Category Archives: Theology in Practice

Denying Someone Salvation. Who would do this?

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Devotional THought of the Day:

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

In our ecclesiastical circumscription there are priests who do not baptize the children of single mothers because they were not conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are the hypocrites of today, the ones who clericalize” the Church and prevent God’s people the access to the source of salvation.

The question asked in the title has a sobering answer.

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

And the answer is even more sobering.

I have.

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

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

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

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

Hard stuff..

Who would deny salvation to the least of these?

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

AMEN!


Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 208). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

As Long As it Works Out Alright? Really?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The key word is normally.

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

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

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

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

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

God is with us.

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

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




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

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

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

God, You Showed Them!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8  O LORD, our God, you answered your people; you showed them that you are a God who forgives, even though you punished them for their sins. 9  Praise the LORD our God, and worship at his sacred hill! The LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:8-9 (TEV)

The temptation, for a seminarian or priest, to reduce Christ to an abstract idea is most destructive of the spiritual life. It leads to the loss of his own identity and prevents him from accomplishing his first and most important mission of leading the faithful in his care to a knowledge, love and service of Christ as He is alive for us in the Church.

The tempation that is descibed in Burke’s words above is quite real. Those who minister to others can spend so much time styudying Jesus, studying His word, that we can forget to interact with Him. That leads to our treating Him (and God the Father and Holy Spirit) like an abstact idea, something to study and observe from afar, something to comment on, much as an editorialist comments about the events and people of his day.

The result is our preaching becomes filled with illustrations and quotes, refering to what others tell us about Jesus. Their observations are far sharper, and sometimes we resonate with them, but don’t understand them. We resort to meme’s written by those whom we are told are “great thinkers.” Catachesis and discipleship become more about instruction than helping people see Jesus revealed to them, evangelism and apologetics become more about debate than sharing a journey,

And as Jesus becomes someone to be studied, what disappears is what Paul desired for people, what he described in this way to the believers in Ephesus,

I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18† so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Eph. 3:16-19

So how do we prevent this from happeneing? How do we realize Jesus is a person to talk to, and not just talk about? It is to see what He promised, that He is here, disciplining us when needed, but always ready to forgive, to show His mercy, to pour out His gifts of love upon us.

In our present journey thorugh Ezra Nehemiah, there is an incredible prayer, describing the journey of the people Israel. It mentions the times of blessing, and the times where God disciplined them, it is honest about their failure. But it isn’t a lecture, it is a prayer. We would do well to do the same, to consider how God’s been faithful to us, telling Him how we are greatful, and remembering in our rebellion and sin, how He was faithful to us.

I often do this while contemplating the incredible mystery in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, How Jesus comes again to us, and provides a feast celebrating our being forgiven and restored, of God’s revelation of His love for us, shown in the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.

He showed us, and we experience that love when we partake, eating and drinking His body and blood. He shows us, as prayer becomes more than a duty, but a deep conversation, as we hear His voice. Worship comes alive as we realize we participate in its dance, again celebrating the fact that He is here, with us.

And that changes everything in our lives. including our study of scripture as we desire to know more aobut the Lord who loves us, who interats with us.

Lord bless us with the conviction that You are with us, and as You are healing us, help us to know who you are drawing to Your side, and help us reveal to them Your incredible love, mercy and presence in their lives. AMEN!



Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 144). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is our past, and our future.

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

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

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

We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Am Thankful for Non-Theologian Believers

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT

The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.

But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.

To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”

In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.

And I know I am not alone.

We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.

you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.

That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.

It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.

And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.

They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.

This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.

Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. 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. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Question We Should Have Been Asked! (and all should still ask!)

Devotional Thought for the Day:

12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.
Romans 12:1-3 GNT

The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”

for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)

Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.

Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)

But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.

Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.

Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

Are you?

I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.

We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.

Much more.

It is about the stuff of life.

It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.

It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.

It is what being a pastor and priest is about.

It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.

So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”

And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)

Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. 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. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Don’t Consider Myself a “Confessional” Lutheran…

Devotional Thought of the Day

16  You do not want sacrifices, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt offerings. 17  My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. Psalm 51:16-17 (TEV)

Legalism claims that overt actions in conforming to rules for explicit behavior make us right and pleasing to God. It’s as if we believe that power resides in the words or in the rituals themselves. Jesus called legalism the “righteousness . . . of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20 NRSV).
Legalism and superstition are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events through little rules, bypassing the realities of the heart and soul from which life really flows. That is why Jesus tells us we must go beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees to heart-and-soul transformation if we are truly to enter into life.

Disclaimer – if you aren’t a Lutheran, some of this may not make sense. But other groups have modifiers as well, Examples of this are “Evangelcial” Christian, or “Conservative” Baptist, or “Orthodox” Presbyterian, or “King James Only” Believers, or Traditional Catholics. Consider what words modify or assist to “truly” define your trust in God.

There are a lot of denominations out there, and some have taken their denomination name out of the name of their church. You don’t know what they believe, or what their history is, because they have hidden it from plain sight.

I am a Lutheran, the theology and practice that has been passed down I find consistent with scripture and the early church. The somewhat simple way Luther and his peers dealt with being severed from the Roman Catholic Church was not perfect, and yet, what they laid out in documents like the Augsburg Confession clearly reveal the love of God, poured out on us through the word and sacraments by the Holy Spirit.

So, here I stand, and until proven otherwise I don’t have much of an option!

Yet in my brotherhood/denomination which we call a Synod (which means, ironically – to walk together) there are those who would modify the term Lutheran with different words. Confessional is one of those terms, one that is used as a badge of honor, and which draws a vague line in the sand. There are others, that take a further stand, and I would list them as well, and those inside my little section of the family of God know them well enough.

The problems with these labels, no matter where they are on the spectrum is that they divide us based on legalistic standards, rather than on how Christ defines us, they separate us from those that cling to the Lord just as we do. They attempt to clone the people of God, rather than realize the diversity that comes within a family or within a body.

The idea is the line in the sand becomes a sense of pride, a sense where I can say, “my sacrifice is more appropriate than yours, and therefore I am more blessed, more holy,”

And that is where I struggle, with this idea that any label (including our denomination labels) make us “more holy” or that our worship of God is more acceptable (more Orthodox) is about as close to heresy as you can get. I am not saying we shouldn’t seek to refine our beliefs and practicesi to make them more consistent with scripture, but to claim our position is more holy, our worship more acceptable is wrong, dead wrong.

We need to approach God in a way that is both humble, recognzing our brokenness and yet bold, depending on His invitation and HIs making us acceptable and welcome. We need to recognize our brokeness, and rely on His transformation of our heart and soul and mind, rather than parade around, touting that we are the best of His chosen people.

So I am Lutheran – using that title to describe the beliefs I have, that I hold to, that I teach…. that I depend on only because they reveal to me and help me explore the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love, and through God’s word, and the sacraments, I experience that love, which is too great to understand.

You have a different label? Let’s sit down and talk, praying and relying on the guidance of God, who loves us, to make His will known, and His love revealed. But let us depend on Him for that journey, and never boast of our own reason or strength.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

My prayer… for your prayers!

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28 Agrippa said to Paul, “In this short time do you think you will make me a Christian?”
29 “Whether a short time or a long time,” Paul answered, “my prayer to God is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become what I am—except, of course, for these chains!
Acts 26:28-29 GNT

Don’t recoil: your life is going to be a soothing of suffering. This is why you are a disciple of the Master! Your worst enemy is yourself, because your flesh is weak and earthly, but you have to be strong and heavenly. The center of gravity of your body is the world; your center of gravity must be Heaven. Your heart is all God’s, and you have to consecrate its affections entirely to him.

I wish we all had the gift? the dedication? the ability to think on our feet and do so in such a way that people think we are trying to “make them a Christian.”

Even more I wish and pray for our hearts to resonate with Paul’s prayer to God.

That we would desire that all those around us would become as we are, people who depend on Jesus. Not that they would have to live lives as broken and complicated as ours, but that the result would be the same. That they could know their need for God’s work in their life, that they could know His love, and the comfort of His presence.

This is what the quote in green is getting at. From the forward to St. Josemaria’s classic “The Way”, it notes our job is to be the soothing of suffering, the ministry of comforting those broken by sin with the incredible, blesed new that God desires to forgive their sins and heal their broken hearts and souls, and have them dwell in His presence forever.

This is why our Lord Jesus died for us on the cross, so as to no longer call us servants, but brothers.

Agrippa needed to get this, as do you and I, and our neighbors, co-workers, our family and friends, they all need this comfort,

they all need this hope…

they all need the peace that comes from knowing God is present, caring for us.

And we, as the children of God, have the ability to care for them, to share.

Heavenly Father, as the Spirit transforms us, I pray that our hearts resonate with Paul’s prayer, and that we would care that the people around us would become as we are, as You are healing our hearts and souls, as the Spirit comforts and transforms us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Savior, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 72-75). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. ( from the introduction )

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