowing the love of God.

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

It is not something we can minimize, reduce and completely explain,It has to be something we experience, it is something beyond measure, yet which completes us as we intimately experience it.

For what we are experiencing, this incredible communion is what Pope Benedict XVI calls it, it is life. Life with a God who loves us beyond measure, and desires that we dwell with Him.

Lord Jesus, help us to not limit religion to the doctrines that correctly describe our relationship with You. Help us realize how they point us to You, and explain the promise of Your love and presence. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!


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. 141). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Kreeft, P. (2010). Socrates Meets Hume: The Father of Philosophy Meets the Father of Modern Skepticism (p. 38). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Great American Temptation…

Devotional Thought of the day:

26 Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourself. 27 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
James 1:26-27 (TEV)

907         They spread slander and then make sure themselves that someone comes along immediately to tell you: “It is said that…” No doubt that is villainous, but don’t lose your peace; the tongue can do you no harm, if you work honestly. Consider how silly they are, how tactless, humanly speaking, and what a lack of loyalty they show towards their brothers—and especially towards God!
And don’t go and fall into slander yourself, through an ill-conceived idea of the right to reply. If you have to say anything, make use of fraternal correction as the Gospel advises us.

Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.

Often, sinning is like a Olympic Sport.

We train for it, we cheer on when someone excels in it, and rarely do we offer real critique… even when they are our adversary there our critigue is meant to hurt, rather than help improve.

And yet we call ourselves Christians, belivers, we claim to strive for holiness, to be imitators of Christ.

Check out a basketball court, or hear the comments made among friends during the NFL draft, or get a bunch or religous folk in the room, and bring up televanglists, theoligical liberals or legalists.

We greet the news of someone falling with cheers, and cries of”they got what they deserve” as if we were the judges that condemned them to their fate, as if we knew all that led to their brokenness.

Our slander may even be in response to their attacks on our charachter, our personality, even our ministry, and so we react in kind, not seeing why their attack is so brutal, so negative, so deriding.

We just defend ourselves, and want to show them as more frequent and worse… sinners.

God calls us to live in a life of grace, to live a life that is beyond such pettiness, such gossip, such slander. We don’t have to defame that politician, or that sports team, that actress.

We don’t have to do that because we don’t have to prove ourselves better than them, we don’t don’t have ot be better, we can simply relax knowing that God loves us.

You see, whether it is trash talking on the basketball court, talking about the president or congress, or talking about our obnoxious neighbor, the bottom line for doing it is that we think we somehow gain something, whether it is self-esteem or revenge,

Which is why the Biblical letter of James helps us properly define religion, It is why Luther tells us to avoid judging and condemning others. It is why St Josemaria warns us not to fall for the same temptation.

We fine our identity in Jesus, we find true justice there as well. As we do, that person we once trash talked and gossipped about becomes someone else God would save, someone else He would transform, someone else He loves. They are someone God would have us love, not from compulsion but from realizing what God is trying to do in their life.

So think before you speak, and if your thoughts aren’t nice… we need to pray before speaking, asking God to help us know His presence, and His love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3689-3694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

The Context of our Future and Hope!

Jesus foot washingthe devotional thought of the day:

For this is what the LORD says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you” —this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place I deported you from.”   Jeremiah 29:10-14  HCSB

4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Titus 3:4-6  HCSB

In the first quote above, the one from Jeremiah, there is an amazing and well-known quote.  For I know the plans I have for you” —this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope! 

But is even more amazing, give the context of it.

I’ve heard a lot of people quote this passage when they get into hard times, or when they don’t know what is coming next. But that isn’t the context. Which is why it is even more amazing.

God’s not giving a future and a hope to those who are His spiritual superstars, not the heroes of the faith either.  The context is those whose sins are so shameful, so repugnant, so evil that God had to lead them into captivity.

The people in context were banished, they were broken, they were dominated by seeking after their own welfare, and indeed, their own pleasure. They were in the midst of being disciplined, discipline as hard as any faced in scripture.  They lost their home, their country, and all the things they counted on to tie them to God.  The temple – gone.  The sacrifices – gone. The land promised to Abraham, Issac and Jacob.. gone.

Because of their sin.

And yet they were given a promise, a future, and a hope.  The assurance that when they ceased being the prodigal, God would still be there.  The promise of reconciliation and restoration, when the time is complete.

Like them, there are sometimes that we become dominated by sin, when we are as broken when we deserve to be punished and disciplined, and worse, we deserve the wrath of God. We deserve the same kind of treatment that He poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues He poured out on Pharoah and Egypt, the justice He poured out on the people of Noah’s time.

Yet for us, even as for the exiles, there is a future and a hope.  There is a God who promises He can be found, and when He finds us. He pours our something incredible on us.

His Spirit, the Holy Spirit who washes us clean with the word and the water.  Who revives and regenerates our broken lives, who renews our strength, so that we don’t faith.

This is the promise you received as God baptized you, as He claimed you as His.  When He declares that we are healed, cleansed, His people.

This is the promise of a future and a hope that we’ve been given.

Rejoice in it! Remember it!  Celebrate it!  Hang on to it, when things are challenging, when you life is broken, when you find yourself yielding to temptation and sin, and despair…

He has promised you to cleanse you, guaranteed by the cross.  AMEN!

Do We Have To Talk about the “S” Word?

pexels-photo-279991.jpegDevotional THought of the Day:
16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)

18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.

531    “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!

The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”

It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason.  It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.

And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex.  For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.

Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.

So it is one we need to have.  Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.

We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.

but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them.  To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.

We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use.  I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us.  They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.

This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.

This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others.  Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.

This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Limit of a Pastor’s (or Priest’s) Authority…

 

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29  for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)

14  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15  the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)

Confession has two parts:
First, a person admits his sin
Second, a person receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as if from God Himself, without doubting it, but believing firmly that his sins are forgiven by God in Heaven through it.

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

The other day a lady from our community called me and asked if we helped people other than Christians. I replied that we do, and then she proceeded to describe needs that couldn’t be met by a church 50 times larger than the one I pastor.  But she demanded that I demand my people to meet the need she had. 

She said I had the authority to do so… and was disappointed and angry that I couldn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the church and the authority it invests in those that it calls pastors, or ministers, or priests. 

I think the perfect portrayal of a pastor is found, not in theology books, but in the priest/bishop described in blue above.  The quote is from Les Miserables, and the Bishop is the one who forgives the sins of Jean Valjean, giving him the silver he stole.  He talked directly, and with authority, the authority that is proper for one in ministry, the authority to be merciful, the authority to reconcile, the authority that is persuasive, because the pastor is convinced himself.

Not of his authority, for that is simply delegated.  

We are (or we should be) convinced of God’s mercy toward us.  We need to be convinced that though we can never fully understand His love, we can experience it, and lead people to experience His love. The authority is seen most clearly when we realize that we are the ones who have been forgiven, we are the ones who God has saved from the brokenness we chose. 

It is that conviction that leads us to wield the authority we are delegated, the authority to pour out the grace of God upon broken people, assuring them of the healing of God found as He cleanses them of their sin.   We can speak for God about this, in fact, we must speak for God in this way.  For He commands it.  

This is our vocation, this is our call.  Somewhere along the line, we picked up other hats, other roles, especially administrative ones, but our only God-given role is that we are overseers and caretakers of souls.  Mercy is what we’ve been authorized to distribute.  Love as well, for in reality, they are the same thing.  Or to use the word that combines them, charity.   The more we can delegate the other stuff, the more time we spend doing what we are called to do, the more the church will come alive, as is it freed from the sin which so ensnares us.

If you are a pastor/priest, find ways to preach and teach God’s word, revealing to people God’s love, and administer the sacraments as often and faithfully as you can.   If you are not, turn to your pastor/priest for such care often, and do what you can to free him up to use this special gift to bless others.

And at all times, praise God for providing this minsitry of reconciliaiton ot us all! 

 


Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

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

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language) (Kindle Locations 438-439). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

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