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The Holy Sacraments: Not a Theological Construct, but an Encounter with God

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 After all the people had been baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened, 22† and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.” Luke 3:21-22 GNT

16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16 (TEV)

7  On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. Acts 20:7 (NLT2)

10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11 (NLT2)

Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.

There are several communion services in my life that will always come to mind. One of those had its sixth anniversary this week, as I remember a dozen, maybe a dozen and a half missionaries gathering in Macao one afternoon.

Another was my first Sunday in my journey in becoming a Lutheran pastor. Despite having been the “officiant” at the celebration for years, there was something different that day. Something that went beyond theology, beyond knowledge.

It started with hearing the elder say these simple words to people. Bod said, “take and drink, the blood shed for the forgiveness of your sin.” He said it with such confidence, such faith that each word hammered into the hardness of our hearts. I don’t remember anything else, save for one thing, as these words of God were heard, not just by ears, but by weary hearts and broken souls.

The other thing I noticed was the body language of the people. People I knew from the community, people dealing with more brokenness (I would learn) than I could ever suspect. They approached the altar, hunched over, unable to look up, the burdens of the world, and their own sin so oppressing them. And then, as they received the body of Jesus on their tongues, as they drank from the chalice or the little cups, their bodies changed. They relaxed, the stern reverence was replaced with smiles that were filled with peace, and joy.

I know no other way to explain it, except to say they encountered Christ. They were overwhelmed by His presence, His mercy, His love. And when they sang the traditional Nunc Dimittis after communion, they like Simeon, knew God’s salvation. Not as theology, not as some fact, but something that resonated with every beat of their heart.

That joy allowed them to leave the brokenness behind, it allowed them to be free of what oppressed them. One of my professors would later describe this using the word “incarnational” not restricting the incarnation to an event in the Judean hills 2000 years ago but seeing it happen here. This is what the early Lutherans meant by the sacrament comforting their frightened consciences.

And each of the sacraments does this, baptism, the Eucharist, Confession and Absolution, as we participate, as we share in life with Jesus, who brought us to life in HIs resurrection.

This can’t be adequately explained, even by the best of theologians. The sacraments aren’t something that man has the power to research, to “objectively observe.” But they bring about a healing of our souls, as the promises of God become true for us, as the love of God, in all its measureless dimensions, is revealed, As we are transformed, and that is revealed as well, the glory of God reflecting from us, as it did from Moses face.

Come, let us adore Him, for the Lord is with us. AMEN!



Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession: The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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Be Full of Joy: A sermon and service based on Phil. 4:4-7

Be Full of Joy
Philippians 4:4-7


† In JesusName †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine!  AMEN!

Irritating tunes…

There are in life some very irritating tunes.

You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?

A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…

“It’s” (a small world after all…

There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.

Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..”   (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to rejoicealways

and sometimes we are not in the mood!

Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging.  (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)

And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.

One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
 
Things that joy needs to replace.

But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be.  Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.

The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress.  Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.

Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives.  Those too take a lot of room in our hearts and minds.  And even if we get them, we aren’t always satisfied.  And chasing after, or hyper-focusing on these things takes up room that should be allocated for joy!

Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us.. And when it does, it steals the place for joy.

I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.

For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree.  For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.

9 What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;  1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)

And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.

How did I come up with the list?
          Our conversation with God revolves around these important things

So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?

From the passage of course.  Though I changed the words slightly.

Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other.  Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.

Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.

He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need.  We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.

We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do so, and to fill us with joy, This is the comfortingwork of the Holy Spirit!  As He cleanses us,and fills us with God’s joy!

For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do.  You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it. 

His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…

That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Where Will We Find Ourselves?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for the day:

11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me” g—this is the LORD’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, h but they would not obey.  Jeremiah 13:11 HCSB

We have to be candles,
burning between
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.

And if our life means anything,
if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and
does some good,
it is that somehow,
by being here,
at peace,
we help the world cope
with what it cannot understand.

We may talk about finding ourselves, or our search for meaning, but I am not always sure we are ready to find ourselves.  Each generation has their search, whether it was the boomers in the 50’s and sixties, or the GenX’er, or now the Millenials.  Eventually, the majority of the people will settle down into a life that isn’t truly satisfying.  A life filled with turmoil, anxiety, uncertainty.

Lite I mentioned, I am not sure we are all ready to find ourselves.

Because the search will lead us into what Brodrick calls the “disquieting place”.

We live there, but we don’t want to find ourselves there, bouncing between optimism and pessimism, between joy and sorrow, in a place which is more often surreal than real.

And to be content there… in the midst of the disquiet, in the realm of the dysfunctional, in the place where balance isn’t found, that is when we truly find ourselves.

Because there, we learn to do what God desires, what God designed us to do.

To cling to Him like a pair of underwear!

Seriously, it is in that place where life spins us back and forth between the extremes that we find our only hope is clinging to God.  It is in our relationship with Him that we can find rest and peace, it is in Him that the paradox of life can be put to rest.

In Him, the disquiet turns into a crescendo of praise.

And clinging to Him, we reach outside of ourselves and find that we can help the world cope with what it cannot understand.

It is as we cling to Him, ministry happens…..

So learn to realize the disquiet can be a blessed place as well, and when it isn’t, remember to cling to God like a pair of underwear clings to its owner.

William Brodrick  (https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/  )

Long lost lessons about dealing with feelings of futility,urgency and anxiety.

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”  *Ecc 12:8  HCSB

10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT2)

6  So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. 1 Peter 5:6 (Phillips NT)

Rush, rush, rush! Hustle and bustle! Feverish activity! The mad urge to dash about. Amazing material structures … On the spiritual level … shams, illusions: flimsy backdrops, cheesecloth scenery, painted cardboard … Hustle and bustle! And a lot of people running hither and thither. It is because they work thinking only of “today”; their vision is limited to “the present.” But you must see things with the eyes of eternity, “keeping in the present” what has passed and what has yet to come. Calmness. Peace. Intense life within you. Without that wild hurry. Without that mad urge for change. From your own place in life, like a powerful generator of spiritual energy, you will give light and vigor to ever so many without losing your own vitality and your own light.

“slow down, you’re moving to fast, you’ve got to make the morning last!” came to my mind as I read the words in blue this morning.  Had to look the lyrics up -they come from a Simon & Garfunkel hit some 4-5 decades ago.

I remember a booklet in high school, that I read, and set aside because it wasn’t relevant to me, yet.  It was called Tyranny of the Urgent, and it to came to mind as I read these words of St. Josemaria.  As did lessons in my management program about the danger of managing from a reactive position, and the necessity of waiting patiently to see if things resolve.

As I spend more and more time in ministry, I think we have to learn these lessons over again.  Not passively or apathetically taking no action, but doing so with intent and deliberation, and a healthy dependence upon God. 

That’ is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes had to cope with, as he looked around him and realized the futility of life.  It is what the people in Isaiah’s time needed to learn, as they saw their world falling apart. It is what Peter (OF ALL PEOPLE!) advocates to those under pressure because of their faith.

Set all the things causing stress on God, knowing He will help – and keep us able to stand in the midst of a world trying to batter us, trying to break us.  He will heal us, His victory over sin and Satan and death becomes ours. 

The challenge is in realizing the eternal implications of our life in and with Christ.  My son’s teacher asked him this last year, “will this still be an issue in five years?” We should ask a similar question, “how does this affect our eternity?” and then work from that perspective. How does this situation lead people to God’s peace, or away from it? How will God view us, His children differently if we don’t immediately react?  

Take a breath… adjust, take a walk and spend the time looking for clues to God’s presence. 

God is with you….

Rest in that thought not just a second, try ten minutes, or sixty, or a day!

Repeat that, slowly, “The Lord is with me!”  

Be at peace, be still in and awe of the Lord’s work in your life…. and let go of the sense of urgency, the stress of anxiety, and the condemnation of futility.

The Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1928-1936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
Acts 8:26-40

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip

How Accurate is our Sight?

Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.

We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side.  Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.

But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.

Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of.  He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country.  He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.

And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.

And how differently he must have thought.

How accurate was His,

This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome.  Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.

The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.

1  “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)

The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.

What this means is that this man would face rejection again.  Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.

The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God.   But it also divided him from his own people as well.  No wife for a eunuch.  No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.

Like many of us today.  We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin.  Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.

And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?

That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?

His hope…

Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,

32  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)

And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.

His Hope realized

I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain.  He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..

And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count.  That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing.  We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.

Just like eunuch.

God had prepared this man’s heart.  Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.

As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone.  No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God.  His prayer was answered.

He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.

The lesson we learn..

Maybe you are feeling alone today.  It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world.  Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others.  This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.

And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week.  Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are…..  And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.

God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.

Let’s pray…

We Need to Make the Time for the Miracle…

church at communion 2Devotional 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

Christmas is how close? GULP! Some thoughts on struggle that Christmas can be.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:

19  And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22  let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 (NLT)

But, as St. Gregory the Great puts it, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New Testament is a peculiar kind of “in-between”, a mixture of “already and not yet”. The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.

Two weeks from today is Christmas, a day some are able to celebrate with great joy with those whom they love, who they care for, as meals are shared, as presents are exchanged, as laughter and smiles are contagious.

Yet recognizing that Christmas is only two weeks away causes my anxiety levels to rise.  There are services to plan, sermons to write, music to practice, and most of all, people to pray for and try and find ways to comfort and to try to reveal God’s presence to, so that they can know some peace.

Some are stressed out by finances, or work situations.  Some are broken by their own sin, or addictions, or broken by the sin and addictions of those they love, that have caused deep division.  Some are grieving, and that number has grown this year.  Some are simply wandering, directionless, unable to find anything stable enough to give them hope, even as they drive by churches advertising Christmas concerts, and advent services, even as they set up Christmas trees and manger scenes in their own homes.

I like how Pope Benedict phrased where we are in life, in this time of the dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled.  There are shadows that seem to overwhelm us, to convince us we still are in the darkness. The struggles of life are still there, undeniably, yet there is a hint of the perfect, complete life we know is coming in Christ Jesus.

We are in the time of the “now, and not yet!”  The time where God’s kingdom is here, yet we struggle to see it.  The time when we are in God’s presence, though we cannot see Him,  It is a time where we have to depend on God, but still have so many doubts, where we have to have hope, but struggle to define that, and therefore to express it.

Which is all the more reason to gather together as believers regularly,  To celebrate the fact that we are in His presence, that Christ has cleansed us, that we have been baptized by His blood, and therefore have clean consciences! This all in order that we know, that when He returns, He is not just returning to us, but returning for us.

We gather to encourage each other with these facts, for too often we forget them in the shadows of the world.  Too often we get overwhelmed by sin, ours and that of the world.

There is the hope, that is the real message behind all the decorations, all the mangers scenes – and the lights symbolizing Jesus coming, He whose light shatters our darkness, He who is our light, the Light of the World.  He who is our comforter, He who is our peace.

And for the next two weeks, and until His return, the One who hears us when we cry, “Lord Have Mercy,” and find int he manger and the cross, He has!

So let’s get together in these times, often, so that we can cry and laugh together, and encourage each other, even as we look forward to the day of Chrsit coming.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

No Man is an Island. Neither is the Church.

f68f6ad20bfbc6d47f4c6aab419b44e6e2044849510c043d7b02e848674b9064_1Devotional thought for the day:

5 Then the LORD said to me, 6“Haven’t I the right to do with you people of Israel what the potter did with the clay? You are in my hands just like clay in the potter’s hands. 7If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, 8but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. 9On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, 10but then that nation disobeys me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would. 11Now then, tell the people of Judah and of Jerusalem that I am making plans against them and getting ready to punish them. Tell them to stop living sinful lives—to change their ways and the things they are doing.  Jeremiah 18:5-11 TEV

9 I wrote you in my earlier letter not to associate with those who sin sexually. 10 But I did not mean you should not associate with those of this world who sin sexually, or with the greedy, or robbers, or those who worship idols. To get away from them you would have to leave this world. 11 I am writing to tell you that you must not associate with those who call themselves believers in Christ but who sin sexually, or are greedy, or worship idols, or abuse others with words, or get drunk, or cheat people. Do not even eat with people like that.
12–13 It is not my business to judge those who are not part of the church. God will judge them. But you must judge the people who are part of the church. The Scripture says, “You must get rid of the evil person among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:9-13  NCV

Our goal is not to form islands of peace in the midst of a disintegrated society but to educate people with the ability to transform this society. Therefore, “fruits and results.”

I often hear people misquoting the Book of the Revelation (often mispronounced revelations) advising people to withdraw from society, to come out of Babylon as if somehow they could live a life separate from their neighbors, their family, and friends who do not know that they can depend on God.

Some Christian schools started with that purpose, and there are Christian groups to offer an option to joining secular fraternal organizations like the Boy Scouts, Lions, or Elks.  There are now even coffee shops on church campuses, that some people use so they don’t have to go to that evil Starbucks and grab their venti triple cappuccino with fancy whipped cream and pumpkin froth.

It is as if we want to form special communities within communities, just for those who are good and pure and holy.  It is as we need to create safe islands for believers so that they are not tempted to sin the rest of the evil world.

Will we recognize the gospel there in the midst of Jeremiah’s prophecy, that God will welcome anyone back?  Not just any person, but any people group, any nation.  What a blessed hope!  What an incredible promise!

Will we recognize the wisdom that inspired Paul to make sure we understood that it was sin among the people of God that concerned him, not the sins of the world?  That we aren’t to avoid interaction with normal sinners, but rather to deal with those in the church that struggle with sin first.  Those others, yes they need to be saved, far more than they need us judging them.

Will we hear Pope Francis plea, not to segregate ourselves, withdraw to our own safe places? Rather, as the Holy Spirit works within us, to educate people to have the ability to transform society, to share the hope and peace found in Jesus which will do that very thing.

We have to have more trust in God than we fear the world’s sin.  We have to have more confidence in His love and care than anxiety about somehow being separated from the love of God ( AN impossibility Dontcha know!)

With our eyes focused on Jesus, we need to go to the same places he did.  To those broken by sin, to those blinded by greed, to those who do not understand that God loves them.  To those who are broken, just like we’ve been broken.  We’ve got to invite them into our homes, our churches, into the place of peace and healing we find as we dwell in GOd.

This is who we are in Christ. people’s who work and message is one of reconciling people to God, and therefore to another.   We can’t do that from pristine protected islands where we pretend all is perfect.

So go out there, live and help someone know that God loves them. AMEN!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto,  Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

The Priceless Blessing We Cannot Afford to Neglect…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional thought of the Day:

23  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1) 

The intercessor is a worshipper who has understood the deepest feelings of God and clings to them, despite contrary appearances.

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit, and through the Son.
He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

I am sitting in my office, as I do most Saturdays.  My primary task is finalizing my sermon, the two Bible studies I teach tomorrow.  As I do, there is another task I do… on that can be heartbreaking at times.

It is receiving the prayers that people drop into mention, that text or message me or email me about.  They want to make sure they are included in the bulletin for our people to pray about, or if more confidential, that I will include them in my private prayers. 

This morning has been no different, in fact, one could say “business” has been a bit brisker than normal.  A military person going to Korea, another beloved friend diagnosed with cancer, a friend dealing with diabetes and other health concerns, people with family problems, people looking for a new home, people with family struggles.  There are a lot of people we pray for, an act often called intercession, or petitioning God on their behalf.  Or more simply – we ask God to bless them and care for them in their situation.  That includes praying for healing, for strengthening their trust and dependence on Him, which will give them hope.  Mostly that they would see God acting in their lives. 

This is prayer, this is, in a very real way, communing with God.  Or as the Lutheran confessions (in green) call it, a sacramental time.  Pope Franci echoes this sentiment when he calls it the mystery that is unfolded and revealed, a time of intimate communion, a time where we understand the deepest feelings of God and cling to them.

As I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon, this hits home strong.  Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, he sends the crowds away, and he heads in to the hills to be alone, to pray.  Specifically, the word for prayer is the word for petition.  He has to talk wiht the Father about the people he encountered, He has to bring them into the relaitonship He has with the Father because they matter to both of them!

Add to this the action of the Holy Spirit, seen in the passage from Romans. This incredible thought that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well, praying when we are too overwhelmed when we cannot find the words when we can’t find the words or thoughts to pray.  It is then that the Spirit is definitely interceding with and for us, with words that are inaudible, because the Spirit’s groans,, the Spirit’s pleading is beyond expression. 

That is how much the Spirit cares, how much the Spirit is in touch with our needs, with the needs of those we love, and those they love.

Prayer isn’t some empty time of waiting for an appeal to be heard and decided.  It isn’t a time to do out of a sense of obligation, either to God or to those who ask.

It is the time we have been given to walk with God, to see His heart, to realize His love for them is even deeper than ours.  THat He cares more for those we intercede for than He does for flowers and birds, and if he cares for them and makes them beautiful bow much more for us is He active, then we can relax, we can be at peace.

Such is this priceless gift of prayer, our time with God. And like the other sacramental times, we need to slow it down hear his voice. To let Him comfort our tears, to let Him still our anxious hearts, to help us realize He is with us….even when we don’t know what to pray.

He is with us…

If that is all prayer did,, was make us aware of that, it would be worth it.

Yet to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocating for us, pleading for us, praying with us….. how that helps us… how incredible, how much more does it help us understand the heart of our incredible God who loves us!

Be at peace, the Lord is with you!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

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. Print.

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. Print.

Take the Time and Pray… the Difference is Noticable

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

2  The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3  How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. Hebrews 2:2-3 (TEV)

The first “work” of the priest is to be a believer and to be so always anew and always more deeply. Faith is never present as a matter of course; it must be lived. It leads us into a conversation with God that includes both speaking and hearing. Faith and prayer belong inseparably together. The time a priest spends in prayer and in hearing the word of God is never at the expense of his pastoral duties to the souls confided to his care. People can tell if the words and actions of their pastor have their origin in his prayer or only at his writing table.

As a young pastor, working p/t as a hospice chaplain, and part-time at a community college teaching computer science, I often got caught in a trap, as time was limited.  The demands of caring for my people, studying the scriptures and prayer often became what was cut out, sacrificed to the tyranny of the urgent.

I could justify this, and often hear others do this today.  The challenge is communicating that my need for time in prayer is not because I am holier, or more pious. For I know some will dismiss my advice to make time with God a priority because of such concern.  My denomination has its periods where being pious turned into extreme pietism, so those who advocate prayer and other spiritual disciplines are often treated with suspicion. 

That doesn’t change the fact we need to be communicating with God, we need to set up a regular time to give to God numerous burdens, our pains, our sins, and to listen to Him, as He shares His love, and the promises that flow from that love.  We can’t continue to carry those burdens on our own, they will crush   We need to hear Him say, I am here, don’t be afraid, don’t be anxious.  We need His comfort, for His words and sacraments to nourish and strengthen us, even as they cleanse us from sin.   If we don’t pray, if we don’t spend time listening to God, then our faith, stimulated at the “writing table” shows that we’ve neglected that which we’ve been saved and delivered into, the presence of God.

This isn’t a “pray because you have to, that’s what good Christians do”, this is a pray because you need it, you need to know God is present, listening, guiding, and comforting as we live in this challenge messed up world.

But when we come from such times, of seeing God repair our brokenness, when we hear Him whisper gently as He did to Elijah; then our ministry is not just dry and academic. After such times of intimacy with God, our words become deeply spiritual as well as wise, as our faith is tenable, real, and easily passed on to those we are called to care for, those we are called to serve.

My dear friends, whether you are pastors or priests, Sunday School teachers, elders, those who assist in facilitating the church’s praise and worship, it doesn’t matter your role as part of God’s family.

You need to pray….

And let others know how it helps you, as we struggle through this world so that they will do so, and be able to rest in the love of God.

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.

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