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Church, its time to end the pity party!

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional Thought of The Day:

20  But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. 22  And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23  Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Jude 1:20-23 (NLT2)

When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent.… Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us?

This damage is so unspeakable that it may not be recognized by a rational process, but only from God’s Word.  10 No one except God alone can separate the corruption of our nature from the nature itself. This will take place wholly by way of death in the resurrection.

Over the last few days, I have seen more and more lamenting (okay, complaining) by the people of God in American. Oh no! Tthe government is stopping us from gathering. Oh no! We have to sue because the government has banned singing. Oh no! Churches are being vandalized,  we must defend “our” churches. People are wondering if the end times are here.

It is as if we believe the pandemic has put an end to the Great Commission, or that it has put on pause the commandments to “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”  that the church should just hunker down, go on defense and wait for the pandemic to end.

I am as guilty of this as any… but it is time to stop.

As I prepared a devotion on Jude’s letter to the church for this morning, I was struck by the context. There was a demonic attack on the church, there were false teachers, and scoffers who mocked the gospel and those who trusted in God. They dealt with famine and plague. They were dealing with real persecution, as people were killed if they didn’t dismiss God. Even Michael the Archangel was remembered, and how he depended on Jesus, more than on his own prowess.

Tough times the early church.

So we are not the first!

God read Jude’s next words to the church above again.  Seriously, go re-read it.

In the midst of all those challenges, God says minister to each other and to the world!

Help strengthen each other’s faith. Show mercy and help those whose faith is wavering, who are struggling to depend on God, show that compassion and care to people who are so pressed by the times that they aren’t sure He exists!  They need us, really we all need each other.

He also mentions rescuing people who are close to being judged, whose idolatry and sin are drawing them to condemnation. In the midst of all the trauma they were facing, all the spiritual warfare, Jude calls the church to be the church, to be the place where broken and sinful people find help and compassion, and mercy.

This si the time for the church to act, for you and I to take seriously a call to action. Not to defend the church, but to be the church, blessing the world.  Luther notes the damage of sin s so horrible we cannot even see it, unless God exposes it. and if that is true, so the rest, that only in God can we find hope. That is the hope the Catholic Catechism speaks of, that it talks about confessing.

This is the hope people need, so desperately, a hope that we can be there to share with them, even over 6 feet of distance.

This is our time, the time for us, as the people of God, to be the light that is needed.

it is not time to sit and pity ourselves.

Heavenly Father, Your works through men are glorious, so glorious that the people become etched in our memories. Lord help us in this time of the coronavirus, empowering us to encourage those whose faith is weak, to reach out and show mercy to those who are unaware of it, and live lives dominated by sin, shame, and guilt. Lord, Help us to be your people, those who are being healed in Jesus while helping others heal. 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 506.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 467.

We have a place in this world!

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46 But Paul and Barnabas bravely said: We had to tell God’s message to you before we told it to anyone else. But you rejected the message! This proves that you don’t deserve eternal life. Now we are going to the Gentiles. 47 The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth. Acts 13:46–47 (CEV)

1533 Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world.

THE FIFTH (Commandment)
“You shall not kill.”
10 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.

As I was working through my devotions this morning, in the back of my mind was lurking the idea of what difference do I make in this world.  I know I am not the only one who is pondering this. This virus situation has taken away from so many how they perceive they are valued, as jobs, schools, and interaction with people that would normally give their life meaning has been stolen away.

I have friends whose children are graduating from junior high school, high school, college, and graduate degrees.  They cannot celebrate these accomplishments in normal ways, stealing from them the celebration of their endurance.  Preschool teachers I know, who live for interacting with their kids, and getting hugs, cannot. In my case, my primary joy is communing people – the 50-70 people that show up on a given Sunday, and have not been able to for the last 8 weeks. This has been my dream and desire, and I believe my calling since I was 8.

It is brutal to our psyche, to our mental health.

It is wearying, and those around us, who are going through the same things, feeling the same pressures, are struggling with each other.

And hope is given and taken away with every newscast, with every internet article.  The roller coaster of our heart and soul seems to have no one at the controls, as we are wildly whipped around, and unable ot catch our breath.

The Catholic Catechism, notes our common place in life is found via the sacraments. That in that grace pouring out on us as we are cleaned and united to Jesus, we find our place.

We find we are being made holy, that we share in the same vocation as the Apostle Paul, as those tasked with sharing the news that God loves us, that God is with us, that we can, (and should) help other people know this!  Not just in church on Sunday morning, but throughout our week, in our homes, our zoom meetings, our telephone calls.

God has placed us here, (even as the Father sent Jesus) to be a light to the gentiles. e

We do this by loving them, and helping them and befriending them in every possible way. Including the incredible necessity, they may not be aware of, the necessity to know God’s presence. The necessity to know they are loved, the necessity of knowing they have a place, and God redeems the world.

This is hard to see and easy to get distracted from by the cares and pressures. It is a place that takes up our entire lives, and yet..happens best when we don’t force it, but we simply live in this amazing relationship with God.

This is our place.. this is where we find out ultimate meaning in life, as the ones whom God loves, as the ones He shares His greatest work with, the recreation of everything.

Let us find our peace and joy, there, as we work side by side with Him.  AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 383.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Small Catechism from The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.

How the Church is Not a Sanctuary…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Listen when anyone in Israel truly feels sorry and sincerely prays with arms lifted toward your temple. 39 You know what is in everyone’s heart. So from your home in heaven answer their prayers, according to the way they live and what is in their hearts. 40 Then your people will worship and obey you for as long as they live in the land you gave their ancestors.
41-42 Foreigners will hear about you and your mighty power, and some of them will come to live among your people Israel. If any of them pray toward this temple, 43 listen from your home in heaven and answer their prayers. Then everyone on earth will worship you, just like your people Israel, and they will know that I have built this temple to honor you.  1 Kings 8:38-43 CEV

884    You are full of weaknesses. Every day you see them more clearly. But don’t let them frighten you. He well knows you can’t yield more fruit. Your involuntary falls—those of a child—show your Father God that he must take more care,….   Each day, as our Lord picks you up from the ground, take advantage of it, embrace him with all your strength and lay your wearied head on his open breast so that you’ll be carried away by the beating of his most loving heart.

One of the names often used for the church building is a sanctuary, a safe place. Usually, that is interpreted to mean that we have found a place to hide from the world. Indeed, there was once a time in Europe when those in authority could not remove someone from a church, even if they were wanted for a crime.

But if we think that is is a sanctuary from the world, as in others arent welcome into it, as if it is the place of protection from those who are sinful, who are broken, who are oppressed and even possessed by evil, think again.

It is not.

Solomon made that clear, at the dedication of the temple – all are welcome in the presence of God, all are invited to pray in those places where God puts His name, where He makes it clear that this is where He will meet with all of us.

Age doesn’t matter, color doesn’t matter, ethnicity doesn’t, even the sins you have committed ( and don’t ever doubt they are sins!) do not matter.

For church is the place to come and discover that God loves you enough to erase those sins, to wipe them out wIth the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, cleansing you of that sin. And that isn’t just for the little white lies, or the gossip that is listed along with sexual sins and murder.

It is about all sins, your deepest, darkest sins that your thought you buried and concealed, along with the sin of your neighbor which you said is so bad that it makes you want to throw-up.

You see, that sanctuary is first a place to come and be restored from your own brokenness, it is the place to come to be healed when you are broken. Look at the prayers in the scripture. It is our own sins that we need to know are forgiven, it is our own brokenness that we need to know will be healed. That is the prayer that we need to know will be heard.

These places aren’t a sanctuary from others, They are where we find healing in communion with each other, as Christ heals us all.

That is something the church needs to remember, especially when the time of brokenness is upon us, as it is now.  We need to help others see that God will pick them up, even as He has picked us up!  We need to help them be comforted by Him and carried by Him.

Even as we are!

Heavenly Father, help us to know your presence in our lives. Lord lift us up, and help us to bring others into Your Holy Place, that wherever You are, they will know Your mercy, and Your Love, and Lord, help us rejoice in the sanctuary You provide for all of us, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who is Your Man? Luke 14:1-14

If you would like to see the video of this sermon and the service it was part of, please check it out on my Facebook page or Bit.ly/concordiacerritos
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Who is Your Man?
Luke 14:1-14

I.H.S.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace, allowing you the chance to look around, and see others need for that comfort and peace!

Who is “this man”… for you?

As they settled down for dinner, all attention was on Jesus, the “honored” guest.

I say “honored” that way, because the Greek is clear, they were on guard, not sure about what he was going to say.  They had heard cool things about His ministry, the miracles, the crowds. But they also heard about the concerns, that people had claimed he was a blasphemer, that there had been mobs that had tried to stone him, and that many of the pharisees stood against them, perhaps even the one who invited him this night!

and off in the back, was a man no one noticed.

How he had gotten there, it doesn’t say.  The pain levels he was encountering were severe.  Whether the swollen legs were cause by heart failure, or by blood clots, or diabetes, we don’t know.  But they didn’t have water pills in those days, and his legs were many times larger than they should be.

Even still, he was there, this man that was overlooked, and not one noticed.

Except Jesus.  He did, and despite the opposition, he performed a miracle, and healed this man!

Which brings us to my sermon question for this day.

If we apply this passage to your life, who is “your” man?  Who is the person in need that you are overlooking? Who is in need? Into whose life had God drawn you, so that you could help them?

The Parable and the Man

After Jesus heals the man, he sends him off.  Then he talks to the pharisees and the experts in religion about what He had done and whether it was kosher to do it on the Sabbath. They had a paradox to work through, an ethical dilemma.  Minister to someone in need, and break man’s interpretation of God’s law, or obey God’s law and leave the man in pain and in danger of dying?

They can’t answer.

So Jesus tells the parable, and gives them direction.  We need to realize that Jesus wasn’t changing the subject, this is the same context, the same conversation.

So who is the more distinguished person Jesus advises everyone to leave the best seat for?

Looking at the text of the entire passage, I think it is the man who is hurting, the one whose body is broken.  The reason I say this is the words from verse fourteen,

Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

The most distinguished people in God’s way of thinking, are those in need.  Whether it is because they are physically broken, mentally broken, or spiritually broken by sin and its partners, guilt and shame, these are the people that have value in God’s mind. 

For when you care for them, you are caring for Jesus

I mentioned those broken by sin, by guilt and shame. I think we need to examine how we treat those people. I am not just talking about sinners like murderers and rapists, I am talking about those who have trouble with envy, or gossip, lust, or using God’s word in the wrong way, to curse or swear.  We can add those who don’t use God’s name to praise or pray to Him as well, or who run to other gods, like drugs or sex or work, rather than depend on God to bring healing to their brokenness.

They are the people, these people that are broken and crushed by the weight of sin, that we need to be aware of, that we need to see, that we need to serve.  They are the people that we need to invite to feast, and it was for such people that this place, this altar was put here. 

Not for people who think they have a right to them

But for those who are broken, for those who are sinners

For you and I…
.
The Gospel – for Jesus, “this man” is for you

You see, you and I can have several roles in this story. Far too often, we are like the ones who try to get the best seats in the house.  That needs to stop! We can be like Jesus, seeing those who need to see and hear and find healing.   That should be our goal, and every single one of us needs to become accustom to seeing and inviting those God is preparing, those who God would see us help. 

But before we are ready to imitate Jesus, we all need to see our role in this story as being the man with the swollen arms and legs, the man who is broken and needs healing. 

The sinner who Jesus comes to and says, “Friend, we have a better place for you!”

We have to realize that is where we start, and as you come to communion this morning, hear Jesus’s voice calling to you, bringing you here, and remember that He is healing your brokenness.

For that is why He died on the cross, to take than sin from us. That is why we united to His death and resurrection in baptism.  That is why the book of Hebrews echo’s Jesus invitation,

16  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)

My friends, we need to think through what He’s done, to remember this death we proclaim every time we commune, to remember the forgiveness that is ours because His blood was shed for us.

As we look around this room, and around our community, looking for these broken people God values, may we never forget He looked around, saw us broken, and invited us to dine with Him.  AMEN!

Show Me the… Works?

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (TEV)

Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.

Even more upsetting, the devil can take your best works and reduce them to such dishonorable and worthless things and render them so damnable before your conscience that your sins scare you less than your best good works. In fact, you wish you had committed grievous sins rather than done such good works. Thus, the devil causes you to deny these works, as if they were not done through God, so that you commit blasphemy.

That is why it is important to learn and practice all one’s life long, from childhood on, to think with God, to feel with God, to will with God, so that love will follow and will become the keynote of my life. When that occurs, love of neighbor will follow as a matter of course. For if the keynote of my life is love, then I, in my turn, will react to those whom God places on my path only with a Yes of acceptance, with trust, with approval, and with love.

In the movie Jerry MaGuire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character lashes out Tom Cruise’s character with the phrase, “show me the money!” Except it is not about money. It is a plea for Tom’s character Jerry to show how important the relationship is, that it isn’t just about the money that can be made from negotiating a deal.

Inside the Christian faith, our actions often speak louder than our words. They testify as to whether the words we say are true, or whether we are those who call out “Lord! Lord!” and yet don’t have a solid relationship with the Lord, in fact,t hey don’t have a relationship at all.

It is not about our works, it is not about the obedience, it is about the relationship. Works simply testify that the relationship exists. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, we think with God, we feel with God, and love follows as a matter of course! That love causes action, it creates the work, but the work is never apart from the presence of God.

We know we aren’t saved by works (the Lutheran phrase based on Ephesian 2:8-10) and there is nothing we do that merits salvation, it all depend on the grace of God which precedes anything (which is the way the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent put it in Session Vi chapter V)) Yet the faith that depends on God for salvation will result in praise and worship – the latter being what we do with out lives.

Luther’s concern in the green text above must be heard, if we are to understand his version of “Faith Alone.” He isn’t denying the believer can do good works, or encouraging them to not even bother with the idea. Our good works, done in communion with Jesus Christ, are to be encouraged, extolled, and the glory given to God, whose light we are simply reflecting by those works. An attitude that denied this, that caused us to view the our good works with disdain Luther considered influenced by Satan!

As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession puts it, these works are the result of the impulses the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. This doesn’t sound like we are denying that the Christian can do good works, does it?

And that is the point we need to clarify, that we need not be afraid of trying to do something the Holy Spirit is driving us towards. It my be simple, like holding the hand of someone struggling with old age and being feeble. It may be sitting and reading the catechism with a child, helping them to know God’s love. It could be something different, like heading to Africa or Asia on a mission trip. It could be… well, you fill in the blank. What is God calling you to do?

Then do it, and we can both rejoice in the faithfulness of God, who is close enough to you to put that idea on your heart, and give you the desire and ability to see it through! AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 212–213.

Joseph Ratzinger, 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), 276.

I don’t fit in… which is such a blessing!

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21† For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. ! Cor. 1:21 GNT

54    Conform? It is a word found only in the vocabulary of those (“You might as well conform,” they say) who have no will to fight—the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly—because they know they are defeated before they start.

In the last couple of months I have had to consider the unusual way I have done things in life, and especially in ministry. If I look at my MBTI score, I should not be a pastor If I hear the words of my internship supervisor (and T’s words often ring in my head), I shouldn’t have been a pastor. I didn’t graduate with my intended minor in Bible and Preaching, I went back years later and got a degree in business. I became a non-denom pastor, and then moved into a more organized and formal denomination, confusing those I left behind and those I joined! Both my roles as a circuit counselor and as a Regional Vice- President (the first working with 8 churches, the second over 80 and being on the district Board of Directors) I backed into, as the one elected ended up moving shortly thereafter.

So I don’t fit in, and sometimes, I confess, I feel proud that I don’t. There is a little fun being the non-formist, and more than a little freedom.

More often though I wish I did. I wish I understood the logic of the majority more, and those in power. When I don’t, i can begin to feel left out of the discussion, and alone, even in the midst of 500 people, I can feel alone. Sometimes very alone. Eerily so, as if I am not in the same moment of time, slightly out of phaze with everyone.

Yet there, it is easier to see God at work, I believe. Because the focus is not on our appearance, iIt is easier to see the brokenness around us, and the need for healing that only comes through the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus.

If we don’t focus on conforming to the world, and even to those in the church, there is a freedom to minister to others, a freedom to worship God based on His revelation of His love. You don’t try to become a clone of this preacher, or that theologian. This makes spiritual development a challenge, a time where you have to depend on God more. It gets us out of MEME Theology and the cute quips of populist theology. Which means it applies to this life, this context, these people we interact with in a way conformity,

Conformity doesn’t guaranty knowledge of a God who did the unthinkable, who came to us, Who loves us, who provides and cares for us, healing us of our brokenness. The God who comes to us simply, who uses simple things, a cross, a tomb, water, bread, wine, and a few people who don’t fit in. He confounds the world, and its rules that it demands us to conform to, just as His gifts require unity, and yet an incredible diversity. Our identity is our, yet found only in our relationship to Jesus.

Lord, help us to desire to conform only to Christ Jesus, and help us be patient, with, others and ourselves, as the Holy Spirit causes and makes this transformation a reality. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 286-288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Future Of the Church is Simple…Who will imitate you…?

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT

2  To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)

Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.

[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.

As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.

As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.

If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”

Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?

It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.

It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.

As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,

This is the future of the church, this is its hope.

Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.

It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.

Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!

This is our past, and our future.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Question We Should Have Been Asked! (and all should still ask!)

Devotional Thought for the Day:

12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.
Romans 12:1-3 GNT

The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”

for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)

Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.

Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)

But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.

Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.

Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

Are you?

I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.

We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.

Much more.

It is about the stuff of life.

It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.

It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.

It is what being a pastor and priest is about.

It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.

So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”

And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)

Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. AMEN!

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. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Hope for Believers (and Churches) Burnt Out, or Just Going Through the Motions

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12  Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13  Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14  Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” 16  The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17  All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18  Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. Acts 19:11-18 (TEV)

We need to “go out,” then, in order to test and experience our own anointing and its power and redemptive efficacy into the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness longing for sight and prisoners under so many evil masters.

It may sound harsh, but I wonder today if the church is more like the sons of Sceva than like the Apostle Paul.

We go through the motions, we say the right things (at times) we have a good intent, but we lack the faith, the trust in a God we know, to truly minister to others the way we should.

As our efforts don’t result in any significant change, we slowly give up our our outreach. We begin to rely on what others have said or written, rather than express our awe of God directly. We rely on canned presentations, Bible studies written by someone we’ve never met, who doesn’t know the people we study with and/or teach. Prayer and meditation on scripture become things we will do “when we have time”.

And we wonder why we ministry seems a drain, why people don’t realize the blessing that church should be, and why they never are free of their demons.

The more we do, the more the church gets focused internally, the more church politics rips us to shreds, the more churches close their doors, or become places that focus on things other than Jesus, and exploring the incredible dimensions of His love, experiencing what we can never completely explain.

So what is the answer, how do we go from a church of Sceva’s sons, to being an apostolic church.

How do we live out the work of God that became possible when the Holy Spirit called us, when God the Father united us with Jesus, and the same power which raised Him from the dead gave us new life?

I think Pope Francis has the answer, just “go out”, trusting in God enough to go where there is need, to the broken, to those who are blind and suffering, to those who are prisoners . Asking God to make His annointing of our lives known in our lives as we minister to those He puts in front of us.

In order to know that, we have to know He has indeed redeemed us, that we are His people, not because we are so good, but because He has indeed redeemed us. As a pastor, everytime I baptize someone, everytime I give someone the body of Christ, whether the person kneeling at the altar, or the shut-in in their home, or the counselee, whose burdens are lifted as they experience the love of God, the lesson of my own redemption is renewed.

I’ve seen the same thing when parents assist in their child’s baptism, or a sponsor assists in the friend who has come to know God’s love. Our faith is renewed, our dependence on God becomes a great joy, and we realize the world without hope is indeed full of God’s hope.

You see the church may sometimes act like the sons of Sceva, but she isn’t. She may be depressed, and dejected, focused on survival more than mission, but her Lord is with her, strengthening her, giving her life, and urging her to go to the broken in the world, with the assurance she doesn’t do so alone, or on her own power.

We go with the Lord and Giver of Life, empowered by God to do the works He has planned.

This is our call.. this is who we are..

Let’s get back it, walking with our God.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 190). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

My prayer… for your prayers!

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28 Agrippa said to Paul, “In this short time do you think you will make me a Christian?”
29 “Whether a short time or a long time,” Paul answered, “my prayer to God is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become what I am—except, of course, for these chains!
Acts 26:28-29 GNT

Don’t recoil: your life is going to be a soothing of suffering. This is why you are a disciple of the Master! Your worst enemy is yourself, because your flesh is weak and earthly, but you have to be strong and heavenly. The center of gravity of your body is the world; your center of gravity must be Heaven. Your heart is all God’s, and you have to consecrate its affections entirely to him.

I wish we all had the gift? the dedication? the ability to think on our feet and do so in such a way that people think we are trying to “make them a Christian.”

Even more I wish and pray for our hearts to resonate with Paul’s prayer to God.

That we would desire that all those around us would become as we are, people who depend on Jesus. Not that they would have to live lives as broken and complicated as ours, but that the result would be the same. That they could know their need for God’s work in their life, that they could know His love, and the comfort of His presence.

This is what the quote in green is getting at. From the forward to St. Josemaria’s classic “The Way”, it notes our job is to be the soothing of suffering, the ministry of comforting those broken by sin with the incredible, blesed new that God desires to forgive their sins and heal their broken hearts and souls, and have them dwell in His presence forever.

This is why our Lord Jesus died for us on the cross, so as to no longer call us servants, but brothers.

Agrippa needed to get this, as do you and I, and our neighbors, co-workers, our family and friends, they all need this comfort,

they all need this hope…

they all need the peace that comes from knowing God is present, caring for us.

And we, as the children of God, have the ability to care for them, to share.

Heavenly Father, as the Spirit transforms us, I pray that our hearts resonate with Paul’s prayer, and that we would care that the people around us would become as we are, as You are healing our hearts and souls, as the Spirit comforts and transforms us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Savior, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 72-75). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. ( from the introduction )

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