Category Archives: Theology in Practice

Renewing the Spirit: A Sermon and Service Based on 2 Cor. 4:13-15:1

Renewed in Spirit
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you life to begin again, regularly!

  • Context!

@@ St. Paul wrote, “But we continue to preach..” 

We continue to speak about God he says, and that is all well and good! But to understand that comment in all of its power, we need to understand why the “but” was there. And to do that, I need to go back a few verses.

8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NLT2)

Pretty exhausting week St. Paul and his crew had. Not quite as bad as dealing with COVID, but still pretty bad, don’t you think?

The question is how do you keep talking about Jesus, when in the midst of all of that turmoil?  Perplexed, stalked, knocked down, suffering, living under constant danger, dying, enduring masks and not being able to give or receive hugs.

And yet, Paul is able to keep on talking about Jesus… and since the word there is to talk – and not proclaim, it is something we can do as well….

but how?

  • The Psalmist’s real words (Law)

@@  The first step is to understand what Paul and the Psalmist meant when talking about faith in God. Paul wrote, 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”

That sounds pretty good – he just pushed through, or maybe muddled through, depending on how exhausted he was. He just kept speaking, or so it seems.

That works well into our upbringing. Most of us were just trained to keep on working until the work was done.  Didn’t matter how tired, how many times the computer deleted our files, or what was going on – we were to get the work done! And get it done right!

If we check the Psalmists words though, it clarifies things. What the psalmist wrote was,

“ I believed in You, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, LORD.’” Psalm 116:10

Notice the difference? The Psalmist that Paul agrees with is not our there on his own strength, he is leaning on God. He, like Jesus in the garden, is going to the Father in prayer, and sharing the aches and pains, the anxieties, and the doubts.

To try and do it all on our own is sin, and act of pride. It is telling God, even if unintentionally, that we don’t want to walk with Him, that we want to do it on our own.

And then, rather than finding a second wind, a renewed Spirit, we burn out.

But St. Paul and the Psalmist cry out to God, using God’s personal name, sharing the brokenness and burden.

And that changes everything, for as we depend on God, our hearts and souls are renewed, even if our bodies are failing.

  • Why We don’t Give up

In the midst of the brokenness, St Paul writes something that is truly amazing,

14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

The promise of the resurrection from death is so powerful, that it reinvigorates the physically, mentally and spiritually broken disciple. This is why he can keep speaking about God, because of this incredible, awesome promise!

I can share from my own story, this week I was pretty tired twice.  The first time I was revived by the pictures than Amanda, our banker, put up on Facebook the pictures of her daughter’s baptism right here, 5 years ago. ( I did needle her a little about bringing her back more often) Another day, I received an email from Colleen – about the miraculous healing that her friend’s wife has had, a lady we’ve been praying for.

That means far more to a tired pastor, or elder or deacon than giving us a million dollars, right Bob?

This is the power of seeing God at work in and through us, the work of the holy Spirit. That is how our life is re-invigorated, our spirits renewed, as we see the work of the Spirit, drawing people closer and closer to Jesus.

  • Everything else is less

That is why Paul can say,

17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

No masks or social distancing in heaven, no getting crushed, or driven to despair, never abandoned by God, just simply the life of Christ seen in our Bodies as the effect of our dying with Him, and rising with Him.

Nothing else compares…. For we are with Him. And being with Him, aware of our presence, crying out to Him when wea re struggling, we find a peace that passes all understanding, for we are His.  AMEN!

When Trusting God is Challenging…

Devotional thought for this day:

31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32  Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. 33  For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. Lamentations 3:31-33 (CSBBible)

O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee?

This is not the only time where the Scriptures declare God can cause suffering.

Jeremiah is clear, God doesn;t like afflicting or causing us to suffering, Yet trusting Him when it happens is certainly a challenge. Especially when the lesson is not for those who are suffering, but for those who are simply witnessing the suffering.

It is one thing if we deserve the suffering, or the person suffering does. We deserve enough of it, we need to be disciplined, in a way that only God can. That is, God disciplines us with great love, and with the specific aim of causing growth and restoration, to draw us back into the realization that He is present in our lives.

But what about when the lesson is for someone else, when our suffering serves as an example for those who are not suffering? The story of Job, the suffering of Paul, the embracing suffering of Eric Liddell and so many martyrs, people whose lives were cut short or damaged. How do we justify their suffering?

Or how are we able to trust in God, when it is our turn to suffer?

The only way I know, it to look to the heart of Jesus. We must allow the Holy Spirit to drive our intimacy with God so deep that we are sure of His love and care! We need to know this even as Jesus knew that the feeling of the Father’s abandonment would lead to the greatest of praise! (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) Intinacy with God causes us not to trust Him in the moment of suffering, but to rejoice in it!

This is why I love the altar, the place where peace is so clear, as the Lord’s Supper is being given, a momnet in time where we realize that Christ suffered for us, and that sharing in His sufferings is sharing with Him.

This doesn’t make the suffering easier…the pains still are there, the exhaustion, the mental anguish, and yet in its midst, there is peace.

For He is there… and seeing Him with us, we find ourselves in peace…..

And I will take that peace, that peace beyond all understanding, over things going “perfectly”.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 301.

Perfection? Unrealistic! Watch God at Work!

Deovtional Thought of the Day:

6  I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (CSBBible)

We need to remember that this world is not so much a place for doing things as for making character. Right in the midst of what some people call drudgery is the very best place to get the transformed, transfigured life.

SInce i was a child, I dreamed of being a pastor/priest. Of taking the Body of Christ, and placing it on the toungue, or in the hands of believers – believers who understood the great treasure that was being given to them.

Thirty-five years ago, that dream came crashing to a halt, as my intern advisor told me that I had no gifts that would serve me as a pastor.

I thought he was correct, and that changed the next ten years of my life. I would become a pastor later, and some have even said I am a good one. I am not sure I agree with them! I still see my shortcomings, I still think I could do more, I still think I need to improve in a lot of areas. No, not think, know.

I came to the conclusion that while I wait to become the perfect pastor, I can do what I am called to do. That is the key. What the Church, or a church calls me to do, that is what I do. I get to point people to God, tell them of His love, feed them the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is in the midst of doing it, that the Holy Spirit is at work, changing me. Just as He is changing you. It is not the job you do that defines you, the job is used to transform you. Whether that is playing guitar in the band, or teaching the five year olds about Jesus, or being the person that is dedicated and cleans the communionware after church.

Should you get training to do stuff? Sure! You should also have the expectation that to be really skilled at what youa re called to do, will take some time- you will learn from some errors, you might even get frustrated now and then. That’s as true in the church as it is in the world. And if there are times where you haven’t thought of quitting because you screwed up, or because you think you won’t ever get it, that means the transformation is happening! For it is in those times that your faith is tried, and it is shown to be growing.

God is with you… relax… do what comes to you, what the church calls you to do…and learn to know you won’t get it perfectly… till Jesus returns. So praise God for how He is transforming you through the challenges!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

What Did You Put In Your Mouth?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
53  So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54  But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57  I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58  I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” John 6:53-58 (NLT2)

But when Christ says “My flesh,” I take notice of the identity of the speaker. I ask: To whom does the little word “My” pertain? Then these words will denote more than mere flesh; it will not be a flesh that has the strength of mere flesh and blood. By virtue of the word “My” it is invested with greater strength than plain flesh and blood. It is “My flesh.” You must take note of Him who speaks these words. Then it will not be the sort of flesh from which red sausages are made.

He could not satisfy his love by giving himself to the human race by his Incarnation and by his Passion, dying for all men upon the cross; but he desired to find out a way whereby he might give himself entirely to each one of us in particular; and for this end he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to unite himself wholly to each: He that cateth My flesh, he said, abideth in me and I in him. In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: “In no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful.”

Reading the title of this post, the question might sound like a mother talking to her toddler, or a man talking to his dog. But it is one of the most important questions that can be asked, and answered in the church today.

Not because of the theological doctrines that have been debated since Zwingli, (and to the gnostics whose thoughts convinced him that the sacred cannot inhabit the physical, that is the profane) THose arguements can go on in classrooms, coffee shops and bars from now until eternity. THis is more than theology.

It is about faith – about trusting Jesus at His word. To realize that He promises to come to us in the bread and wine, so that we might have Him, that we might have life! THat is why Luther points out the power of the word my, this little pronoun that changes everything.

This is His body, given for you. This is His blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Not mere flesh and blood, Far ore than the greatest steak and noblest wine. De Ligouri points out what a tremendous communion this is, as Christ again unites us to Himself, and unites Himself to us. This is not just some simple rite that we do every week, this is God with us, that we can behold His glory.

He says, this is my body… this is my blood…

Rejoice in that moment, treasure that moment….. find your peace and sanctuary there…



Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 23 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 119.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 279–280.

Have We Forgotten How to Pray? Is that why churches are mediocre?

Is the church dying? Does it need reinventing?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you. 24 Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, I have sent all my servants the prophetsae to you time and time again. 26 However, my people wouldn’t listen to me or pay attention but became obstinate;ag they did more evil than their ancestors. Jeremiah 7:23-26

The word mediocre comes from two Latin words and literally means “halfway to the peak.” This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up to the peak.… They are morally above the hardened sinner but they are spiritually beneath the shining saint.…
Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers—the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little? Think of all that He offers us by His blood and by His Spirit, by His sacrificial death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead, by His ascension to the right hand of the Father, by His sending forth of the Holy Ghost!

And we acknowledge and confess that we are not worthy to receive such manifestations of thy mercy and goodness, but rather deserve thy judgment and condemnation and on account of our indifference, sins and hypocrites to be left without the light of thy holy Word. But we beseech thee of thine mercy, deal not with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening. Keep us and our posterity in the faith of Thy Word and in the right use of the holy Sacraments. Sanctify thy Church in our midst; further and advance thy Kingdom; glorify Thy Name; put down Satan under our feet, and destroy the Son of perdition by the brightness of thine appearance. Preserve us from all false teachers, hypocrites and enemies of Thy Word who seek to overthrow thy Church purchased at so great a cost by thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; but at all times send us faithful ministers and teachers who shall lead us into the knowledge and confession of the heavenly mysteries, and finally into the glorious righteousness of thine everlasting Kingdom. Amen.

Tozer’s statement about the Christianity becoming mediocre is all too accurate in our day. The church wants to find itself better (morally) than sinners, but doesn’t want to do the spiritual work to become saints. The church is becoming apathetic, caring less for its people, and even less for those that are “outside.” You see this in the recent treand to automate the church, from contacts,, to attendance tracing, to even planning worship and using sermons that are pre-written for a generic congregation, rather than the message for the people of God in this place. Are we going backward, not forward, as Jeremiah wanrs?

We wonder why the church gets weaker, and people who have no reason too,, sit at home and watch, rather than interacting together.

THe problem is how do we address this? Since it is not by our own reason or strength that we come to Christ, how do we bring people back? Using guilt and shame may seem effective, but it doesn’t deliver what they truly need. The fellowship, the compassion of God, the mercy and love. Why are we beoming distant from God, and then from each other?

Looking at Loehe’s prayer this morning, I wonder why we don’t pray like this anymore. Not the ornate flowery language of days gone by, but the cry of broken, needy hearts, which want to see the chruch holy, that wants to see the next generation grow in its dependence on God. That we would be preserved against false teachers.

What would happen if we began to pray this way again, with heartfelt cries to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, Praying, not to manipulate God or get our desire – but really communicating with Him? If we listened to God, if we allowed the Holy SPirit to tune our hearts to sing of His grace? If our faith became a living dialogue again…

Lord, send forth Your Spirit, revive Your Church, help us to pray again, and through us, renew this world. Amen!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 149–150.

The Intimate God…

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  Yet Jerusalem says, “The LORD has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.” 15  “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! 16  See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins. 17  Soon your descendants will come back, and all who are trying to destroy you will go away. 18  Look around you and see, for all your children will come back to you. As surely as I live,” says the LORD, “they will be like jewels or bridal ornaments for you to display. Isaiah 49:14-18 (NLT2)

This is the love which causes holy souls to lose themselves, and to stand amazed, when once they have been allowed to know it. From it spring those burning sentiments of ardor, the desire of martyrdom, joy in sufferings, exultation under the storms of distress, the force to walk on burning coals as if they were roses, a thirst for sufferings, rejoicing in that which the world dreads, embracing that which it abhors. St. Ambrose says that the soul which is espoused to Jesus Christ upon the cross, thinks nothing so glorious as to bear upon itself the marks of the crucified one.”

And we beseech thee, of thy great goodness, quicken and set aglow our cold and indifferent hearts, enlighten our minds and understandings, lead us into all truth, bless and sanctify our bodies and our spirits, grant us devout hearts in prayer, and comfort us in all our sorrow and tribulation. So preserve us, that our faith fail not, our love diminish not, our hope vanish not, and our hearts despair not; but at all times enable us to resist all evil and temptation, and with steadfast hope serve and praise thee unto the end.

It’s called the “IR” by some of my peers in ministry. Somewhat a joke, but with a touch of anxiety, perhaps some are more than touched by this concept – that we have an Intimate Relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

De Ligouri’s words in purple describe it, a love which causes us to lose ourselves. No need for self-denial is needed when we are lost in His love. The words may flow for someone like him, but no so much for me. Yet I desire everyone to be as lost to self as can only occur when in the presnce of Jesus. How I desire to get to that point, where I can greet every discomfort with such zeal, even thirsting and hungering for those times where, even in pain, I know Jesus presence.

This is not just a thing for Catholic saints – look at Loehe’s prayer in green. See how he desires the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is desired as deep, as intimate of a relationship, as he begs the Spirit to work deeply in his life. That is how dependent Loehe wanted to be on the Holy Spirit, a dependency based in the intimacy the Holy Spirit causes in life. Note that point, this intimacy is intitiated by God.

Get that – the intimacy is inititated by God.

The intimate relationship is His idea, it is what Jesus came to clearly reveal.

Look at what Isaiah writes, look at this Almighty, Creator who put the stars in place… look at how He compares HImself to a mom…look at how God tatoos Himself. This is not a distant God, or one who remains seated when you walk in the door, He is one who gets up, runs to the door and lifts you off the ground in a bear hug.

This is our intimate God. This is the God who desires intimacy with you…

I pray we realize this, and come to adore Him who adores us.


Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 271.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 145–146.

He chose His pain-filled Life, with you in mind!

Devotional Thought for our days…

(The LORD says.) “This is my servant; I strengthen him, this is my chosen one; I delight in him. I have put my Spirit on him; he will bring justice to the nations. 2  He will not cry out or shout or make his voice heard in the streets. 3  He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick; he will faithfully bring justice. 4  He will not grow weak or be discouraged until he has established justice on earth.Isaiah 42:1-4 (CSBBible)

But what is more astonishing still is, that he could very well have saved us without dying and without suffering at all; but no: he chose a life of sorrow and contempt, and a death of bitterness and ignominy even to the expiring on a cross,—the gibbet of infamy, the award of vilest criminals: He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.1 But why, if he could have ransomed us without suffering, why should he choose to die, and to die on a cross? To show us how he loved us. He loved us, and delivered Himself for us. He loved us, and because he loved us, he delivered himself up to sorrows, and ignominies, and to a death more cruel than ever any man endured in this world.

There is one line in the Isaiah passage that really gets me to think. It is that Jesus would not, did not, grow weak or discouraged. Surely he was tried, surely he faced exhaustion, Yet He remained focused on His desire to save us.

Notice i said desire there, not just mission. All of us have missions, and visions, and goals that we strive for in ecery aspect of life. de Ligouri makes a great point – that Jesus could have chosen a different way to save us. He could have even created us in such a way that we didn’t have the choice to sin. He could have done the inverse of the MCU Characther Thanos, and snapped His finger and all sin would be forgiven, and we could be restored.

Jesus didn’t. He chose to love us, and he chose to reveal that love through his incarnation, his life, his death and the cross. He endured His mission – to gain what He desired, our love, lived out for eternity.

Think on this throughout your day….

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 266–267.

Was Pentecost as Effective as Advertised?

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  until the Spirit from on high is poured out on us.
Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest. 16  Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in the orchard. 17  The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever. 18  Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place, in safe and secure dwellings. Isaiah 32:15-18 (CSBBible)

It is right that we should think about how we are imitating the Master. We should pause and reflect so that we can learn directly from our Lord’s life some of the virtues which ought to shine out in our lives, if we are really anxious to spread the Kingdom of Christ.

Yesterday, I had the blessing of preaching on the Holy Spirit’s undeniable work, seen as the Spirit filled those drawn to believe in Christ. It was earth shattering, not only because of the crowd doing miraculous things, but because that crowd wasn’t the kind you considered good or Godly – at least according to the Jews of the Day.

The Sunday after next is Pentecost Sunday, when Pentecost changed its meaning. No longer just a Jewish holiday, it now was the anniversary of the Holy Spirit descending on the Jewish believers. There, just like in Cornelius’s mansion, the miracles were amazing, the things that people saw drew them closer and closer to God.

I look at the Church in the world today, and at first I wonder – why doesn’t the miraculous happen today?

Why don’t we have peopel really speaking in languages they don’t know – with other people understanding it so clearly that they are trasnformed by the gospel? Why don’t we have others, seeing what God is doing, and giving thanks and praise – without any prompting but just astounded by God?

Or maybe, it is going on…. and we are to use to focusing on the wrong things, and we miss it?

The Holy Spirit has been given to us, to help us see Jesus. As we and our communities grow more aware of Jesus, the more we see the Spirit doing the work that is always done, and the more we imitate Jesus, for that is the transformation the Holy Spirit causes!

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your people, and kindle in them, the fire of Your love, that many will see it, and come to rejoice in that love as well! Amen!

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do we take this faith seriously?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  For you said, “We have made a covenant with Death, and we have an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming catastrophe passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.” 16  Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. 17  And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. Isaiah 28:15-17 (CSBBible)

In thy name do we receive remission of sin and walk in newness of life. In thy name will our bodies rise from the earth at the last day, and be clothed with immortality, incorruption and glory. And before this great and notable day, arouse those, O Lord, who are dead in trespasses and sin. Quicken them by the power of thy holy Word, that they may hear thy voice and by true faith arise from their sins. By the power of thy ressurrection comfort and relieve those who are in any sorrow, tribulation or temptation, that they may assuredly believe that thou art able to deliver them from all evil and bring them into thine everlasting Kingdom, where thou, in unity with the Father and Holy Ghost, wilt be worshiped and glorified. Amen.

We all choose our places to hide, our ways to escape from life. We think of them as safe places, places of refuge, a place to hide from the insanity and pain in this world.

I believe there is a time where rest is needed, a time for a sabbath, a time to be refreshed, a place to catch our breath.

Regrettably, we do not look for that though, we don’t often look for the presence of Christ to restore us as we find rest and remain in Him.

Anywhere else that we try to escape is making a covenant with death. That is a harsh comment, but one we need to hear. We cannot escape the world by running and hiding in a place in it. For catastrophes will happen, and the false sense of security will be stripped away from us.

God will strip those places away, He will shake and destroy them, not in anger though. He will do this because He loves us, He doesn’t want us caught in the illusion, and trying to find deeper and deeper ways to escape the threat of
death, or it as the norm.

There are days we see this, where we find our peace in Christ, where we are aware that we remain in Him. In those days, as we recognize the peace, as Loehe says we receive the remission of sins, It is then we can ask God to quicken, to bring to life those who are searching for refuge and safety in sin. Where Christ’s comfort ministers to them in the midst of their brokenness, where they find God delivering them into His Kingdom.

This is what faith is – depending on God to provide that safe place, that sanctuary in His presence. So that when the world is shaken, we are at peace. It is something we can share, and desire for others. Faith isn’t the doctrine – that simply helps us define the trust we have in God, based on what He says. Faith isn’t what we do – that is simply celebrating that God is faithful.

Faith is living in the moment – with God….

Let’s us do so, and intercede with others, that they might join us in God’s peace!

 

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 139–140.

RIght Now, the Church Is Like An Anxious Bride…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day

1  A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)

We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.

O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.

The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!

As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.

I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.

I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.

As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well –  but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)

That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.

As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.

As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him.  As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.

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), 147.

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