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Do They Hear Me Now? A Thought about How those in Ministry have changed (or should change)


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! 2  The shepherd walks right up to the gate. 3  The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4  When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. John 10:1-4 (MSG)

404         The good shepherd does not need to fill the sheep with fear. Such behaviour befits bad rulers, and no one is very much surprised if they end up hated and alone.

I grew up in a time where, if we weren’t afraid of our priests and pastors, we were certainly intimidated by them.  They were often quite stoic, we thought they were incredible holy and pious.  In some ways, they were our role models, but we always understood we would never, ever be like them.  Their lives were a target, and maybe if we were 50-60% of who they were, we would be okay.

Sometimes though, if we didn’t behave perfectly if we missed something during the service, they were terrifying, for we believed that they could speak God’s wrath upon us, and disappointing them, (or more likely ticking them off) was no different than doing the same to God Almighty.

Now that I am a pastor, and I know many pastors and priests, I know the difference.  The best are the ones who clearly aren’t perfect, who are broken and therefore know how to minister to the broken.  They have had the dark nights of the soul ( and such texts prove this is not new to GenX/Millenials) and easily empathize with those who walk with depression and grief, who struggle with sin and with resentment.  Who is well aware that this life is hard, and know that hope and joy aren’t something we manufacture, it isn’t something we create, but it is found at the cross.  Oddly enough, it is found not only as we laugh with the people we care for, but that hope and joy, and even peace can be found as we love them enough to cry with them and as we cry for them.

As I hear people lament the death of the church in America (or Europe) I wonder if this isn’t what St. Josemaria was talking about, what both Pope Benedict and Francis talk about when they talk about pastoral care, and the work of priests and the religious.  Have we, in trying to lead our people in, in preaching about their need for God in their life, scared them off?  Have we tried to rule their lives, rather than guiding them?  Have we forced them into our boxes, whether we are read for it or not?  If we have it is no wonder that we are alone, that our voices echo in empty sanctuaries, that our words fall on deaf ears.

Jesus addresses this as well, as He teaches about shepherds. If we are shepherds rather than “ranchers”, if we guide the sheep rather than pen them in, if we walk with them, they learn our voice, and that voice is one they will respond to, knowing that we care for them. I am not saying they won’t be stubborn at times or get themselves stuck in the mud, but that they will respond.

They will recognize that we are broken people who have found their healing in Jesus, while helping them heal.  They will know God’s love, because they see it in us.  They will respond to our teaching both law and gospel, because they see how we value it.

God is with us… we need that… and they need to see it.

and they will hear Jesus, and be drawn to them.

AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1821-1823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How do I evaluate my church services?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

7  Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8  Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. 9  Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10  Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:7-11 (NLT)

19  And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20  so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NLT)

But the current popular phrases surrounding the worship experience seem oriented around personal perception. “Did you like the worship?” But this may mean, “Did you like the sound?” “Did you like our performance?” “Did you like the preaching?” These questions have more to do with style and preference than the transformation of thought and action. Some have suggested turning the words toward God and asking, “Did God like our worship? Was God pleased with what we did today?” These questions, however, equally misunderstand the purpose of worship. In worship we proclaim and enact God’s story of the world. Therefore, the more appropriate experiential question is “Did God’s story, which was proclaimed and enacted today, make a transformative impact on your life?” Or, “How has the weekly rehearsal of the meaning of human life that is rooted in God’s story changed the way you treat your family, your neighbors, the people with whom you work?” (1)

As I was reading Webber’s quote, I started to think about the way I evaluate the church “services” I officiate.  The questions Webber describes are the questions I have asked, both my members, my visitors, my elders, and staff.

How did you like it, was the experience worth your while? Those questions another hard question, will you be back, will you invest time talent and treasure in this ministry here.  Do you find our church service of value, enough to become part of out community?

I don’t think Webber is saying those questions are completely wrong, but they are not the primary question we need to ask.

Have you met God in such a way that you know He is changing you?  Do you desire that change more now than before?  Would you cry out to God to purify you, because you are confident that He will, that this is His desire, that He wants you to be part of His people?  That if you are struggling with sin, that He would come alongside, and continue to work through you, with you, in you? Basically, that we are no longer talking about His story from a distance or our story as if He is distant?  A million ways to ask it, but the basic idea comes back to this:

DO you and I know, as God reveals Himself to us, that He desires and will make us His people, for He is our God.

After all, that is our role, as agents of reconciliation (see 2 Cor. 5)

And therefore, our evaluation of our church services, whether worship services, or our classes, the work of caring for children or the elderly, or the poor, or the ministry of our people to their family, neighbors, and community comes down to this simple concept.

Are you ready to challenge what you do?

Heavenly Father, reveal Your desire to us, as You heal our brokenness as we dwell in Jesus, and as we do help us draw others to be healed by you as well!  AMEN!

 

(1)  Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Necessary for Ministry: A gentle and humble spirit.


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)

329         We all need to foresee our lack of objectivity whenever we have to judge our own behaviour. This applies to you too.  (1)

If we are to guide people to Jesus and the cross, we need to do it as He did. 

In the passage above Jesus talks of being gentle and humble in Spirit.  Look into the Greek a little and you will find the words underlying those two thoughts include words like empathetic, compassionate, caring, and subservient, self-sacrificing, not proud.  

It is similar to the list of attributes that Paul lists in regards to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the love which is necessary for ministry, for preaching and prophesying.  The unique combination of love and mercy that puts the good of the other first, no matter what the cost, even the cost of death.  An interesting side note to this was from another devotional book of mine,

He reminded us that the scarlet robe of the cardinals is a symbol of their readiness to undergo martyrdom. The Church explains this in the formula: “He who wears it must be willing to defend the faith usque ad effusionem sanguinis—even to the shedding of blood.”  (2) 

It is that love that results in Jesus, and all who imitate and follow him to be gentle and humble in their ministry to others, calling them not to a legalistic obedience, but to hear God, and love Him back by walking with Him, (and therefore obeying, as the Old Testament promised from the law written on their hearts) 

This isn’t an easy way to minister, and like the cardinals of old were reminded that their ministry could indeed include their martyrdom, we who minister, whether lay or clergy, have to be prepared to offer our lives as living sacrifices.  (see Romans 12)  For most of us, that doesn’t include a physical martyrdom, but one of our will, one of our hearts (which are circumcised by God  – Col. 2) 

Which is St Josemaria’s point in the quote in blue. We have to be aware of our lack of objectivity, we have to be able to recognize when “we” get in the way of His work.  We need to examine ourselves and pray that God would eradicate in us the tendency to be proud and the spirit that is narcissistic.

Not because of some legalistic pietism, and not even so that we actually minister more effectively.  Rather, because we are trusting God, realizing that walking with Him is walking in the promise our baptism, and in letting the Spirit transform us (see 2 Cor 3) more and more into His image results in this. 

Gentle and humble, empathetic and self-sacrificing, ministering effectively because we are allowing  ( and we grow to desire this ) God to crucify our egos, our lack of objectivity, even as we are embraced by God on that same cross. We learn to depend upon Him that much.

This is the life of faith, it is time to live it, it is time to enjoy this peace.  AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  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.

They couldn’t be… but they are so…


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35  And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36  I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37  “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38  And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39   40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)

277         Rather than commit a fault against charity, give in, offer no resistance, whenever you have the chance. Show the humility of the grass, which yields without needing to know whose foot is stepping on it.

As I read St Josemaria’s words this morning, my mind drifted towards the passage from Matthew above.  Well, more like the passage smacked me.

We often think of that passage in regards to the needs that are mentioned, which are mostly physical.  Hunger, thirst, loneliness, health issues.   But what about the spiritual issues?  What about that rude person, who desperately needs mercy?  What about that antagonistic person, who is that way because of being in bondage to sin?

Could we really be reaching out and serving Jesus by serving those who are twisted in their brokenness?  Whose are offensive, who are so against us that we would even classify them as enemies?  Who won’t listen but love to argue, and even try to bait us into the arguments?  Or those who are, through no cause of their own, so frustrating we want to give up, to run away from them.

This isn’t easy!  I am preaching on Jeremiah this week, who laments trying to reach out to such people.  He gets so frustrated he accused God of deceiving him, basically saying – it shouldn’t be this hard to share YOUR message.

Which is perhaps why Matthew 25 came to mind.  We can’t pick which people we help, which types of brokenness we will care for, disregarding the rest.  We are sent to minister to the needs of those around us, physical, spiritual, psychological, no matter the cost…

We simply serve, we simply offer that glass of cold water, the listening ear, the prayer, and patience they need.  And on occasion, we even get to see God draw the to Himself and unite them to Jesus.

What a wonder that is, what an incredible thing God has sent us to do!

So next time you see someone roaring like a lion, hurt and bleeding and ready to pounce on you for trying to help, ask God for the wisdom, strength, and patience to be able to do so, knowing you are serving someone Jesus died for… and trust God to provide what you need!

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1356-1358). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where We Can Screwup the Doctrine of Justification


Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

41 Jesus said, “Two people owed money to the same banker. One owed five hundred coins n and the other owed fifty. 42 They had no money to pay what they owed, but the banker told both of them they did not have to pay him. Which person will love the banker more?”
43 Simon, the Pharisee, answered, “I think it would be the one who owed him the most money.”
Jesus said to Simon, “You are right.” 44 Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. 47 I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The people sitting at the table began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.”  Luke 7:41-50  NCV

42 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for you, the living God; when can I go and worship in your presence?  Psalm 42:1-2  GNT

Let me illustrate this shift toward a spirituality disconnected from God’s story by comparing historic spirituality to this new intellectual embrace of forensic justification.
Historic spirituality looks like this: God became one of us in the incarnation. When the Word became incarnate in Jesus by the Spirit, God lifted all humanity into himself and, by his death and resurrection, reconciled all to himself (Rom. 5:12–21). Spirituality is therefore a gift of God’s grace. God has taken the initiative to unite with us so that we may be united with him. Baptism is the spiritual rite of conscious and intentional union with Jesus (Rom. 6:1–14) and reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The spiritual life is the freedom to live in the baptismal pattern of his death and resurrection, dying to sin and rising to the new life in the Spirit. In this ancient model of spirituality, Jesus is our spirituality because we are in union with God through our union with Jesus by the Spirit. His entire life from conception to resurrection is on behalf of humanity. He reverses our belonging to Adam (Rom. 5:12–21). He overcame sin for us (Col. 2:13–15). He destroyed the power of death (1 Cor. 15:35–58). He begins the new order of creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He does all this in the power of the Spirit. Christ now dwells in us by the Spirit and we in him.
Spirituality rooted in justification without the connection to the incarnation and Christology looks like this: We are justified by Christ who has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. Christ is our righteousness. God looks at us through the righteousness of Christ and imputes or declares us righteous in Christ. (This is called the forensic or judicial view of establishing our relation to God.) Now that God has made us spiritual through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to God in thanksgiving by living the sanctified life. The new emphasis in spirituality within Protestantism, in general, is this justification/ sanctification model.

Sixteen years ago, I left the non-denominational brotherhood of churches I was trained and ordained by and became a Lutheran pastor. The Brotherhood had a broad diversity of theology, not just among church members, but in its Bible College and seminaries.  There was nothing that tied the group’s theology together, which made for some interesting conversations over the years!  but this isn’t about them, it is about Lutheran theology, and how it ((and most conservative theology today) screws up Justification.

One of the tenets of Lutheran Theology is that the Doctrine of Justification is the central doctrine of theology.  The first couple of times I heard that I hesitated, and still do on occasion.  Then a wise professor explained it to me this way.  Picture a bike wheel, you have the hub, the spokes, and the actual tire.  The hub is Justification, but it isn’t the only, nor the most important of doctrines, and if you remove any of them, the wheel will fail, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.

That makes sense, but I think today, as Webber points out, we have got the hub but forgotten the tire. We’ve forgotten the reason we are justified int he first place, to be in a relationship with God, to walk with Him, to know His love, to stop the fighting, internally and externally, and simply take refuge in God our Fortress, in God our peace.

This is the error of Simon the Simon, a leader in the Jewish religion.  He had his hub set, the spokes tightened, the rim in place, but he forgot the tire.  He didn’t recognize that God was there, not just to pronounce forgiveness, which is amazing.  He was there to eat and drink with Simon, to share bread, to laugh, to cry, to be with him.

This is our God, whose come to us.  God who wants to share our lives, even as we share in His, and dwell in His glory and peace.   Christ’s death on the cross, enables God to declare us clean, righteous, holy, and that enables us to walk with Him (Or maybe to ride?)  We need to keep this in mind, we need the entire wheel, hub, spokes, rim, and tire.  Missing a part, or getting it out of line, is serious, but the goal is and always will be, to sit down, and eat and drink, to fellowship with Him.

May you enjoy that feast this weekend and always!  AMEN!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

 

Our Attitude Toward “Those” Sinners… Hatred, Disgust, or…


Tau CrossDevotional Thought of the Day:

10  For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight. Isaiah 35:10 (NJB)

210         At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.

If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.

Right now, I am in the midst of the Psalms, and over and over I see the writers of them describe scornfully those who do not follow God.  There is often no call for mercy, no call for mercy, just a call for harsh, blind, and effective justice.

To use Lutheran-speak, there is a great call for the Law to be applied, yet little for the gospel.

As I look through FB post after FB post, I see the same attitude is prevalent among many in the church today.  Whether their antagonist is a political figure or someone in Hollywood, whether it is all of Islam or those who understanding of morality is contrary to that found in scripture, there is a sense that we have to persecute them, that we have to not only separate ourselves from them but make sure everyone knows they are condemned to hell.

We want to apply the law to them, even as we desire the comfort of God’s grace to be shown to us, even in our struggle with sin.  We overlook all of Jesus’ teaching which calls us to love them, to seek out their reconciliation, to seek them out and share the gospel with them.

While I wish we would recognize that there might be a better way that to shout at them and shake them awake from their soul-sleep; I think we need to grow in the grief that St. Josemaria describes.  We need to know the sorrow and sadness that comes from watching people we know, people we should love struggling without God, without knowing His love, without knowing His mercy.

Look at that person you would condemn, is it that impossible that God would bring them home, with the joy that Isaiah describes? It is possible that God would desire to remove the blinders from their eyes, heal their souls, cleanse their hearts?

Or maybe, it is those in the church that need to be awakened. Maybe we are the ones stumbling in the darkness, who need to once again hear of His grace. That we need to experience the depth of His love and mercy and having done so, now want to share that time, that way of the baptized life with the world.

Lord, help us to grow int he awareness of your mercy, your love, your presence in our lives that Your compassion for the lost becomes our compassion, and that we would see them transformed, even as the Holy Spirit transforms us.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

God’s Plan for Your Life, and Your Hesitation


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  Meanwhile, the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18  Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19  Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time. Matthew 28:16-20 (NJB)

198         That way is very hard, he told you. And, on hearing it, you heartily agreed, remembering that bit about the Cross being a sure sign of the true way… But your friend noticed only the rough part of the road, without bringing to mind Jesus’ promise: “My yoke is sweet.” Remind him about it, because—perhaps when he realizes it—he will give himself.

Even as each of us is called into a relationship with God and all of His people, each of us has been given vocations, a great diversity of roles, and the gifts needed to fulfill them.

Yet, there is a common vocation, that of making disciples, for that vocation doesn’t belong to just a person, it is the vocation of the Body of Christ, the people of God.  If we are part of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, we are a people who have been sent into the world.  We have an apostolate, we are to be a mission-focused people.  Wherever we are, whatever other vocations we have, we are called to make disciples of those we encounter.

This way is hard, as St. Josemaria tells us, it can be brutal, and lonely.  It may have long stretches of doubt, of not seeing the fruit of our work.  It is all too easy to notice the rough parts of the road, the problems, and trials that exist on the road. For the work is hard, our Lord even had to die to make our discipleship a possibility, and so we shouldn’t expect this to be easy.

Fearing this hardship we hesitate, (some translations say doubt) We have trouble committing to God’s work, knowing it will take us on a rough road, knowing it will cost.  We hesitate, we wonder if we can do this if we are truly called to it if God would actually ask us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  And Jesus tells us, in the midst of the hesitation, even as we doubt ourselves, “Let’s go, we’ve got people to disciple, even as I disciple you!”

But how can we embrace the roughness?

Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, the joy of knowing His mission, the reason the Father sent Him was for our salvation, for bringing us back into the family.  He suffered in order to welcome us home.  Expecting that joy allowed Him to endure the pain, the insults, the betrayals,  the loneliness.  He saw us, cleansed, holy, redeemed, and was able to see it through.

For us to learn to have that attitude is beneficial, but we have something that even makes it sweeter.  We have His authority backing us, and His presence sustaining us, that the Holy Spirit causes (and therefore is responsible) the changes in the lives we of the people we are sent to serve.   We have the incredibly sweet joy of knowing God is with us, sharing in our ministry, even as we share in His.

So, in the midst of the bitter road, we anticipate hearing the angels rejoicing, as another sinner is transformed by the power of God.  We hear the joy as one is baptized, or bows their knees at the altar, amazed that they are welcome, that their presence is desired. What joy they know, and how joyous is it for us to see!

This is our vocation, for all the members of the Body of Christ, we share in it, in the joy, in the tears, led by or Lord who shares in it all with us.

And that is truly sweet….

So when tired, worn out, struggling, look to the Lord who is with you, and know the joy set before us all.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1034-1038). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Contact Management Software and the Missio Dei


DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:

When it was late in the day, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the countryside and towns around here to buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.”  Mark 5:35-37  NCV  

191         When I speak to you about “apostolate of friendship”, I mean a personal friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart.

On any given morning my email box is filled with thirty to a hundred emails, and about 80 percent I simply delete.  What really irritates me are the ones that are form letters sent out by a contact management software, that try to make it look like they are personal messages.

One recently even mentioned that if I had already responded to the previous email, they apologize for the software not being updated to recognize this and that they would stop sending the email eventually!  I get the feeling that if I called the person, they would not know that they “contacted” me.  I know some of the programs are set up to send letters, pre-written, on a schedule.

They didn’t.  Their software program did.

I don’t mind bulk mail, I understand that missionaries and other churches are busy, and I appreciate copying me along with many others for support and prayer.  I don’t even mind advertisements that are automated.  It’s the idea that someone thinks that they will gain by making the advertisement look like a personal contact.

In the gospel reading this morning, the disciples were amazed by the people wanting to hear Jesus.  I imagine they loved the accolades, the great joy (and a little frustration) that comes with being a superstar, or at least part of His crew.   They were learning about the kingdom of heaven, and they would learn a lesson today.

” the show’s over, they need to go eat!” they tell Jesus. We are done with them, you taught, they listened, some were healed.  Good day, let’s pack it up and get the rest, relaxation, and prayer you mentioned.

Jesus’ reply, “you feed them”

Don’t care from a distance, actually care   Don’t just see their need, make sure the need is met.  You can do it, (Jesus knowing he would supply the food) just do it.

That’s how the Missio Dei works, the apostolate of friendship as St Josemaria describes it. Laughing with them, crying with them, being involved.  Not just monitoring responses to a contact system, but actually getting involved in their lives.   Not just keeping in contact, but being in communion with them.  And as St. Josemaria said, this means there is a sacrifice, there is something personal, face to face, heart to heart.  There is cost, but there is also immeasurable grace, mercy, and love.  For God is there.

As I was writing this, I think back to several conversations recently.  The basic idea of each was that the pastor seemed to be writing the sermons directly to the person that heard it.  Pastors who hear this often reply, “that was one I was preaching mostly to myself.”  They are astonished when they realize how that sermon also touched their people’s hearts as deeply as they struggled with it.

I believe this is evidence of the relationship of people and pastor in communion with each other.  It is the evidence of the apostolate of friendship, the communion of saints that we confess in our Creed.  It is about learning what sacramental and incarnational ministry mean, and it is imitating Jesus.

Get to know those people around you, be their friends, share their struggles, rejoice with them in their celebrations.  Whether pastor or layperson, you need to understand you were sent into their lives, and you get to help them explore the love of God. And as you do, with them you will find His love ever more true, every more bright, ever more glorious!  AMEN!

j

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Mondays, the Wife of Job, and an Uncomfortable Faith…


cropped-will-new-camera-12-2008-167.jpgDevotional Thought of the Day:

9His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” In spite of everything he suffered, Job said nothing against God.  Job 2:9-10

75         Miles—soldier—so the Apostle calls a Christian. So it is that in this holy and Christian war of love and peace for the happiness of all souls, there are, in God’s ranks, tired, hungry soldiers, covered in wounds… but happy. For they bear in their hearts the sure light of victory.

It is foolish of us to regard the demands of faith—which makes unwanted demands on us and contradicts our own will—as “legalistic” and “institutional” and whatever similar terms may suggest themselves in order to shake ourselves free of it and so to sink into the leaden emptiness of a lusterless and selfish existence that receives nothing because it gives nothing. This thought should strike us anew: admittedly faith is uncomfortable, but only because it challenges us, compels us, to let ourselves be led where we do not wish to go. In this way, it enriches us and opens for us the door of true life.

There are Mondays, and there are Monday’s in which people around us act like Job’s dearly beloved, wife.  Actually out of the 142 days that have passed so far in 2017, too many have been Mondays, and it seems as many have had people like Job’s wife in the background.

Or maybe I’ve met Job’s wife as I look in the mirror, as I see the trauma of this world, the suffering of people, and I utter those words, directed to myself.  Maybe not curse God and die, but perhaps curse God and find a cave to hide in, give up, find something else.    

I know the tired hungry soldiers, covered in wounds who try to minister to the people of God.  Who struggle to work with people, trying to reveal to people the love of God who will cleanse and heal their hearts, their souls, their minds.  It doesn’t seem reasonable the pain endured by missionaries and pastors, teachers and other church leaders.  

I know the weariness of Job, slammed time after time with disaster and trauma, and I would pray for the faith to praise God when He provides times of discomfort and growth as well as the times where everything clicks right. For there are times we are led where we don’t want to go, there are times trusting in God makes us suppress our own desires and want, and sometimes, even our needs. We also suppress our own despair, recognizing it for what it is, and how Satan would use it to isolate us from the comfort and peace found in Jesus.  There are times we are called to be like Jesus and need to rely on His Holy Spirit to sustain us, even as He was sustained.

We can either curse God and run/die, or we can trust in God’s faithfulness in His promise of comfort and peace.

It’s hard, and often we waver, but He is faithful.  And when we stumble, we can let Him pick us up, cleanse us again, and lean on Him in this journey of life.

The victory is sure, the hope of glory is ours, and He is here, and will never abandon us.

Amen.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 535-538). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

It’s Time to Make Jesus Known!


     church at communion 2It’s Time to Make Him Known!

Acts 17:16-31

I.H.S.†

 May you see Christ so clearly revealed through His word and sacraments, that the grace of God our Father, and our Lord shine brightly through you, to those who need to know His name!

Deeply Troubled, Are We?

Imagine walking around Athens as Paul did, waiting for his friends to show up.  This capital city, formerly the capital of the world, this place that might cause wonder, disturbed him greatly.

Scripture says he was deeply troubled, deeply and profoundly bothered by what he saw, what he experienced.  Wherever he looked there was idolatry, people trying to find hope, and looking to man-made things to provide hope.

Broken, weary, unfulfilled desires become even more broken as their false gods revealed themselves to be nothing but a bunch of rocks.  These people that were searching for answers, those who led them who loved to hear of new thoughts about God, they all needed a God to depend upon, a God to turn to, a God that would be there, a God who would help.

It wasn’t the first time, 600 years before, Diogenes records that Epimenides, a philosopher from Crete was sent for because no one had an answer to their problems, a plague, a drought, a famine all at once went through the land.  Epimenides looked at all the temples, all these false gods and idols and suggested that the answer was that their prayers and sacrifices didn’t work because they didn’t know the real God they could pray to….

And so they made an altar to an unknown God, and prayed, and dedicated an altar with the words agnosto theo – and dedicated the altar to the unknown and real God, asking Him to save them, asking Him to hear their prayers.  For a few centuries they remembered this God and His mercy, then, like many others, they forgot this nameless, faceless, benevolent God.
As Paul arrives, the altar was probably near ruins, the story all but was forgotten, and the people were back to looking anywhere for an answer.

But it was time to make this God known… even as it is today.

Can People Pray to A God they Don’t know?  Will He answer them?

This passage plays havoc with what are called closed theological systems, or those systems that people close off themselves. It has caused a lot of debate, especially among conservative Lutherans.  Because it isn’t beautiful and tidy, and God doesn’t fit in our box.

For example, there is the question of people praying to a God whom they don’t know.

We know we can’t find God if all we are using is our own reason and strength, that is solid, basic theology.  But does that stop them from looking for Him?  Does that stop them from praying to Him, begging Him for help.. and to reveal that He is present here.

Well, rather than just say yes, let me share a few passages, starting with today’s reading,

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

and then this from Solomon’s dedication of the temple

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  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. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)

And one more, from the Large Catechism, one of the primary documents describing our faith,

All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[1]

Unless of course, someone reveals God to them, as God desires!

So is it wrong for people to pray, even if they aren’t sure who God is?  Will He hear their cries and respond?

Of course, for He desires to draw them close, to save and deliver them into His Father’s presence. Scripture tells us this is God’s will, His desire, to draw everyone to Himself, to cleanse them from sin, to restore them as His children.  He will never force us, but He will always hear us and care and love us.

Paul was sent to Athens by the Lord to do what he did, to reveal to them that He was their Creator, but also that He was their redeemer. He died and rose from the dead so that He could judge the world, and judge us just, righteous, holy, the people who could cry out to Him.

If you kept on reading, Paul would speak to them more about the resurrection from the dead that he mentions in verse 31.  There Paul mentioned that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead,   Some would stop listening to then, others wanted to hear more about it later, including some very learned people.
They heard about the God who would come and die, to deliver them from sin, and the power of death.  They would hear about the God who rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, the God who would draw us to Jesus lifted on the cross, where we would die with Him, our sin nailed to that cross.  And then, as He rose from the dead, so do we, forgiven, cleansed, separated from sin, now children of the Father.

For the unknown God has made Himself known, and calls us to be transformed and trust in Him.

And so we do, the broken finding healing in Jesus, while we reveal Him to others as Paul did.

This is our life in Christ, for in Him we live and move and exist. For we are His children.  AMEN!

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

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