Devotional Thought of the Day:
But there will be a Sabbath of complete resta for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the LORD: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It is to be a year of complete rest for the land. 6 Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired worker or alien who resides with you. 7 All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Leviticus 25:4-7 CSB
Then our Lord rose from the dead and we have what we call the period of the preparation.… They had stopped their activity at the specific command of the Lord. He said, “Tarry! You are about to receive that which has been promised.…” Sometimes you are going farther when you are not going anywhere; you are moving faster when you are not moving at all. HTB024–025 O, my heart, be still before Him!
And here the Church has introduced the custom that the faithful should give one another the kiss of peace, to remind them that their hearts should be united in charity. Before giving the kiss of peace, the priest kisses the altar, to show that he cannot give the peace unless he has first received it from Jesus Christ, who is represented by the altar.
In these days of COVID, we no longer shake hands or hug each other during the passing of the peace. ( I am not one for giving others a kiss – but other acts suffice!) It was a very meaningful time in my church. One which I struggle with in every service…
Given all that, I was struck by the instructions given to my brothers who are Catholic priests, to first kiss the altar. The reason makes sense; we can only pass on the peace we are given, we cannot create that peace within our own lives, never mind between us and those we’ve squabbled with during the week.
So the priest pauses, and kisses the altar… on behalf of all of us. I like the imagery, and the slight pause, the realization that God is here… and from Him come all the blessings that create a life of peace!
It resonates with Tozer’s words, about a period of preparation, a moment to remember the role of God. Even as we look upon the Body and Blood of Jesus, we realize the peace that comes, as we realize our need for it, we are doing what Tozer says, progressing in our faith; while letting our heart before Him find stillness and find peace.
When we take a moment, or a day, or a year to realize that when we rest before God (the idea of a sabbatical – not to write a book or do a different job) we find ourselves resting in Christ, and we find ourselves at peace.
The side effect of that peace is being able to share it with others, It is not the primary result, but it is there. The same is true for being able to minister to people. All of these activities, all of these things we are gifted and called to do are side effects of our time with Jesus. We need to realize that, and we need to spend that time, paused, adoring the Lord.
Even it is just taking a moment, and kissing the altar.
Heavenly Father, help us to always realize Your presence, to acknowledge it, to embrace You. Help us to take the time to know we dwell in Your presence, in Your peace. And then, secure in Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, show us how to live. AMEN!
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), 54.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)
Therefore, when I suffer, I do not suffer alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer with me, for Christ says, “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye” [Zech. 2:8]. Thus others bear my burden, and their strength is my strength. The faith of the church comes to the aid of my fearfulness; the chastity of others endures the temptation of my flesh; the fastings of others are my gain; the prayer of another pleads for me. In brief, such care do the members show one another that the more honorable members cover, serve, and honor the less respected members, as is so beautifully set forth in 1 Corinthians 12 [:22–26]
When I was 8 years old, a family friend who was a priest asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and specifically why.
I’ve been doing that now for over twenty years,
Well, sort of.
I told him I wanted to be a priest, and I am a pastor. Most people would say that is close enough, others might argue differently. But I specifically said, even though I didn’t understand why, that what I wanted to do was commune them, to give them Jesus,
And this evening, on the night of the feast where we would normally celebrate the first Lord’s Supper, it cannot be done for most of “my” people.
I know that some of them will cry because they cannot be here. I know it will wipe me out. I know other pastors who are struggling with this, too, as some simply will go without, and others will try to be innovative. I cannot and will not blame or crucify any of them. Simply put, a pastor is put into the life of people to reveal to them Jesus in their life by explaining the word of God and providing for them the sacraments they need.
Yes, I said, need!
People who are dealing with brokenness, sin, health issues, doubts, anxieties, and fears all need to know God is with them, loves them, will sustain them.
And just as our people need them, pastors have ot find a way to care for their people.
Even in these unmet needs, we find another kind of communion, a sharing in the suffering. For when one hurts, we all hurt. When one weeps, all do. And there will be a day when we all laugh, and dance and sing, and shout amen.
Until that time, when joy runs amuck, we share, we have a communion based in suffering, but a communion where Jesus still gives us Himself, His body broken and His blood shed, for us. This is the hardest communion, it is the sharing in the dark night of the soul, Yet, it is a journey we never take alone. Jesus is with us, even as He endured his dark night alone, He assures us we will never be alone in these times.
As we share in it, may we know the promise of life, the promise of everything being made new…
And may e know He is with us…
( P.S., please pray for all pastors and priests – this weekend may be one the hardest in our ministries, as we try to do…what we really cannot.)
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), 161–162.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
“No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” 1 Samuel 1:15-18
Does our daily anxiety about life seem so important to us that we can find no time to look above it? There is the daily anxiety about food and lodging for ourselves and for those who are dear to us; our profession, our work; there is our responsibility for society in general, for its improvement, and that injustice may cease to exist in it so that all of us can eat our bread in peace and freedom. Does not all that seem so urgent that everything else seems of no consequence? And is that the whole problem? Today more and more individuals are of the opinion that religion is a waste of time, that only social action can make a significant contribution to man’s well-being. As a result, it will require a kind of miracle to make us let ourselves be lifted up to what is higher. But God be praised, such miracles do occur even today.
Christ as a light illumine and guide me. Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me, on my left and on my right.
This day Lord, be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each that speaks to me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, and yet all-powerful. Christ as a light, Christ as a shield, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.
Joseph Ratzinger’s words this morning, written perhaps 20 years ago or more, ring so true today. We see so many things that need to be done, so many things that need to be corrected, so many things that cause anxiety, so many things that have to be addressed, otherwise, we cannot find the time to eat our bread in peace, truly free.
These things are so urgent that everything else seems. not to matter, not to be of importance. Including our religion, our walking with God, our taking the time in prayer, to pour out our hearts like Hannah did.
Last night in our church service, I saw something I have long dreamed of and encouraged. People staying at the communion rail, emptying themselves, even through the tears, finding the freedom that comes as we, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, find that we cannot leave until we have emptied ourselves until we are confident that God has heard us.
Do I like the fact that these people’s lives are so challenged, so anxious that they must look for comfort, for peace there at the rail? No, but I do love that they have come to recognize that it is the place where miracles begin. Where they can unburden, where they can drop the stuff that oppresses them and find hope, where they can find the peace they need.
We need to pray, we need to know what the ancient Celtic Christians reveled in, the presence of God in every moment of our lives. God so intimately involved, so compassionate that He will bear our burdens, that He will help us cope with anxieties, (whether we know what we are anxious about or not)
Prayer isn’t about duty, it isn’t just another task in our calendar, it is where we find the miracle of peace, where we are reminded He is there, where we can pour out our heart, and ask for the faith to leave the burdens behind.
God is with you… prayer makes that truth come alive!!!!
So take the time, see the miracle begin and lead in freedom and peace! AMEN!
(and anytime you want to come and prayer… you are welcome too!)
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
from the daily office: morning prayer of Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 2
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
2 Euodia and Syntyche, please, I beg you, try to agree as sisters in the Lord. 3 And you too, my faithful partner, I want you to help these women; for they have worked hard with me to spread the gospel, together with Clement and all my other fellow workers, whose names are in God’s book of the living. 4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon.
Philippians 4:2-5 (TEV)
10 By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (TEV)
1 I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2 to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3 Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness.
1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)
Whenever on of us had a fit of anger or bitterness or behaved in a manner unbefitting a Christian, Father Gilbert asked him to go prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, so that he could examine his conscience face to face with Jesus and allow himself to be calmed by the Lord’s gentle presence. ( from God or Nothing A Conversation on Faith, by Robert Cardinal Sarah)
The idea of division in the church is not new. Yes, many denominations and associations (brotherhoods, synods, organizations, etc., there) are facing bitter division, my own synod included. There is a battle fo; there is a battle often seen as a battle for survival, and for what we treasure. At times, such a rivalry can be compared to a high school football game, with post-victory celebrations as full of expletives and spewing hatred. I’ve heard and read the promises that we will get them, that they will be crushed. And the despair of those who try to find hope in defeating those who were victorious.
I’ve been there, seen it, lived in, to my shame and grief I’ve been part of it.
And we all know better. Or if we don’t, we need to leave the leadership of churches to someone else.
I once jokingly said that the solution to reconciliation of any large group of Lutherans was to gather them in a room, ply them with free coffee, free Lutheran beverages and accidently lock the doors, chaining them closed. To only open them when every person in the room was able to commune and utter the words, “the Lord is with you” and bless each other with “Christ’s peace is with you” and take the sacrament together, without hesitation, and with joy.
Of course, I would rather do it without locking the doors, to see it freely happen. To be able to say God is with you to those who are in opposition, instead of saying the words from Romeo and Juliet, “the plague be on both your houses.” To quote Lincoln quoting Jesus, “A house divided cannot stand!”
The only hope is reconciliation. The only hope is decisions made, not on a majority vote, but on consensus.
The challenge is that such reconciliation means up giving up the idea of supervision by power and authority, and replacing it with service, with washing the feet of our enemies and adversaries, as seeing their salvation and reconciliation with God as the ultimate goal, as opposed to our group being in power.
And it means instead of going back to the bargaining table, or the floor of the debate, going to the altar, going to our communal refuge. As the Catholic Cardinal noted in his work, allowing Jesus to calm us with HIS presence.
Finding His mercy, finding His love and healing, finding that in being reconciled to Him, we are, miraculously, reconciled to each other. It is from that peace; it is from this point where we learn that washing each other’s feet is more powerful than any resolution. That the presence of Christ is more powerful than any blog, or any political machine. That true worship breaks out when mercy is the basis of our hope.
Anxious, upset, worried? I live in that as well… and the place to be rid of it has some bread and a cup of wine, that is so much more… it is our Christ, our Savior, our Lord, our Healer, our Brother.
Lord, break us and reconcile us, transform us by your presence, into your image. And may your glory, reflected from us as we heal, bring hope to the world. AMEN!
The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance
† I.H.S †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ make the call you hear to repentance one that you must answer. AMEN!
A Week of Why’s
As I look back over this week, it seems rather convenient that I would preach on the gospel. For in nine different very traumatic situations, no, ten situations, it would be easy to sit back and ask with the gospel, “is this why they suffer?”
Why is a family mourning they son/boyfriend was shot dead?
Why is a sheriff’s station wondering why one had to shoot someone, and why a community that normally is so supportive, could so quickly turn against them?
Why is a family being torn apart,
Why is someone facing a brutal betrayal of a friend?
Why did a 50-year-old mother die, just after burying her child last November?
Why did these things happen? Who is to blame? Was it their evil, or what God wrong to allow what happened? Ten situations, hundreds of questions asked, so few answers to offer in response.
In a way, Jesus response to these traumas seems cold, even harsh.
Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3 Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. 4 And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5 No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
What first seems heartless Is anything but. For the questions we ask we may never be answered sufficiently, though we might have a thousand theories, not of which will help us grieve, never mind heal. They just spin and spin our mind around.
Jesus asks us to move past the questions we cannot know the answers to, to contemplate, to meditate on something that has a real consequence, something that we don’t want to talk about, but we need to face.
Will we hear a call to repentance, or will perish?
I Won’t’ Perish, Will I?
I think we all need to ask regularly ourselves if Jesus came back today, would we perish?
We have to be careful with that question because it can lead to both self-righteousness and severe guilt. Both those options are deadly.
Self-righteousness that would lead us to false confidence in our holiness leads to perishing because we will grow to assume we can be holy on our own, and don’t need God.
Severe guilt leads us to believe we are beyond hope, that there is not ability to recover from where we at, stuck in sin.
Even so, we still have to ask regularly the question. Would I perish? Do I love my sin and resentment more than I love God? Have I set up false idols to worship, things that I put more trust in than God? Do I even bother with God in my life except for on Sundays and Wednesday nights for an hour or ninety minutes? Is God welcome in every part of my life?
St Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth talks about this, as part of preparing for communion,
31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32 Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 (NLT)
Most of us would prefer not to do this, to not have to face the unpleasantness in our own lives. It seems much easier to bury it, to ignore it, or more than likely to justify it by pointing to others sins.
It is not the reason others undergo trauma, nor would I ever suggest that God puts us through trauma just to convert us and lead us to change. But Jesus is telling us to take stock of our lives, as these things happen. To really consider where we need Him to change us. To really see the sin that we engage in as the horrible thing that destroys our relationship with God.
Unless we repent… we will perish.
A hard line to hear – even during Lent when we expect it!
The Patience of the Gardener
So how do we repent? How can we be sure we have? Where do we find the strength to do so…
We need to understand this parable of the Owner and the Gardner. We need to realize that the Gardner is God in this passage – that the heart which is patient and wants to give special attention and plenty of fertilizer, to cultivate and cause us to bear fruit.
I love to watch Al or the Chinese congregation members tend the plants on campus. There is a tenderness there, and you could see their mind church as they decide where to dig next, or which rose branch to prune. If they do such a wonderful job, you know God will be doing the something special as He calls us to repentance.
That’s what he does at the altar, as He assures us of grace, as he lovingly nurtures us, as He provides a safe place for us to confess our sins, and hear His promise of forgiveness. It is what he does as we read of the grace and mercy of God, as we see it as we picture Him on the cross, His blood pouring out. This is where he continues to give us special attention, where he nurtures and cultivates our faith in Him.
This is how we come to live a life of repentance, assured of His work nurturing us, pruning us, cultivating us. It is an ongoing process of our faith in Christ. It starts here in Baptism, as God grants us faith and repentance, and keeps on going here at the altar, here as we worship, as we pray, as we study God’s word together as His people.
Because of His work, giving us special attention and yes, plenty of fertilizer, we are assured that we will not perish, that He has called and brought us to repentance, and is transforming us daily.
This is why we live in peace, peace that God promises is beyond understanding, peace He guards us in, our hearts and minds…. AMEN!
King David: Pride and the Altar
1 Chronicles 21:1-19
†In Jesus Name †
May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross!
This is not that story
As we hear the stories of the Repentant, the lives God would change so much that all heaven would rejoice, most people who know the Bible would expect me to bring up David at some point.
I won’t disappoint you.
Well, I will, because I am not going to talk about the little affair he had with Bathsheba, and killing her husband. Simply because that sin, while horrible, doesn’t measure up to the sin of counting his soldiers, of counting the people God entrusted to His care.
Wait, are you saying that counting people is a grievous, horrendous sin?
Hmmm. Dane, have you counted how many people are here tonight? If not, maybe you shouldn’t?
There are, and there are not, greater and lesser sins. In this case, the sin was directly disobeying God, which adultery and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband also are. SO in one way, the sins are equal. It is in their impact on others that these sins differ.
One affects two families and children. That is the sin we know about, the story of lust and jealousy. This one has far more serious repercussions. David chooses his punishment even, and even that stands out. His sin, this time, affects 70,000 of the people for whom he was responsible.
For disobeying God.
He was tempted by Satan, and he sinned gravely.
Innocent people had to die because of it. Well, they were innocent of the sin David committed.
Just like every sin we commit has consequences that affect others.
Even though we might repent, even though we might ask forgiveness, the impact of our sin’s damage on others is felt. Families are divided, friendship’s shattered, lives crushed, because we chose our way, rather than listen to God’s direction, to the life He clearly describes for us to live, that we might bless others.
Disobedience, which boils down to telling God that we know better than He does, that we should be God.
Distressed by the realization of the impact
David asked forgiveness, but there are days where we ask for forgiveness, and while we want to be forgiven, we think that is enough. We don’t always want reconciliation; we just want to be free from punishment. We don’t always want to be repentant, and we just want to be sorry….
As David looks upon the innocent suffering, as David sees the Angel of Death ready to destroy his people, the reaction is different. He is distressed by his sin, he realizes the consequence, hear His words,
“I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O LORD my God, let your anger fall against my family and me, but do not destroy your people.” 1 Chronicles 21:17 (NLT)
This is part of what repentance is, the distress of realizing the depth of our sin, and that sin isn’t victimless. It is what drives us to confess our sins….and beg God to spare the innocent, even as David did.
(after this first half of the sermon, we have a time of silent confession and prayer, and express our hope in God, that is described in the Creed)
King David: Pride and the Altar
1 Chronicles 21:1-19
†In Jesus Name †
May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross
The Altar & the Promise
Even as David and leaders are face down, praying that God’s wrath will be limited to those who are guilty, there is a strong lesson in grace, a lesson that is overlooked.
You see, that place where the angel stands, the place where God commands the angel of death to stop, where he tells him it is finished, is a special place in Jewish history.
It is the temple mount, the very place in the temp that would be called the Holy of Holies. A place of grace, a place where sin would be atoned for, with the blood, portraying the blood of Jesus, the innocent, holy Son of God, taking on the curse of sin, once and for all. The plague would stop, the power of death would be shattered, and repentance, the transformation that occurs to us because of Jesus, is made sure.
For repentance is not just the feeling of sorrow, it is not even just the distress caused as we look at the effect of our sin, repentance is not just the removal of sin crushed hearts and minds, but it is effected by the blood of Christ, the love of God being poured out upon us.
You will notice that God ordered the stoppage before the repentance was complete, and that’s because of His desire to bring us back, the joy of the father seeing his prodigal son seeing the dust from his son’s feet in the distance.
I can’t make this point enough – our repentance, our realization of how badly sin has crushed us.as that repentance becomes real, as it occurs in even just one of us, the joy of heaven is beyond belief. It is as if the entire company of heaven is looking done in wonder as God takes us and heals us.
A moment of great joy, a moment beyond our comprehension… a moment to find His peace and rest and healing… for like David, and Naaman and Josiah, we’ve become the Repentant.