Devotional Thought of the Day:
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God. ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)
695 In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.
As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.
The amount of trauma and conflict (more of the former than the latter) I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.
So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him. Can? I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.
At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words! Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.
I need to… I really do.
Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing. For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.
WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.
Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others. Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.
including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.
What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken? What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little? How incredible is that? How amazing?
Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.
As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!
What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth s of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. Eph 4:10-16 HCSB
They are to be carefully instructed in the art of directing souls, whereby they will be able to bring all the sons of the Church first of all to a fully conscious and apostolic Christian life and to the fulfillment of the duties of their state of life. Let them learn to help, with equal solicitude, religious men and women that they may persevere in the grace of their vocations and may make progress according to the spirit of their various Institutes.
In general, those capabilities are to be developed in the students which especially contribute to dialogue with men, such as the ability to listen to others and to open their hearts and minds in the spirit of charity to the various circumstances and needs of men.
675 It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgment. Have pity in your heart and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity.
There is a term I was introduced to when I became a Lutheran pastor.
It was “seelsorge” or caretaker of souls. It is similar to the idea in the Anglican Church of being a curate of the church, The person responsible to see people guided into God’s presence so that their hearts and souls (and often more) can be healed.
But that just doesn’t include the members of a congregation or parish. It is the entire community. As St Josemaria reminds us, those whom we might discount because of their past may be called to something “more.”, they may become the giants we are looking to as examples.
It doesn’t matter if they are the mouth of the church, or the heart, hidden away, praying in their prayer closet. Our job as the caretakers is to make sure they have what they need, the ability to depend on God because we know Him. This drives the ministries of the church, This drives the work of helping everyone mature in the presence of God,
To help people grow in their dependence (for that is what faith is) in God, to help them grow in knowing and experiencing His love as He is present in their lives, Vatican II was correct. Those who minister, those of us who pastor and care for souls need to know how to guide them. to help them be conscious of their calling and being sent out into the world, of what Catholics call their apostolate, what Protestants call being missional.
We are to train them, to guide them into the presence of Jesus, into knowing His mercy, His love, His gift that cause us to dwell in peace. This isn’t just the pastor’s job, it is the work of every minister in the church.
It is who we are… it is why we exist, and it was what we need to be trained to do. I really think that needs to become more and more how we train our pastors, our deacons, our elders and various ministers of the church. It is more important than knowing the trivia of scripture or knowing the all the theological information there is. We have o know God is with us, and we have to teach God will be with them.
We have to know how to use God’s word, to administer the sacraments in such a way that people know they belong in God’s presence, whether they are young or old, male or female, whether their sin is hidden or notorious. Whether they become ushers in the church or the next Augustine or do the really critical work of teaching the children of the church. (which is all to often overlooked!)
This is the ministry of the church. The caretaking of souls entrusted to it by God. Not just the recognized members of the church.. but the church.
Lord have mercy on us and help us to be trained and train people to care for souls. AMEN!
What do you think the hardest part of caring for souls is?
What do you think the greatest blessing is?
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1568-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring.
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first. Job 42:10-12 HCSB
670 Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!
Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness. Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome” a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.
As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear. I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.
I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me. There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings. They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.
Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.
So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?
If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.
No, absolutely not.
While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42. It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.
It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.
And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.
He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.
And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.
25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB
There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it. To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger. This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.
Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all. And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”
For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10 If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11 If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? 12 Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (TEV)
11 May our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus prepare the way for us to come to you! 12 May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you. 13 In this way he will strengthen you, and you will be perfect and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all who belong to him. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (TEV)
26 “The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. John 15:26 (TEV)
21 So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.
Luther’s words about the first commandment are always convicting to me at first. For it is too simple to set up an idol. We can make them out of anything, ranging from money and worldly success to our dreams, to our honor.
Whatever we place our hope in, whatever we pursue as if attaining it will give us peace, that becomes our idol.
Even if it was something that was given to us by God for good. An example of this is the Bronze Serpent, a foreshadow of Christ, that brought healing to a situation, that people later worshipped. The same for Gideon’s ephod, and later relics and holy objects. These should have pointed us to God, but sometimes we forget the reality of God and focus on something that should remind us of Him. We can even do this with our church life, where we only want certain hymns or songs, or we want a certain kind of sermon or lesson. Because that is what gives us comfort.
Solomon’s words out of Ecclesiastes should help here, especially when taken along with Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit. Two are better than one, and when the One we are tied to is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, it is His immeasurable strength that holds us as one. The same with the promise in Thessalonians, the work God does in our lives to strengthen us.
This gets to the heart of faith, why it is more than simply knowing the facts. Faith isn’t depending on the facts, it depends on the God who draws us into Himself. Who cleanses us from all our idols (see Ezekiel 36:25).
Even in this sin of idolatry, it is too hard for us to overcome ourselves. Again, even as we struggle with this, God is at work, healing us, cleansing us, comforting us. He is incredible that way and has shown His continual patience, patience that wisely tempers His jealousy. Yes, God is jealous when you turn away from Him to idols of your own making!
We need to learn to trust and depend upon Him, We need to realize that He cares, that He wants to help, that even the things we don’t like that He provides, (like broccoli or the situations that cause growth!)
He is good, He loves you, more than you know, and the only way to grow is to experience that love.
So I pray you do this week… and that we all can learn to rejoice as idols are removed….
The Lord is with you! Rejoice!
What things do you struggle to trust God with? What things might offer more comfort than God at first glance?
as always, comments and discussions gladly accepted
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther: FIrst Part, The First CommandmentTappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 367). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments. 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing •fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors.
23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy, 2 Chronicles 30:18-23 HCSB
462 The power of charity! If you live that blessed brotherly spirit, your mutual weakness will also be a support to keep you upright in the fulfillment of duty—just as in a house of cards, one card supports the other.
I have read this Bible passage before. and yet it struck me this time as a critical part of the love that is shared between God and His people. What amazing lesson about God and His people!
Despite the sin of the people, and despite them following the proper methods and rites for being cleansed of those sins, the prayer of Hezekiah was heard, and those who were supposed to be shut out were welcome to the feast. (even the foreigners and aliens among them if you keep reading down to verse 25)
The people prayed for weren’t pure, they weren’t holy, they shouldn’t have been included according to a strict reading of the Law of Moses. Hezekiah should have just told them – forget about it, take a year, study more, ensure you know the right way to appear before God, then we will welcome you back.
He didn’t. He prayed, acknowledging the sin, and asking that God would provide the atonement, the satisfaction, the healing that would allow these people to enter into the celebration of God and His people, and the life that is ours as we dwell in God’s presence.
And as James would right centuries later,
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT2)
God heard the prayer, healed His people, and the party began. A party that was supposed to last a week, and lasted two. A party that resulted in people giving away their riches, of the congregation having more money than the people could give, and of those who were previously unclean going home, and removing from their lives of all of their idols. (see Chapter 31)
Not by command, they just knew this was how they could live, assured they were God’s people. This is the power of charity, the power of love. You see it in the prayer of Hezekiah (would all church leaders have this heart!) who prays on behalf of these people. You see this charity in God, whose love Hezekiah knew so well that the Spirit could lead him to pray on behalf of those who were sinners and unclean. You see this love in the people, bound together in celebrating the love of God, and in their charity/love in their destroying their idols
This needs to happen in the church today, for this is how the church is revived, how it is renewed, how it returns to its First love!
Let us pray †
heavenly Father, cause the hearts of your leaders to be so filled with your love, that they think of those who are cut off, who the world says aren’t clean enough. Lord, help us, for their sake, pray that they would know that Jesus has fully atoned for them, that they are welcome to this feast of those who love You, who would walk with you, depending on your love. Move our hearts Lord, and may all those around us come to dwell in Your peace, in Your Presence. AMEN!
NOTE: If you have been made ot feel like an outsider by the people of God, please forgive us,
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1128-1130). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 Then the high priest took action. He and all his colleagues, those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the •temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 In obedience to this, they entered the temple complex at daybreak and began to teach. Acts 5:17-21) HCSB
14 Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Is. 49:14-16 HCSB
378 Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith.
It is not easy to be critiqued, even when the criticism is constructive. When it is influenced by rivalry, by hatred, when its intent is to tear you down and hurt you, it is, even more, a test.
St. Josemaria would tell us to be optimistic and make a passing reference to Romans 8:28, that all things will work for good for those who love God. If you didn’t know his history, you would think him more than a little naive. Be optimistic while people are trying to destroy us? While they are work to tear us down?
We might even feel like the Zion in the second scripture reading above. We might think that God has abandoned us, that He simply forgot we were here, suffering oppressed, attacked. We might think that we need to raise the defenses, that we need to be prepared to defend our Lord, our church, ourselves. For if God has forgotten about us, who will defend us? Or at least that is what we think.
But Isaiah’s words remind us gently, that God can’t forget us, that He could not. His involvement in our lives is as close, as personal, as intimate as a mother nursing her child. Thinking about us is as inescapable as a tattoo on one’s hand, or the scars made by a spike through that hand.
This is how the apostles could keep their minds off the threats issued by the Sadducees and Priests. Their direction was to tell people about this life, this way of living in the presence of God.
So they went and taught people.
About Jesus, about His love and mercy, seen at the cross, seen as He accompanies them through life. They stayed focus on what gave them hope, what brought them peace, what would make a matter in this life and for eternity. They knew nothing could separate them from God.
And such a focus knows that God is still in charge, that God will see is us through.
God is with you!
So go, ignore the threats, ignore the criticism, and simply teach people what they need to know about Jesus.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 958-960). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)
350 In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.
Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.
Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over.
A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing. And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.
It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned. I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.
Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.
And we need to take that time. We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it. As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this? That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully?
They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well. I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him
Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“•I assure you: The one who believes in Me l will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14 HCSB
21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. John 17:21
This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
There are times when I question why prayers aren’t answered. For example, why my son has to have the genetic disorder I have, or why friends battling cancer aren’t simply healed. We pray, earnestly, reverently, continuously for miracles of this nature. Yet the answers to these prayers are too far in between for my liking.
After all, Jesus said, if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
Even more than, I wonder why one of Jesus’ prayers go unanswered.
Why can’t the church be one, as the Father and Jesus are one?
Why can’t that prayer be heard, and answered?
Why can’t the church be one?
We have one mission, to reveal the love of God, seen so clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the acts that give us hope and forgiveness, and prove His love. That’s what we have to do! It’s not rocket science!
Our worship is supposed to do that, to teach people what they need to know about Jesus, to reveal that God doesn’t want to stay alone, that He sought a response to the love He would show us in everything, our creation, our redemption, our being made His people. People that have a God that wants to love and be loved.
If the greatest Catholic theologian of the last century and the Lutheran forefathers can agree on this fundamental role of our gathers as believers, can’t we start there? Can’t we start in prayer, and in meditating on God’s word together? Can’t we find unity as we consider the sacrifice of Jesus and the love that comes to us at the altar?
Is that asking too much?
To hear His prayer, and to find the answer to that prayer, not in the halls of academia, but in the church together, on our knees in prayer, lifting up our voices in praise, considering the gifts given in His Body and Blood?
Let’s ask this together in His name…
Lord, Have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Question to think about:
Should working toward unity, the unity found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus be a more important issue in the Church today?
If you are a nonChristian, or even on the border, would the leaders of local churches trying to work out their differences make a difference in the way you view the church as a whole?
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12 to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)
Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office. (Italics mine)
Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind. (Italics mine)
Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time. I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition. I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.
There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley. The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people. A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate. It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people. It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!
We don’t always get this correct. Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church. Pastors don’t save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church.
We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.
Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don’t understand this. They don’t get that the ministry is God’s, entrusted to the entire church together. It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God’s desire to reconcile all to Him. Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry.
Such a responsibility isn’t to be hoarded like Gollum’s precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks. Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines. It is best done, when all, so in awe of God’s love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God. Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.
We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.
It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.
Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world. AMEN!
Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print. Italics mine
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2 to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3 Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)
705 Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.
A society that tends to turn people into puppets of production and consumption always opts for results. It needs control; it cannot give rise to novelty without seriously compromising its purposes and without increasing the degree of already existing conflict. It prefers that the other be completely predictable in order to acquire the maximum profit with a minimum of expenditure.
I often receive advertisements for books and seminars about Christian leadership. Books that talk about the management of the church, the proper way to administrate things. Some bring the best and brightest of secular management and leadership theorists into play. This is nothing new, as names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Steven Covey have long tried to bridge the gap between secular leaders and leaders in the church. Most of the church consultants I know use those kinds of models, those kinds of systems.
By leaders, I mean anyone who leaders, whether it be the Sunday School leader, the deacons, elders, or altar guild, or the pastors and denominational leaders that go by terms like Bishop, President or even Pope. My favorite title for a leader, and I have heard every Pope in my life refer to it, is their title, “servant of the servants of God.” Not the King, or the Lord, or high exalted leader but the servant of those who serve.
Back to leadership itself. I think the problem we often see when secular leadership style and theory come into play in the church is the idea of profit. Not necessarily monetary, but the idea of profit as in return on investment (ROI). I’ve seen this as churches prepare budgets, as denominations determine where to plant new churches, and whether to close other, smaller churches. The latter because they use up too many resources (money, land, building space)
St Josemaria calls us o think differently, to work with the love of God. Not just putting in the hours, but truly investing our talent, our knowledge, our competencies, all bathed in the love of God.
Francis likewise warns of turning the church into a puppet kingdom, where we strive for results and growth, forgetting the person’s needs, and basing outreach on maximum profit for minimum expenditure. I’ve seen this in meetings where rather than come alongside smaller churches in urban areas, advisors tell them to become legacy churches, closing and selling their properties to help growing churches thrive. We want predictable and sure methods for growth or revitalization, something with a quick turnaround, rather than something that might consume us.
We come full circle back to Peter’s epistle then, where he tells us not to do out work for pay (whatever the “payoff is – it might not be money) Rather we should do our job from a desire to serve, even as our Lord served. To work, not demanding this and that of those we are entrusted to, but by being examples to those we care for, investing in them, not expecting them to invest in us first. We need to love them, not manage them, Just as Christ loves and guides us, with gentleness and care.
This is contrary to modern business practices, yet it is the nature of ministry, of serving others, it is the nature of imitating Christ Jesus, who expended it all to save a bunch of corrupt and often shameless sinners like you and I.
May we lead our people into the peace and wonder that is found as Christ is revealed, as He ministers to, cleanses and makes us Holy. May we all find that healing available only in Jesus, as we help others heal.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter But 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.