Category Archives: Theology in Practice

Independence or Isolation? We need ot be careful which we choose.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 I lift my eyes to You,  the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor.    Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB

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

For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth.  It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.

I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place. 

When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place. 

Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap.  What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom.  What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.

We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules.  We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening. 

Complete Isolation. 

Complete Autonomy

Complete Loneliness. 

While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God.  So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!)  We were made to live in community. 

But that community starts in the presence of God,  Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace.  (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.)  As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.  

Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.  

Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes.  As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears. 

For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace. 

Which is what we need, more than anything. 

Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives.  AMEN!

 

 

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

The Difference Between a Preacher and a Pastor

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the day:
5 For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father r in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful t son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church.   1 Cor. 4:15-17 HCSB

How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus, how much tenderness is in there!
Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

But what is it to pray that his name may become holy? Is it not already holy? Answer: Yes, in itself it is holy, but not our use of it. God’s name was given to us when we became Christians at Baptism, and so we are called children of God and enjoy the sacraments, through which he so incorporates us with himself that all that is God’s must serve for our use.

As I was working through my readings this morning, the first, the reading from Paul’s letter to a church he loved (and struggled to love) kept coming back to mind.   And then as I read Pope Francis, and Pastor Martin Luther’s words, I saw great examples of what Paul was teaching.

Anyone can deliver a lesson, a sermon that is exegetical and explains the Bible passage more completely than someone can see at first glance. To be honest, you don’t even need a good preacher to do so, for we have 2,000 years of commentators like John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Lenski, Matthew Henry and William Barclay who will do that for you.

Someone whose primary goal is preaching can do the studies, or borrow them from someone else, and lecture you, mailing you on what you did wrong, showing you how you must behave, and reminding you of who God is, helping you explore the incredible knowledge we have in scripture.  They are instructors, and we need that kind of information.

But a sermon, a real sermon, is something a pastor crafts and delivers.  It is a pastor, someone who acts as a spiritual father.  Someone who has learned from their errors, and cares enough to help you when you are in error, guiding you back to the way that is “in Christ”.

The pastor brings you to see God in all His glory, the glory that comes from our love and our mercy.   He wants you to experience the healing that happens when seeing Christ, you respond to His love being poured out upon you. When you realize as Luther said, that God through His word and sacraments, just doesn’t teach you, but see you incorporated into Christ that our thoughts turn to Him, depending on Him to care for us. 

A pastor shepherds you to the place where you realize what a treasure it is to know God as your Father, when you realize the difference that makes in your daily life, no matter how challenged, no matter how boring, no matter how broken.

you see this in the words of Pope Francis, and Fr. Martin Luther.  You see them not just wanting to impart knowledge of God, but helping people experience the love. 

Imagine a boy learning to teach.  The instructor tells him all about the bait, all about the rods and reels, all about the way to study the river or the lake.  The pastor father takes the young man fishing, watching him learn, urging him to be patient, applauding him when he catches something, consoling him when the big one gets away.  This is the father-pastor at work, and that care needs to occur in the midst of the sermon, in the midst of the worship service.  Helping people “catch” God, who is never far away….reading to be caught, ready to be devoured, ready to be incorporated i our lives, as we are incorporated in His.  

This is a pastor’s calling… to help people experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great ot understand fully (see Ephesians 3:19) while being made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 216). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 425). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

Our need for community, a special community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Church Has No Excuse for Aging…

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  The people say, “Let’s return to the LORD! He has hurt us, but he will be sure to heal us; he has wounded us, but he will bandage our wounds, won’t he? 2  In two or three days he will revive us, and we will live in his presence. 3  Let us try to know the LORD. He will come to us as surely as the day dawns, as surely as the spring rains fall upon the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3 (TEV)

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation n to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, o and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. 
18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.  Romans 1:16-20  HCSB

If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age.
The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.

In fulfilling its educational role, the Church, eager to employ all suitable aids, is concerned especially about those which are her very own. Foremost among these is catechetical instruction,16 which enlightens and strengthens the faith, nourishes life according to the spirit of Christ, leads to intelligent and active participation in the liturgical mystery17 and gives motivation for apostolic activity.

Romans 1:16 is, for Bible College and Seminary students, repeated often.

I am not ashamed!  

But this isn’t a badge of honor, it is not considering the context. It is a call to go out, and help those who have been caught up by sin, those who are in bondage to it, those who are broken by it.

We are to be there for the people without excuse, but therefore, without hope.  The word for excuse there is the negative form of the word of the apostle Peter uses when he declares, 

15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

This world, so full of misery and strife, so full of pain that they have become indifferent to religion cannot realize that they can return to the Lord,  That they can return to the Lord who allowed them to deal with the consequences of the sin of the world, including their sin. 

They don’t know that God will come to heal them, that they can know Him, not just academically, but in a deep rich way, more deeply that can e described by words, but is celebrated as we take the Body Broken for us, as we share in the blood shed for our sins. 

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it presents hope to these people who are unaware of that hope even exists, that broken relationships, can be healed, THAT GOD CARES FOR THEM.  

This has to be the message of the church. It is not that we are better than them, holier than them that we go out to encounter the world.  It is because we found hope for our brokenness, hope that we are being healed, being transformed, a work that isn’t always easily visible, but one that God has promised to do.

If we are not ashamed of this hope, of this ability we are all given to interact and depend on God, then there is no excuse for the church to get old. The is no excuse for us hiding within the doors of our churches, waiting for the pastor to grow our church.  We have a world that doesn’t need us to complain about them, but that needs us to give them the hope we have, to help them return to the Lord, to know that anyone can die with Christ and the cross, and be raised to a new life with Him, in Him.

This is the gospel, that God loves us… 

Let us not hide that hope within our walls, but let it burst out as fast as the kids run for donuts after service gets out!

Lord have mercy on us all!  And help us to spread the news you have!

 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 192). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Catholic Church. (2011). Declaration on Christian Education: Gravissimum Educationis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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The Job that Pastors and the Church Needs to Be Better Trained to Do

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth s of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part Eph 4:10-16  HCSB

They are to be carefully instructed in the art of directing souls, whereby they will be able to bring all the sons of the Church first of all to a fully conscious and apostolic Christian life and to the fulfillment of the duties of their state of life. Let them learn to help, with equal solicitude, religious men and women that they may persevere in the grace of their vocations and may make progress according to the spirit of their various Institutes.
In general, those capabilities are to be developed in the students which especially contribute to dialogue with men, such as the ability to listen to others and to open their hearts and minds in the spirit of charity to the various circumstances and needs of men.

675    It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgment. Have pity in your heart and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity.

There is a term I was introduced to when I became a Lutheran pastor.  

It was “seelsorge” or caretaker of souls.  It is similar to the idea in the Anglican Church of being a curate of the church,  The person responsible to see people guided into God’s presence so that their hearts and souls (and often more) can be healed. 

But that just doesn’t include the members of a congregation or parish.  It is the entire community.   As St Josemaria reminds us, those whom we might discount because of their past may be called to something “more.”,  they may become the giants we are looking to as examples. 

It doesn’t matter if they are the mouth of the church, or the heart, hidden away, praying in their prayer closet. Our job as the caretakers is to make sure they have what they need, the ability to depend on God because we know Him.  This drives the ministries of the church, This drives the work of helping everyone mature in the presence of God, 

To help people grow in their dependence (for that is what faith is) in God, to help them grow in knowing and experiencing His love as He is present in their lives, Vatican II was correct.  Those who minister, those of us who pastor and care for souls need to know how to guide them. to help them be conscious of their calling and being sent out into the world, of what Catholics call their apostolate, what Protestants call being missional.

We are to train them, to guide them into the presence of Jesus, into knowing His mercy, His love, His gift that cause us to dwell in peace. This isn’t just the pastor’s job, it is the work of every minister in the church. 

It is who we are… it is why we exist, and it was what we need to be trained to do.  I really think that needs to become more and more how we train our pastors, our deacons, our elders and various ministers of the church.  It is more important than knowing the trivia of scripture or knowing the all the theological information there is.   We have o know God is with us, and we have to teach God will be with them.

We have to know how to use God’s word, to administer the sacraments in such a way that people know they belong in God’s presence, whether they are young or old, male or female, whether their sin is hidden or notorious. Whether they become ushers in the church or the next Augustine or do the really critical work of teaching the children of the church.  (which is all to often overlooked!)

This is the ministry of the church.  The caretaking of souls entrusted to it by God.  Not just the recognized members of the church.. but the church.

Lord have mercy on us and help us to be trained and train people to care for souls.  AMEN!

Questions:
What do you think the hardest part of caring for souls is?

What do you think the greatest blessing is?

 

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

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1568-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is it worth it? A reflection on 20 plus years of ministry….

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. 
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first.  Job 42:10-12  HCSB

670    Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!

Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness.  Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome”  a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.

As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear.  I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.

I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me.  There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings.  They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.

Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.

So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?

If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.

No, absolutely not.

While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42.  It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.

It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.

And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.

He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.

And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself;  my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB

There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it.  To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger.  This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.

Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all.  And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”

For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

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

the devotional thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is with you!

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

 

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

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

How Important is Our Belief In Jesus?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.  Job 19:25-27 HCSB

22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, j not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.  Acts 20:22-24 HCSB

15 These are the most necessary parts of Christian instruction. We should learn to repeat them word for word.
16 Our children should be taught the habit of reciting them daily when they rise in the morning, when they go to their meals, and they go to bed at night; until they repeat them they should not be given anything to eat or drink.
17 Every father has the same duty to his household; he should dismiss man-servants and maid-servants if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them.
18 Under no circumstances should a person be tolerated if he is so rude and unruly that he refuses to learn these three parts in which everything contained in Scripture is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms,
19 for the dear fathers or apostles, whoever they were,7 have thus summed up the doctrine, life, wisdom, and learning which constitute the Christian’s conversation, conduct and concern.

579    Faith. It’s a pity to see how frequently many Christians have it on their lips and yet how sparingly they put it into their actions. You would think it a virtue to be preached only, and not one to be practiced.

If you read the words from Luther in blue above, they might seem a bit extreme.  Over the top.  Harsh.  One might even accuse him of child neglect or abuse for insisting that children don’t eat until they can repeat them. (please notice it says repeat them)  And employees be terminated for not knowing them?  Isn’t that a bit much?

Then look at St. Josemaria’s words, decrying the life-less faith of those who can say they believe, but that belief doesn’t impact their lives.  They can preach it, they can state the arguments, but there is something missing.  One might even ask if they truly have faith if they depend on the Jesus they confess to with their words.

We need to have the kind of dependence on God that we see in Job, or in Paul.  One was encountering great trauma (and then it was greatly compounded by his wife and wise counselors) and the other, went where everyone told him not to go because the Spirit revealed to them the pain and trauma he would endure.

Job said no matter how bad it gets, he knew God would be faithful and would raise him from the dead just so he could be with God.  Paul corrected them, noting that the chains and afflictions were easily worth it, knowing that people’s salvation was at stake, knowing that without knowing God, there would be no comfort, no solace, no serenity found in the midst of life.

So how does our faith, our ability to depend on the God whom we can’t see, grow?  Is it possible to have the faith of Job, Paul, Luther, or Escriva?  Or are they just heroes of the faith that we cannot hope to be like?

For myself, my faith, my dependence on God grows or deepens, the more I encounter God’s love.  Whether that encounter is at the Altar, sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper with others who are struggling, whether it is in studying the word and teaching it.  Whether it is in times of prayer.

Perhaps the greatest times of growth occur when I hit rock bottom.  When I have no other option, no other hope, and I cry out to God.  I may cry out for a day, or even a week, but in the end, I find out He was always there.  In the end, I realize where He was working in my life, especially in the words of those who pointed me to God’s mercy and peace. It is then what I was taught in the basic tenets of our faith, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the promises attached to the sacraments also cause me to be still, to catch my breath, to know that He is God.  Our God.

This is why those that went before us are so insistent that we learn these basic things. It is critical, for people were right in the 80’s.  Life can be a bitch, and in the end, we die.  But for those who know God, even then, in our flesh we will see God, our Redeemer.  And until then, depending on Him, we can live in a peace that doesn’t make sense, kept there by Jesus himself.

Depend on it.  He who promised this is faithful.  AMEN!

Lord, have mercy upon us, and grant us the ability to depend on you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 363). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1383-1386). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

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)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whistle While You Work… (or sing while you suffer!)

7 dwarvesDevotional THought of the Day:

16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy,  the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  T  Acts 16:1-3, HCSB

13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14  HCSB

524    “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.

I have a confession to give.  I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!

( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)

The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work”  Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding.  Don’t those characters know how serious work is?  Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!

Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.

First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul.  Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive?  Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment!  ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)

Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love.  The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people?  How do you whistle or sing during that?

Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured.  And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.

Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria.  “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!”  Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church.  Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering.  You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God.  That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.

And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God.  The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison.  SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.

So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time.  And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)

Amen

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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