Category Archives: Worship
58 So then, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless. 1 Cor. 15:58 GNT
42 He remembered his sacred promise to Abraham his servant. 43 So he led his chosen people out, and they sang and shouted for joy. Ps 105:42–43.
My goals here are to suggest some of the ways in which priests can be pastors and vice versa, to sensitize my fellow pastors to the rich resources for pastoral care within the liturgical life of the church, and to show how insights and skills of the pastoral care disciplines can be of service in the continuing task of liturgical renewal.
Instead, readers will find fresh inspiration to take up again the Scriptures and the practices of the Christian tradition and find in them sufficient hope to finish the race that our Lord and Savior set before us. Hunter does not take us to a final destination, but he equips us for the journey.
As I come to the completion of my formal education at 58 years old, I wonder if the education has been worth it, or if my studies have just driven me mad. My advisor wants to know what academic research I will pursue or encourage next, and yet, I want to return to a focus that is simple, to remind people that God has not forgotten His promises to us, and for those people to then sing and shout for joy.
Not just the people at Concordia, but like Bishop Willimon wrote decades ago, to help pastors and priests see the resources now overlooked in worship. To see worship as not just a way to warm people up and prepare them to be taught, but that worship actively provides the pastor the chance to teach and care for them far deeper than out 15-30 minutes pontificating on some principle or some key to life.
They need to know Jesus, and the Liturgy that is drawn from the Scriptures is a great way to help them walk with Him. (read chapters 2-4 of my dissertation if you doubt me!) These practices weren’t randomly generated by an AI, they came down to us from men who saw their benefit, who compiled them with purpose–that the people of God would experience Christ, from the incarnation through His teaching, His death, His resurrection, through their lives, as they wait for the Second coming.
Is Liturgy the only tool in the toolbox? Is worship the only way to walk with Christ? No, but if the Liturgy is done well… then it can provide a foundation, a place to work from for the entire church. Therefore it is worth the effort, it is worth learning to savor its words like fine bacon wrapped shrimp (or whatever your favorite food is). To live the liturgy in such a way that others hunger for what it is the pipeline for, Jesus, and the grace given to those who depend on Him.
That was what Willimon saw back in the 80’s, and what Bishop Todd Hunter’s new book is supposed to provide. I can recommend both, and a few others, or maybe let me take you out for tea or coffee, and lets’ talk this through…
Lord Jesus, help us to see You as we are gathered with others, that as You are revealed – our soul, our heart and our minds find peace, and joy, and learn to praise You for what You’ve given us…as promised! Amen!
William H. Willimon, Worship as Pastoral Care (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1982).
Esau McCaulley, Foreward, Hunter, Todd D.. What Jesus Intended (p. 3). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Solomon moved his wife, the daughter of the king of Egypt, from David’s City to a house he built for her. He said, “She must not live in the palace of King David of Israel, because any place where the Covenant Box has been is holy.” 2 Crhonicles 8:11 GNT
(Luther states) “We are free from the Law, which ceases with Christ in a twofold sense: first imputatively, when sins against the Law are no longer imputed to me, but are remitted for the sake of the most precious blood of the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, my Lord; then, by expurgation, when the Holy Spirit is given me, so that, having received Him, I begin to hate from my heart everything that offends His name and to follow good work.”
But here’s the Question: Do we cry out to Jesus to save us right now When you sing hosanna do you really cry out, or do we just mumble the words? Cry out!
As I read what Solomon did with one of his wives this morning, I felt convicted of my sin, but it took a while to process why.
And then I saw it – he stashed his wife away because the relationship he had with her wasn’t holy. Not saying it couldn’t have been holy, but he married her, interacted with her, and allowed her to keep worshipping the gods of Egypt.
And I wonder how often we do that with our sin, and our “religious life.” How often do we compartmentalize our lives, placing our favorite sins and idolatry in a different place? That way we can attend church, or a Bible Study/prayer meeting and not feel the conviction we feel. But it also means we don’t pray as we should, we don’t look for mercy as we should, we don’t “cry out” as JMT urges us to do.
We won’t cry out to Jesus to save us, until we see that there is something from which He needs to save us.
It can’t just be, “oh, I sinned again, I will confess it on Sunday,” as if there is no big issue involved in our sin, that we can deal with it anytime–this week, this month, next year, 10 minutes before Jesus returns.
Luther is right, – we need to learn to hate our sin, and everything in us that offends God.We need to hate those actions, those words, those thoughts, and what tempts us to do, say and think them. We need to realize the damage they do, and hate that as well. SO that we can – with JMT and all the angels and archangels and company of heaven cry out hosanna – save us! We need to desire God’s power reconciling us, and look forward to both private confession and absolution, and the confession and absolution given to us all as we gather together as the church.
This is a need in the church, in all believers, and the answer to our cry for mercy will transform the church, it will bring a time of revival, as people begin to live in hope–freed from the bondage of our sin. What joy will be seen and experienced as this happens! For happen it will.
Lord, help us to hate that which was never meant to be part of our lives, and let the desperation that hate causes lead us to the cross, where that sin is removed. Thank you Lord, for saving us, cleansing us, and making us Your Holy people. AMEN!
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 13.
John Michael Talbot , The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival. (Berryville, Arkansas, Troubador of the Lord Publishing, 2023) 71
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT
Each time we consent to a new light on our weakness and powerlessness, we are in a deeper place with Christ.… Christ in his passion is the greatest teacher of who God is. Sheer humility. Total selflessness. Absolute service. Unconditional love. The essential meaning of the Incarnation is that this love is totally available.
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter
Second, those who find that they are prompted to partake of it merely because of the order of the church or from habit, who, if wholly free to choose, would not come to it with good will and longing, also must not partake of the sacrament. As St. Augustine says, the sacrament seeks a hungry, thirsty, and desirous soul which yearns for it. But those who go only because of command or out of habit feel no desire or longing for it, but rather horror or dread, so that they would rather be away from it than near it. A person with a yearning heart does not wait for a command, nor is he moved by precept or habit. Such a man is driven by his need and his desire. He has his mind fixed only on the sacrament, which he desires.
Last week I was at a pastors’ conference with 200 plus peers of mine. Most of us were tired, emotionally drained, approaching or in burn-out. It’s the nature of ministry. Those who do it well, risk their health, including their mental health.
The planners of the conference had decided the theme would be SoulCare, providing it for our people, ensuring our families get it, and forcing ourselves to admit we need it, and then act on it. But the planners (I was one,) knew our pastors needed to get such needs out in the open – but also realized there would be reluctance and resistance against such baring of our souls.
There is a need to address this – as Keating explains. It is only as we see ourselves wounded and broken, do we really see Christ’s active care for us! The love that is there, to comfort us, to pick us up, to heal the wounds and cleanse us from sin… IT IS HERE–FOR HE IS HERE!
Brother Lawrence realize the same thing as Tozer quotes him. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are going to sin, and if sin and dwell among sinners, we will become wounded, and broken. That is why God planned from before the foundation of the world to be here with us…to rescue us, to deliver us.. to nourish us.
That brings us to Luther – and his words about the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar. We shouldn’t fell like we have to go because it is the rules. Never! We need to go because we need that intimate moment with God, as we eat the Body and bring the Blood of Christ Jesus. We need to desire this moment for where it brings us, deeper into a relationship with Him. This time of truly experiencing the God we come to know in the sacrament, the One who loves us.
The Lord’s Supper is where the spiritually broken learn to find hope and healing, as the Spirit ensures the promises that accompany it are communicated to us. It is where we find ourselves, weak and powerless, coming to realize we are welcome in the presence of God, that He shares every aspect of Himself with us., transforming us into His image. ( 2 Cor 3:16)
We need Him – as do our people.
So let us be encouraged to gather around the altar, and know our Lord ever more deeply, as He provides for us, as promised. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 277.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 171.
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and the cross, for there is my hope!
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me? Psalm 119:81-82 NLT
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, 2 Tim 1:8-9 NLT
To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ.
“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word.” Here the first part contains contrition, while the second clearly describes how we are revived amid contrition, namely, by the Word of God that offers grace.  This Word sustains and gives life to the heart. 1 Samuel 2[:6*]: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.”
For 39 years I’ve heard about the need for Church Growth. It was a major part of my undergraduate curriculum–my major would have been, a Bachelor or Arts in Bible, Church Growth and Preaching. I’ve been blessed to work with some mega-church pastors over the years, mentored by two, and read a lot of the books, including Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?, which predates all the stuff from Fuller, Willow Creek and Saddleback. And even recent works lauded by people, like Canoing the Mountains
There are surely techniques we can apply from these books. But I think the issues is that focusing on Church Growth has us confused, and to be honest, most of the theory is misapplied–simply because they forget to apply it within context! We are hyper-fixated on church growth, or so suspicious of church growth that we analyze the components to death, looking for a reason to dismiss it.
Because our focus is off, the Psalmist’s words ring so true. We are tired, our eyes, hearts and souls are strained, because we trust in God’s promises, but we aren’t seeing them come true in our era. (It doesn’t help that we reduce era to a brief moment!) We know God hasn’t abandoned its church, but because we are fixated on growth, we don’t see what God is doing. Because we don’t see what God’s doing, we burn out, and only half-heartedly commit to the next theory, the next outreach program, the next book which promises that God will provide the increase, if we do our part.
Growing a church is indeed a blessing, but it skews the work (and the glory received from it) making us believe it is our work, our creativity, our passion and strategic-purpose driven life that causes this to happen. And because of that, the church growth movement, and its counterbalance, the confessional/traditional/fundamentalist movements, are doomed to fail.
We need to pray for and seek Revival, not church growth. We need to hear the word and receive the sacraments, realizing what God is giving us in those moments of intimate interaction with a Divine God. We need to see the Holy Spirit killing off the sinner and bringing the saints to life—for that is revival. That is when Tozer’s goal is realized and the church, focused on Christ as a bride focuses on her groom, lives in the moment of salvation. This is true revival, when people are rejoicing beause God has been revealed to be loving, merciful and present in their lives.
As the Church experiences Revival, it doesn’t have the time to be concerned with Church Growth. It is busy helping people live in the moment, so wanting to share the blessing of Christ that they give up their lives. I have seen such people – they are amazing! They simply know Christ’s love, and they will do anything to make it know. The church grows, but that is never its desire. It is focused on Christ, and helping people to know Him, to learn to abandon their wants, desires and even needs. And their they learn, that without what they once considered precious – they are free to live.
This is what we need to pray for- that people come alive in Christ, that they are spiritually defibrillated, and realize they can live in Christ. Then listen, and see those ready to receive God’s word, and His sacraments, as He quickens their hearts and souls…
May we understand that the Lord is with you! And may that revelation result in many coming to know the same thing!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
“Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Artticle XII Repentance”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 195.
For the LORD is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king.
He will care for us and save us. Isaiah 33:22 NLT
Lord, we’re too selfish, busy doing our own thing. Give us a spirit of love, of unselfishness, of willingness to pay any price for the sake of the gospel. Do it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Every Christian, by virtue of the grace of baptism, has the vocation to oneness with the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Everyone needs some kind of practice in order to accomplish this vocation. Obviously, a rule of life cannot be as detailed for those living in the world as it is for people in a monastery. But everyone has to build his or her own kind of enclosure as far as one’s duties allow, by setting aside a certain amount of time every day for prayer and spiritual reading
I wish we all were the evidence that God answered Tozer’s prayer, that every person in every church would pay any price for the sake of the gospel.
That happens when revival, true revival, occurs. There is no more manipulation or guilt or system that has tremendous results. There is simply not enough time during revival to study what happens and duplicate it!
But revival has a cost.
It costs to develop a heart that does things for Jesus’ sake, and not to “gain” something from Him.
When a person finds themselves made one with God in Christ, that price has been paid, the investment has been made as God marks them with His name – as He takes “possession” of us. He is our judge, lawgiver and king.
THe problem is when people hear those titles; they think of God’s condemnation, and the legalistic tendencies that some church members and pastors, and that God wants to ruin and rule each of our lives. They see that as the “cost” and an extremely high cost at that!
But that is a horrid understanding of what it means for God to be those things for us. We must understand those words, in view of His mission, expressed in the next line-He will care for us and save us!
That happens when we hear Keating’s encouragement to spend time with God. To take the time out to just sit and listen and hear the Spirit tell you of Christ’s love. It is not law to spend that time, we need it! It helps us become the people who love like Jesus, who show mercy like Jesus,
We need time to be one with God, to dance with Him. To get to know this God who loves us, so that we can truly experience our vocation as being one with Him!
In doing so, we finally begin to understand who we are… the children of God.
…the children God cares for…
And then revival happens, and churches truly grow as people and granted repentance and are transformed in Baptism. (see Ez. 36:25ff)
Lord, help us to desire to spend the time with You we need! AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 215.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 NLT
Without argument, most things are at their best when they are fulfilling their purpose and design.
For instance, a piano is made with a specific purpose: to produce music. However, I happen to know that someone once stood on a piano in order to put a fastener of some kind in the ceiling. Some artistic women have used piano tops as family picture galleries. I have seen piano tops that were cluttered filing cabinets or wide library shelves.
There is an intelligent design in the creation of a piano. The manufacturer did not announce: “This is a good piano. It has at least nineteen uses!” No, the designer had only one thought in mind: “This piano will have the purpose and potential of sounding forth beautiful music!”…
Do not miss the application of truth here. God was saying to Abraham, “You may have some other idea about the design and purpose for your life, but you are wrong! You were created in My image to worship Me and to glorify Me. If you do not honor this purpose, your life will degenerate into shallow, selfish, humanistic pursuits
556 The Way of the Cross. Here indeed is a strong and fruitful devotion! May you make it a habit to go over those fourteen points of our Lord’s Passion and death each Friday. I assure you that you’ll gain strength for the whole week.
I love Tozer’s illustration, but struggle with the application.
Simply put, we weren’t created to worship God, or to glorify Him. I have seen too many people over the years try and fulfill that purpose, only to burn out, then drop out.
We were created for a purpose, and understanding that purpose can result in the most amazing worship, and result in God’s being glorified, a glory we are promised to share in. (see Col. 1:26-29)
Our purpose, our erason for existence is simpler, and more amazing.
As the piano was made to make music, we are made to be loved by God! We are created to be His friends!
Nothing less that being the ones whom God pours Himself to, whom God has chased throughout History, planning each step to bring us into this wonderful relationship.
We can’t mistake our response for the reason. It doesn’t work backwards. St Josemaria wants us to encounter that passionate love, that is why He wants us to contemplate the cross. Not out of duty, but because we need to know we are loved. And the Way of the Cross shows it to us, step by step, as Christ embraces torment, because it will show that love in a way that is undeniable.
It may be a blunt and graphic illustration, but saying that worship is the purpose and meaning in life is like saying going to the bathroom is the purpose of eating and drinking. Worship isn’t the purpose, it is the consequence. The purpose is being loved – a completely passive experience, and something we have no control over. This even works into my somewhat profane illustration, because a major part of worship is relieving oneself of everything impure… for God’s love will cause the eliminating of waste in our lives.
Therefore His sustains us through the most painful points of life. In the places where everyone else abandons us, He is there, comforting us, drawing us into His peace.
Finally, the glory of God has someone to love. In fact He draws us to Himself and loves us, that is truly glorious.
That is our purpose – to be loved. That is what gives meaning to our lives.
Know that you are loved beyond measure, experience that love that is unexplainable… and find out why we praise His name!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” Acts 7:55-56 NLT
Acedia means a lack or absence of care. And that’s deadly. Whenever we grow numb to Christ’s saving work and the Father’s gracious gifts by which he makes us and preserves us, spiritual boredom takes hold, followed by apathy and subsequent despair. Where acedia takes root in the soul of a pastor, the flock suffers greatly.
There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.
The gift of contemplative prayer is a practical and essential tool for confronting the heart of the Christian ascesis—namely, the struggle with our unconscious motivation—while at the same time establishing the climate and necessary dispositions for a deepening relationship with God and leading, if we persevere, to divine union.
As I look at the deacon, Stephen, I see a man who is living in the moment. He is not bound to anxiety or fear. He is not burnt out, and He cares about the people with whom he is interacting. The power of the resurrection is something he wants them to know; he wants them to know Jesus.
As I look at the church today, there are many pastors and church leaders that are suffering and struggling, not only in their lives, but in their spiritual lives as well. The are well able to teach the doctrines they believe in, if they still do. But they don’t care, or they are tired of caring. There is something lacking behind the doctrine, a “so what” to the “what” that is so well known and taught. Acedia or Ascesis is so evident in the lives of many I talk to in the church, and the constant work wears the men and women in ministry down.
The hard question is, if this is happening to our leaders, then what is happening to the flocks with which they have been called to shepherd?
Keating talks of the answer to this being contemplative prayer. A time to stop and listen, to contemplate what it means to dwell in the presence of God. To take the time to listen, to invest in the relationship by letting God “hear” us — so that we know He has.
Perhaps this is why the Lutheran Confessions call prayer a sacrament, a sacred time where God’s grace communicates deeply, intimately with the hearts of His people.
It is one of the other sacraments that I run to, that I long for, when spiritual burnout, spiritual fatigue, and life just sucking. The Lord’s Supper is so precious, the peace that comes from being united to the death and resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure. Sharing it with my people, whether in the sanctuary, or in their homes, lifts me out of the spiritual funk (and often physical/psychological funks as well).
Here is the theology behind this – we know that when we take and eat the bread, we unite to Christ’s body (koinonia). The same when we drink from the cup, there is unity with the sacrifice of Christ. But anytime God unites us with the death of Christ Jesus, there is the absolute promise of the resurrection! Knowing this is our reality, and someday will be a visible reality, stirs the soul, and revives me. This is not just some activity or obligation without an impact in our lives. To realize we commune with God, in that instance, He draws into His glory, and gives us a tangible lesson in how deep His love is for us.
Every pastor gets tired, every pastor gets weary and suffers from burnout. The same for elders, deacons, ministers of every type. I do not know a pastor during COVID who didn’t think of hanging it up – and finding some other field of work. The answer is that divine unity that Keating points out, the “manifest presence” is how Tozer describes it. Stephen, even in the face of martyrdom, finds his hope there, as he gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God.
That is the experience of the altar, whether serving the people of God, or receiving it with them.
We need that… so let us not neglect it, but run to it. AMEN!
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 210.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 123.
36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 3:36-38 NLT
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude 6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. Psalm 32:5-6 (NLT2)
That person sitting across from you in your study or lying in a hospital bed is just another wayward child of God the Father, each in their own way yearning to return to the Father’s house. Baptismal therapy is nothing more and nothing less than a return to baptism and the ongoing application of the gifts bestowed once in that sacred bath by which sins are forgiven and life restored.
The heart of the Easter mystery is our personal discovery of intimacy with God which scripture calls “innocence.” It is the innocence arising from easy and continual exchange of the most delightful kind with God.…
This morning I received official notice that my Ph.D. dissertation was fully accepted – the writing can “officially” begin. But it is something that has been forming in me for the last 28 -30 years. The readings this morning echo that concept. The nature of the ministry is bringing people into the glory of God. They are restored to dwell in that place!
Ministry is the work of reconciliation – the workers are sent out to gather people in the harvest – bringing them into eternal life. Doing that work only happens in the way the Psalmist experiences. When I know my sin is forgiven when I stop trying to hide my guilt. The response is simple. I want others to experience
the freedom, the peace, the life that comes in knowing Christ Jesus!
Senkbeil describes this revelation as the forgiven sinner sees the person as another prodigal – another wandered who is lost, trying to find their way in the world. The ministry then reminds the person what God has done in them as He cleansed them in baptism. If the person hasn’t been baptized, sharing the news of God’s mercy and compassion on those in bondage to sin. Yes, we desire; we hope and pray that they experience the intimacy with God that Keating talks about as he describes the sinner’s innocence.
This is what drives ministry – at its basic and best, it is the desire for others to experience the love of God that is unexplainable. A love that is beyond measure that leaves us experiencing innocence, righteousness, justice, and holiness, all because God loves us, and He is here.
This is ministry, as we have freely received – we freely give… This leaves you – and those around you with a question to ask. Do you need to hear that God loves you – and is merciful to you…. Or do your need to be the one that helps others find a deep, intimate, healing relationship with Jesus?
(I can help you either way!)
Heavenly Father, send forth Your Spirit on all believers, that they may realize how deeply You love them. As they experience the innocence that comes with salvation, help them share Your love with those around them. We pray this in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior and Lord! AMEN!
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” says the LORD. “I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. 21 Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came. Come back again, my virgin Israel; return to your towns here. 22 How long will you wander, my wayward daughter? For the LORD will cause something new to happen— Israel will embrace her God.” Jeremiah 31:20-22 (NLT2)
These wretched men think that building up the church consists of the introduction of some sort of new ceremonies. They don’t realize that building up the church means to lead consciences from doubt and murmuring to faith, to knowledge, and to certainty.”
Imagine the story of the prodigal son, who goes his way, spends his inheritance, starts feeding the pigs and loathes what his life has beocme. He comes to the realization that he would be better off as the lowest servant, even a slave in his father’s fields. He heads home, and instead of the Bible’s version where the Father runs and greets him,….
He finds a foresale sign, and his family has moved on….
Home is now a myth, hope is all but lost, and there is nothing there for him anymore.
I get that feeling, as I’ve gone “back home” and the church I grew up – the external structure is there, but they built a 4 story school inside. The Denniy’s I worked in at 15 was raised to the ground, and there is an emptiness…there is little of my home to go back to, save a ancient cemetary where i used to go read books in its quiet shade.
I think that is why Luther clarifies what reformation, and the revival of the church is about. It is not about changing things for the sake of being new, nor should things remain the same for those inside the church. There needs to be consistency for the prodigal son’s’ sake, and for the wayward daughter’s return. So people can be led from doubt and murmering into the experience of depending on God,
Where Luther was encouraged to start from scratch he couldn’t -because he saw a need for the prodigal, and the wayward. Perhaps more than any other time in my life, that is needed in these days. Peopel need the place where sin is absolved, where God is revelaed to them through the word, where they can once again receive the Sacraments. A place to come home!
That is the irony, for the mature Christian – the old signs and symbols exist, not for their comfort and preference, but for the sake of those who need to be drawn back to church and the relationship with God nurtured there. It is for those who need to have their life with God restored and revived. I’ve done enough funerals of unbelievers and those who left the church to see this in effect, as the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 are spoken in older ways, and their grief and pain is relieved for a moment, and hope flashes before them as the signposts point again to when peace was known. In those moments, as their hearts recognize the signposts, the Spirit speaks to them again.
Does this mean we can’t change anything? Of course not! New music is written – that is good. New translations come and go, written for the context of people. Yet, there needs to be that which helps a person know they are home, where they belong, where God dwells among His people. It is a balance, but that starts with considering who we are keeping or changing things for, and the effect change has.
Even so, I pray your faith is strengthened by those places in life where signposts and altars are erected.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 195–196.