Category Archives: Worship

The Pastoral Need for the Lord’s Supper

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.

The Question about Ministry…

In Awe of His love…

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.

Why Church Traditions Should Matter…

How many thousands found God’s peace in this place…

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.

Effect without a Cause?

Thoughts to encourage our love for Jesus!

“You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11 (CSBBible)

St. Teresa wrote this admirable maxim: “Whoever aspires to perfection must beware of ever saying: They had no reason to treat me so. If you will not bear any cross but one which is founded on reason, then perfection is not for you.”

If I work out at a gym, I expect the next day I will be sore. That’s just cause and effect. It is reasonable and logical.

If I treat someone badly, I ought to be treated badly in return. I am the cause and the effect is just and right. (Even though I do not like it – one bit!)

But it is when I am treated unjustly, when I want to say, “I don’t deserve this,” or “they have no reason” as St. Teresa noted, that I encounter trouble. When I am trying to help, and I get mauled by the person needing the help. That is when I tire, and I grow weary and I want to just hang it up.

It is illogical, in this world where sin and brokenness abounds, to think that everything will be justifiable, that everyone will simply love us, because we are trying to show them Christ’s love.

It is also illogical when we know that Jesus says “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, and Paul teaches us to “bless those who persecute you, bless them and do not curse them” (Roman 12:14) to expect that we won’t have enemies and persecutors. We should expect opposition, and that the opposition is not reasonable, logical, and often painful.

Yet, it is wrong, it is sin, if we do not love, pray and bless them.

I don’t like that.

But that doesn’t give me the right to become as disobedient and unreasonable as my heart cries out to be.

And it doesn’t mean passively taking their abuse, for loving, praying and blessing them is as more active than hating, scheming against them, and cursing them. It requires to think about what is truly best for them, and to lovingly do those things, seeing them through.

It is not easy…to take up such a cross, such a burden. It requires realizing the love of Christ for us, even the love that drive Hi to the cross when our sin tortured Him (and the Father) and learning to find the rest and peace that comes from Christ dwelling in us. To understand that He is the answer to every injustice. This isn’t about living in the brokenness – it is about living in the love of God,

ANd for those that do not know such peace, may we pray they leave their dissonant, broken lives and are drawn into Christ as well.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 427.

The Paradox of Pain

“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me,x but you will see me.y Because I live, you will livez too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father,aa you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:18-20 CSB

It was a time of drought, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he [Martin Luther] said, “Lord God, thou hast said through the lips of thy servant David, ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, etc., and saves them’ [Ps. 145:18, 19]. How is it, then, that thou art unwilling to give us rain? If thou dost not give us rain, at least give us something better, like tranquillity, life, and peace.

Two of Spurgeon’s greatest sermons were “God in The Silence” and “God in The Storm.” The heart that knows God can find God anywhere. I surely join with Spurgeon in the truth that a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who has met God in a living encounter can know the joy of worshiping Him, whether in the silences of life or in the storms of life. There really is no argument. We know what God wants us to be. He wants us to be worshipers!

This love of poverty should be especially practised by religious who have made the vow of poverty. “Many religious,” says the same St. Bernard, “wish to be poor; but on the condition of wanting for nothing.”2 “Thus,” says St. Francis de Sales, “they wish for the honor of poverty, but not the inconveniences of poverty.”

The last quote stings… it hurts…

I know the truth of it, that I am willing to embrace any suffering God would allow- if I don’t have know I am suffering.

I can endure all things – if I don’t have to really endure it – just sort of let the time pass me by.

That’s the kind of thing we all want, it is why we love to state that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.

Even as I read that, and am crushed by it’s truth, I resonate with Luther’s take – that if God won’t give us the water, he will give us something better. Not something which hides or denies the pain, but in the midst of it, finds the presence of God and is comforted by the Holy Spirit. That encounter is so…. beyond words… that you begin to love the suffering, and you even find joy int it, (even as you despise it) because there you find the prsence of God.

As Spurgeon notes, there you find yourself worshipping the Lord in whose presence you are!

It may take me a while ot see the suffering I am observing in that way, and yet, by the enxt time I share in the Lord’s Supper, – there it is. Christ is in me, even as the Father was in Him! What an incredible truth this is, when the words sink ito our soul and we realize their truth.

In the midst of this poverty, whether financial, mental or spiritual, here is Jesus, with me… with me!

truly, the truth of that sinking down into my sould can cause me to love that whcih made me aware of His presnce, and His promises.

This is my reality in these days…not so much from my suffering, but that which I witness around me….and weeping (and sometimes laughing ) with them, we find His presence together.

This is a blessing impossible to understand, hard to endure, absolutely one I will not by-pass. Even when there are days I wish I could. So,

Lord Jesus, as we face trials, and spiritual poverty, may your Spirit gather us and make us aware of Your presence. Comfort us, sustain us, and Lord, as You promised, keep us safe in You! Amen.

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), 192.

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

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 424.

When it is TIME to pray…

THe ulitmate scene in Les Mis… A sinner helps another sinner know their are God’s

Thoughts to help us realize God’s love….

71 Then he started to curse and swear,be “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time,a and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:71-72 CSB

When Jesus encourages us to pray with insistence he sends us to the very heart of the Trinity where, through his holy humanity, he leads us to the Father and promises the Holy Spirit.

We’ve been there…

We have fallen deeply into whatever temptation Satan has thrown at us.

You and I deny Jesus far more often than we want to admit.

Sometimes that denial is in order to secure some momentary pleasure. Sometimes the sin is to avoid discomfort, the unknown or known consequences that happen because people don’t understand what it means to be baptized into Jesus.

And in that moment, when we are in tears, the Spirit comes and brings us to repentance once again.

As the Spirit calls us to pray, as Jesus encourages us to pray, it is not a prayer of an someone cast away, drowning. Satan would love for us to think of it that way. And our own hearts and minds might agree with that demonic assessment.

But God is drawing us in, cleansing us, brinnging us into the very heart of the Trinity, into the place of healing, into the sanctuary, into the place of rest, until we find hope….

When we realize that, when we take a deep breath and remember that we dwell in Chirst – and therefore are in the presence on a holy, triune God, everything slowly takes shape.

And that is the only answer when we find ourselves betraying God, or anything that is less painful.

Here is our hope, that He is our fortress, our sanctuary, our place of hope and healing. Ours, not yours or mine, but everyones. If, as we are realizing God’s work in our lives, can help someone else come along, that is wonderful, and the way it should be…

But you and I, we need to pray… and talk with God.. even when we just sinned.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 255.

Why I… pray the Lord’s Prayer

God, who am I?

Thoughts for this day, that draws me closer to God….

7  When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. 9  “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13  And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:7-13 (CSBBible)

At dinner on the day after Pentecost [ Martin Luther said], “One shouldn’t think of any other God than Christ; whoever doesn’t speak through the mouth of Christ is not God. God wants to be heard through the Propitiator, and so he’ll listen to nobody except through Christ.

We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires.

I have never gotten tired of talking about prayer, and with God’s grace I never will. I remember that, back in the thirties, as a young priest, people of all kinds used to come to me looking for ways of getting closer to our Lord. To all of them, university students and workers, healthy and sick, rich and poor, priests and laymen, I gave the same advice: “Pray.” If anyone replied, “I don’t even know how to begin,” I would advise him to put himself in God’s presence and tell him of his desires and anxiety, with that very same complaint: “Lord, I don’t know how to pray!” Often, humble admissions like that were the beginning of an intimate relationship with Christ, a lasting friendship with him. Many years have gone by, and I still don’t know of a better recipe. If you think you’re not quite ready to pray, go to Jesus as his disciples did and say to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”18 You will discover how the Holy Spirit “comes to the aid of our weakness; when we do not know what prayer to offer, to pray as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us, with groans beyond all utterance,”19 which are impossible to describe, for no words are adequate to express their depth.

I find it odd, that when people talk about repetitive prayer, they often mention the verse just before Jesus teaches the disciples to pray… the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t babble on, or don’t be vain and repetitious as others translate the passage. And then comes the Lord’s prayer, which people say is vain and repetitious.

I will be the first to admit I have used it that way. Back in junior high school, we had races to see who could say it the fastest, or the entire rosary (I went to a Catholic parochial school.) And in doing so, we sinned, violating the
command about using God’s name in vain, for we didn’t think about Jesus when we prayed, we focused on speed and diction… not even the meaning of the words. There are days when I say it in church – that my thoughts are not focused on the words as much if we are saying it. (Which is why we more often sing it) It is easy to disengage. but that does not change it… just me.

As I have grown older, there have been more than a few times where I did not know how to pray. The words would not come through the anxiety, the words wouldn’t come through the tears, or even the times, where so overwhelmed, I
couldn’t cry. Finally, out of frustration, I would cry out, and pray the Lord’s prayer, letting the words of Jesus burrow through all the debris crushing my heart and soul.

And then, as St Josemaria put it, it was up to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in those times, it is only the comfort of the Holy Spirit that brings that prayer to mind, who uses these words of Jesus to bring life where there is no life.
Tozer is dead on accurate with his point – it is the Spirit we need to trust, as we pray as Jesus said. For Satan loves to deny us hope, and peace, and the realization of God’s love.

And so by praying as Jesus taught, we again admit we don’t know how to pray, and in that humility the intimacy with God grows, we hear what He’s told us He will provide – from His kingdom, to His perfect Will occurring in our lives, to
what we need daily, food, the ability to know we are forgiven and the enabling of our forgiveness. What wonderful things! He goes on to provide us a way from temptation, and rescue us from evil….. WOW….

Because I didn’t know how to pray in the brokenness of the moment, I pray, and as the Trinity hears, my heart is reminded of what God provides.

And somehow, miraculously, I find peace in the storm.

That is why I pray the Lord’s prayer, it is where God leads, and the comfort it brings is extraordinary.

I pray you may as well!

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), 155.

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

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

Ministry in the Shadows…

St Aiden on Holy Island

Devotional Thought for our Days

6  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he rescued them from their distress. 7  He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:6-7 (CSBBible)
13  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 14  He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Psalm 107:13-14 (CSBBible)
19  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 20  He sent his word and healed them; he rescued them from their traps. Psalm 107:19-20 (CSBBible)

Aidan’s statue, Holy Island
Aidan stands. His head is close to the heart of the cross.
His eyes, far-seeing, scan the horizon, the joyous venturing of little boats.
A torch burns clearly in his grasp, a faithful challenge in his generation, meeting, listening, heart-connecting.

In his shadow is a place I covet, a challenge in a present time and confluence of cultures.
Aidan, let me lie down in your shadow. While I live may I be the shadow of a Rock in a weary land, a shelter from the heat.

When our Bohemian interrupted to say that he still had doubts about baptism, he [Martin Luther] replied gently,“When you first came here you were not at the stage which you have now attained. Continue to be patient. Give our Lord God time. Let the trees bloom before they bring forth fruit. Who was I before? I used to worship saints who hadn’t even been born! The time hasn’t come yet for me to speak otherwise [about baptism], I should now say, but wait and you’ll see what the Word of God is and can be.”

To embrace the cross, courage and endurance are needed. There are some “strong” Christians who undertake apostolic work but falter when faced with difficulty. They don’t know about patience.

What requires patience also requires the ability to endure exhaustion. Whether a marathon, or a long journey in a car, or the ministry, one must be able to endure the shadows. One must endure the times where you aren’t sure you can make it another mile, another hour, another day. Life is filled with such shadows, as we work through a world that has no direction and no ability to see where we are going, and yet we strive to define progress in so many areas.

Most of the people we minister to live there, in those shadows of exhaustion. Not quite in spiritual darkness, but neither are our lives always filled with the glorious light of Christ. We are not patient; we want our life on earth to be heavenly. When we cannot see that perfection, the shadows form, and tired and weary, we are anxious, not knowing when the next storm will hit or this one will subside.

We need to embrace the cross, not just with strength but patiently. We need to, as Luther advises, be patient and give the Lord time. (this not just with those we minister to, but with ourselves!)  We need to see what the Word of God is, and what it can be.

That is why I find so much hope in my reading from Psalms this morning. There we see people cry out to the Lord, those lost in their wandering, those imprisoned by gloom and shame, and those whose foolishness caused their own suffering. The eventual response was to cry out to God to have mercy, and His response was to rescue them. In those times in the shadow, it is good to find the Aidans of our time. Those whose lives point us to Jesus. Those who keep close to the cross and draw us there. They dwell in the shadows as well (why else would they need torches?), and as they are in the presence of Christ, their shadow is a place of rest, a place of peace. As Jesus delivers us, slowly, we too become like Aidan, or Paul or Peter, and we dwell in Christ! Others will come, and we will learn to deal as patiently with them as God deals with us. Aidn’s image is so powerful, in the shadow of the cross, he provides light to others!

This is life in the shadows; this is ministry in the shadows… be patient. Find those who help you keep your heart and head near the cross, and then look for those who need to be drawn into His presence, and provide them the rest, the sanctuary they need, in the shadows.

Andy Raine – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/meditations/meditation-day-16/ (text reformatted to fit the page)

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), 92.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 132.

It is not preaching unless…It is not worship unless…

Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. Psalm 66:5 (CSBBible)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSBBible)

When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

When somebody inquired whether a person [under the papacy] would be saved if he had not embraced this teaching of ours, he [Martin Luther] replied, “I really don’t know. God might have had regard for his baptism. This could do it. Even so, I have seen many [monks] die with a crucifix held before their eyes [as was then customary]. In spite of everything else, the name [of Christ] proved to be effective on their deathbed.”

When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and specially the grace of holy perseverance. This is the principal effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.

Most of my college professors were focused on reading, studying, and preaching the Bible verse by verse. That is called exegetical preaching. Exegesis is the art of drawing the message from the text. All the professors taught this way,  except one, my preaching professor. He would criticize me to no end, saying that “unless you preach the gospel, you may have given a good message, but you haven’t preached. And that gospel requires you to bring them to the cross. (Doug Dickey, multiple times in 1984-1986. He wanted you to include God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, and if you didn’t – back to the library you went until you did!

I think that needs to be a rule, not only for preaching but for worship. We need to bring the people of God to the cross – We need to be there as well! Oh, do those who preach and lead worship need to come to the cross! We need to see with the Psalmist – the wonders of God as He acts on our behalf!  We need to see Him take on death and destroy it!  We need to see Him triumphant over our sin! That is why the Lord’s Supper explains the giving of Christ’s Body and His Blood shed for us! The entire service needs to focus there to journey with the cross throughout the week! 

The cross needs to be there; the sermon and the sacrament need to draw us to Jesus! Look at the monks Luther describes, as they die, they just wanted to focus on the crucifix, to be in awe of God’s love for His people.

Can you preach verse by verse and still proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? I believe so, but will the cross and the resurrection be your primary focus? The same question may be asked to those who preach topically,
who do a series on marriage or faith. Or those who preach from the pericope, the rotation of verses over 1 or 3 years. You must go to the scriptures, see how they point to Jesus, and work on that passage until you figure out how!  The same as the worship service is formed, how does each song, each reading, each prayer draw people into Christ and make them more aware of His love! Of course, the decision on whether to offer commune fits there as well! Where else is the work of God as manifest at that moment, as people commune with the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)

It is not preaching unless Christ crucified is revealed, nor is it worship if we are not brought to that cross in awe and celebrate that death was for us. This is why we gather… this is the refreshment given. It is time to celebrate!

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 125.

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), 87–88.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 224.

We don’t need to play the game…

“God has raised you out of darkness, I have saved your soul for God!”

Devotional Thought of the Day

12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB

26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB

Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”

Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession

Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.

Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.

Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.

God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.

They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,

That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.

It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.

Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.

That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.

God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.

That is what it all boils down to…

We are in Jesus…..

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

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), 41.

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

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