Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6 An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7 For an elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. 8 Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9 He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.
Titus 1:5-9 (NLT)
11 If ordination is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no obligation to calling ordination a sacrament. The ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom. 1:16), again, “My word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
12 If ordination is interpreted this way, we shall not object either to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament. The church has the command to appoint ministers; to this we must subscribe wholeheartedly, for we know that God approves this ministry and is present in it. (1)
. Since only general laws can be made where there exists a wide variety of nations and regions, a special “program of priestly training” is to be undertaken by each country or rite. It must be set up by the episcopal conferences, revised from time to time and approved by the Apostolic See. In this way will the universal laws be adapted to the particular circumstances of the times and localities so that the priestly training will always be in tune with the pastoral needs of those regions in which the ministry is to be exercised. (2)
This summer, there will be a lot of talk in my denomination about the ministry, and in specific the ministry of the diaconate, (Ministry in Greek is diakonos) . Our problem is somewhat in semantics and somewhat an issue of ignorance. Ultimately, it is a misunderstanding of the ministry, and what it means to be divinely called to serve the church.
Without a doubt, those who serve the Church are a gift to the church. Yes ,there is a divine call to not just pastors and priests, but to deacons and I believe any who teach in the church. The need to be trained and examined, and prayed over and for as they take up their roles, their vocations.
But the ministry isn’t about them. The ministry is about serving the needs of those they are called to serve. The people God would call to be His people, His children.
You see that clearly in the Ephesians passage, as we are called to minister, and even a point to which the job is complete. (GULP) But we see it as well, as the Titus passage describes our roles, again using the idea of building up, encouraging, being a Paraclete.
We see this in the idea early Lutherans (the quote in blue from the Apology of the Augsburg Confessions) as ordination is considered a sacrament if the ordination is setting them apart for this ministry of teaching God’s word. (The first president of my Lutheran denomination included in this group all those the pastor delegated such work to as well!) This is why there was a time where ordained clergy not in dedicated full-time parish ministry was not considered “in the ministry”. It’s about the care of souls, about urging them to cross, where they will find mercy and love and peace.
We see as well in the Catholic Church’s cry (the quote in Vatican II) to make seminary training about being in tune with meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the area they are to serve. They clearly understand that what is important is what we do, and our personal identity is to be lost, so that we speak as stewards of the mysteries of Christ. if our training is merely academic, merely the recitation and repetition of the experts who have gone before, and not tailored to give people what they need to know about Jesus, then the seminaries and universities have failed in their mission. (as have pastors who train up Deacons and Sunday School Teachers, and all who have part of our ministry.) What is true fo the clergy is as true for all those who will serve in the church?
It’s about the people being drawn into the presence of God. Our identity as ministers is that of the servant making sure his Master’s guests arrive. The focus then has to be on the guests, their needs, being met by the church, being served by those who have been called and examined and placed there, because God wants them to be.
This is their ministry, God’s gift to them.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
Romans 10:8-15 (NLT)
When then he came, I found him a man of pleasing discourse, and who could speak fluently and in better terms, yet still but the self-same things which they were wont to say. But what availed the utmost neatness of the cup-bearer to my thirst for a more precious draught? Mine ears were already cloyed with the like, nor did they seem to me therefore better, because better said; nor therefore true, because eloquent; nor the soul therefore wise, because the face was comely, and the language graceful. (1)
Today’s average Christian assumes on the basis of this principle that faith is a product of the individual point of view, of intellectual endeavor, and of the work of specialists, and such a point of view seems to him more modern and more self-evident than the Catholic positions. For many today it is hardly comprehensible that a mysterious divine reality lies behind the human reality. But, as we know, that is the Catholic understanding of Church.
In this sense it is said, “The doers of the law will be justified”; that is, God pronounces righteous those who believe him from their heart and then have good fruits, which please him because of faith and therefore are a keeping of the law.
253 These words, spoken so simply, contain no error…. (3)
No, this isn’t about Tom and Bill, and the game this week. But it is what happens on Sunday, and should happen through the rest of the week as well.
It is about something far more important, far more important than another Superbowl, and more accolades. It is about a dynasty, but not an earthly one.
The passage from Augustine, the second quote above, reaches out to when he was expecting a great man to give him insights on life that would change everything. And the man, though a phenomenal speaker, failed to impress. The rest of that passage goes on about how disappointed, and yet relieved, for from there he would go and realize more clearly the love of God
Benedict XVI, (then Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote how this issue has been recycled in our age. That philosophers and theologians, the specialists, have so spoken of faith and Christianity that people don’t always realize that what religion is, is an encounter with the Creator of the myseterious divine reality that lies behind what we perceive as reality. What disappointed Augustine in the arrival of Faustus is now the norm. What Jefferson tried to do, in eradicating the miraculous from scripture, has been accomplished by those who study it until it is dead. Simply put, they have studied it until it is either a complex set of moral guidelines or completely accepted to be a nice set of fables.
That is not the “job” of the theologian or the philosopher. They are, by their labels, those tho are to study the logic, the reason of God (the-logos) and the lover of wisdom (Philo-sophia) Their job then, should be to reveal the God that was revealed to them, to pass on the truth and wisdom and awe of a God who left heaven, humbled himself, served and died on a cross to prove to us that He loves us.
The Lutheran confessions exemplify this when summarizing the incredible truth. God pronounces sinners righteous because they believe, trust, depend on His revelation of His love for them. That belief/trust/faith/dependence is what God sees, as the Holy Spirit transforms their lives. This is what Benedict knows as faith, even as he weeps over its being redefined, not by the world, but by the church. It is the revelation Augustine was hoping to hear. God loves us, and depending upon that love, revelling in it, adoring the God, who loves us, changes us.
Which brings us back to St Paul, and his words to a young church, easily swayed by fancy orators and powerful leaders. People need to trust in God, the God, who will never let them be shamed.
And the way they come to know that is simple. We bring it to them; we send to them those who will reveal that love to them. That is how we do our job so that all can come to know His love.
It’s not rocket science. It is the work of those who understand the word of God, and those who love wisdom.
So do your job, send, be sent, share Christ, and watch the glory of God enfold as the Spirit transforms lives, heart and minds that find peace in Christ Jesus.
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
(2) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 30). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 143). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the day:
17 Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (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)
448 You haven’t been praying? Why, because you haven’t had time? But you do have time. Furthermore, what sort of works will you be able to do if you have not meditated on them in the presence of the Lord, so as to put them in order? Without that conversation with God, how can you finish your daily work with perfection? Look, it is as if you claimed you had no time to study because you were too busy giving lessons… Without study you cannot teach well. Prayer has to come before everything. If you do not understand this and put it into practice, don’t tell me that you have no time: it’s simply that you do not want to pray! (2)
Let’s be honest, most of us hate Mondays with a passion!
The trying to adjust to “reality”, the drudgery of work, the lack of “freedom”, the stress, and the fact that Mondays somehow seem cursed to have everything going wrong. The only thing that is worse, a Monday after a vacation.
If only there were a way to change the anture of Monday, to flip it on its side, to turn it from curse to blessing! We need to see it as a new opportunity rather than a drag. We need to somehow realize that Mondays, like Sundays and the rest of our weeks, is a day the Lord has made!
But it is Monday…. did I mention I hate them? Not because of their effect on me, rather, the effect they have on those I pastor. ( I simply lock myself in my office and study for next week’s sermon.) I see the frustration, the quickness to respond to defend, or attack, the cynical matures that peak, the sarcasm and struggles that turn into great burdens.
Even when what was heard yesterday was. “come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest...” It is as if we expect Jesus to say – well except on Monday – I take Monday’s off!
Here is the secret to Mondays. Sanctify them! Make them Holy! Set them apart as a special day for you to watch God at work in your homes, in your workplaces, in your appointments throughout the day. Spend the day in prayer, talking to God throughout it. Spend time praising His name, giving thanks, asking for His blessings and advice on each part of the day, and listening to that advice. ( I would suggest that you make sure it is consistent with scripture – that’s how you can confirm it is His voice you are hearing. )
That brings up a point – praying – using God’s name as He meant for us to use it, in our relationship with Him is not just a commandment, it is not law, it is the purest of gospel messages. It is a blessing beyond belief to realize we can spend our day walking with a God who comes to us, who will cleanse and restore and heal that which is broken, and that which we break. It is the blessing that transcends all others, this conversation that we have with God, this relationship where He is God and we are His children.
That is why Melancthon and the reformers considered Prayer a sacrament in the Apology… for then it might help men pray more often. . That is why St Josemaria, also noted the need for it to be the basic action of our life. This conversation, this relationship, it is who we are, what we are made for… praying will change us, change our lives, not because it is a forced, but because it reveals the presence of God… here for us.
It will even blow apart a Monday… even if you haven’t started it the right way… take a break… and start talking to Him.
Your Monday will change into a Sunday…
Start with this – Lord, Have mercy!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1986-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Mission: Briefing #2
Our Strategic Plan: Prayer
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
As You look around you, may you realize the great need there is for the grace, the mercy and love that is yours to give, for that is your gift from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
At least we can? Not..
It’s probably a matter of semantics, just the way people phrase things, but I have heard it a lot this week. It’s been said different ways, but it still sounds the same…
“Pastor, we’ll be praying, but if there is anything we can do….” Or
“Pastor, we know there is probably nothing we can do, but we’ll be praying for you and your family…”
By the way, if you’ve said that, I know that isn’t how we mean it. Or at least I don’t think we think that way. Or maybe….. we do.
In contrast – today’s epistle reading takes a different tact…
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
In our Lutheran Confessions, Melancthon wrote of it this way,
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.[i]
So I repeat Paul’s words – and will more and more today, I urge you, first of all… to pray for all people!
Where is our faith?
Whether we realize it, or not, when we set prayer as a secondary action, as a safety valve, we are breaking the first and second commandment. You heard me, we are sinning, by placing another god in our lives, by not calling upon God in both prayer and praise.
Luther wrote about it this way:
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?
Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart;
For faith is not just about salvation, it’s about deacon Mike’s favorite theological phrase! It’s about that intimate relationship we have with God. It’s about trusting Him in everything – and running to Him first when we don’t know what to do, or how to love and care, all that we know is that He is where we find hope, and comfort, and love.
So Paul urges not just Timothy, but us to pray for all people. To get God involved in their situation, to deliver them from whatever is oppressing them, especially the sin and unrighteousness of this world. To pray that God would save them, even as He has saved us. That His grace, His mercy and love that we know – for that is why we praise Him…would be revealed to them so clearly it would knock them over…like Paul was knocked over on the road to Damascus.
You see that’s how we deal with all people! Yes – I mean all people. Pray for those who annoy you, who irritate you, who’ve hurt you, who’ve betrayed you! Put them in God’s hands, let God help them with their hurts, and your will find yourself healing as well. For that is what it means that God is our God – that we trust Him with our who heart – even with our bruised and battered hearts…
For He is faithful and He will reconcile us all in His heart.
We have to grasp the heart of God!
That is really what prayer is about, and why it makes so much sense to put those we care for, and those who we struggle to care for, into the very hands of God. He’s the one who can take care of their burdens, and the burdens and anxieties that they can cause us.
That is why Paul brings in God’s will. He just does not want everyone to be saved – that is a weak translation there. The word is desire; it is a word full of passion and zeal. It is all about His heart yearning to know each and every one of us, to bring healing to us, and you know – that means He has to deal with those we love whose situations break our hearts… and those who simply break our hearts.
For Jesus came and lived and died for each of us, even as we broke the Father’s heart, and occasionally still do. As we get to know God’s heart; as His love is revealed to each of us.
That’s why the great prophecy about baptism in Ezekiel 36 talks about God cleansing us and removing our hard stone hearts and putting in them a heart of flesh and His Spirit – that’s part of the transformation that begins in us when we are baptized, when God gives us His Spirit.
The closer we come to God, the more His love is revealed in our lives, the more we find ourselves trusting in Him enough to give Him our pains and anxieties, which so often include, or are about, or caused by others.
The same “others” that Jesus also hunt on the cross and for whom He died.
That’s what we have to understand, that is what is true – the love of Go, seen as Jesus, the only one who can act as an intermediary between God and man – does that very thing.
We’ll talk about that more in Bible study – but think about this – the reason Jesus can bring God and man together.. is because He is… God and Man.
His heart is for us, and He brings us into His sacred heart – He brings us into a relationship so clear that the more we spend time in it, the more we heal and our new heart is revealed to be His.
But our first step isn’t to go on a crusade…
That is why our first step is not some crusade to go save the world. Our first step is to fall on our knees and ask God to bless people, to help them, that’s why we intercede on their behalf.
It’s not something we do as a last resort, or when we can’t think of something else to do. Paul urges us, literally he comes along side to help us and points out our first step – is to reach out…not to them, but to the Father who will have Jesus intercede in their lives.
This is the strategy of our mission as believers, our mission of the church.
I urge you, first of all to pray for all people.
And Paul repeats the concept – Ask God to help them..
Intercede with Him on their behalf.. even if you don’t like them… ask God to be with them..
Four times in four ways… God asks us this. It’s called a parallelism.
It’s like when you wife, or your mother, tells you to do something… if she tells you twice.. uhm you better listen…
But if she gets to three…
But this is even more important…we’re talking about our eternity here, and about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God…. Like communion its not an individual thing – but a God pulling us all into Him thing. That’s what He does – that’s why we go to Him, and as Paul says – as Paul urges us, we go to Him first.
A last thought: Why give thanks?
As we chew on this, for the heart of God is something we cannot just academically “get”, as we strive to realize what it means that God wants us all, in Christ, reconciled, as we learn to pray for all men, I would ask one more thing….
Why do we give thanks for them? Why are we urged by Paul, along with praying for them, to give thanks for them? Even the politicians and bosses and all that oppress and antagonize us?
Because, when we realize God’s heart toward them, our hearts melt as well… and even more..
Because whether positive or negative influences in our lives…when we are urged to bring them and their situation before God.. wefind we are in His presence… and there…
There is peace. And may your realize that unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
“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.” Apology of the Augsburg Confession Article XIII
Some pastors and people in my denomination, if asked about the sacraments, would probably indicate that there are two, or perhaps three. (In fact, I have heard and read arguments about whether the third (Confession and Absolution) is really a sacrament. As our area pastors gathered yesterday, we looked at this particular article – and how it describes and defines our trust in God. It was an enlightening discussion for both us more… chronologically mature types (4 of us middle age with 20 years in ministry plus) and the three “new guys” to ministry.
I think what we realized, perhaps more than that we need to be encourage each other and our people to look to more than a “new member’s course/catechism” is how much God pours into our lives, His comforting presence, and the promises that are made sure and are guaranteed. THe next day or two, a quick mention of a couple other sacraments – things commissioned by God, to which promises of His mercy and love are attached.
Today though – a quick look at prayer – whether it is reciting the Lord’s prayer, which simply contains everything of every prayer, whether praying through the psalms, or some litany, or whether we are simply pouring out our hearts – letting the Holy Spirit purge us of worries, anxieties, sins, guilt and shame, or just waiting in stillness for God’s promised comfort, this is a holy sacred time, a time set apart – by both God and us, for us to realize His grace, mercy, love, peace, kindness… that He shares with us, that He causes us to abide in…..
And therefore – yes – if calling it a sacrament – which is no stretch… encourages men to pray… to spend time in the sacred manner… walking with their Heavenly Father… then so let us call it a sacrament, encourage it, and teach people to treasure it….
The next to last paragraph of what we shared… is so relavent – and a thought to end with…as we try to live life, focused on Christ, yet assaulted by the anxieties and sins of a broken world…
” 22 Such use of the sacrament comforts devout and troubled minds.”
Comfort us Lord!