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How Many Opportunities Does the Church Miss?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

45  “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47  I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48  But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49  and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50  The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51  and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:45-51 (NLT2)

167         Make up the time you have lost resting on the laurels of your self-complacency, and thinking what a good person you are, as if it were enough just to keep going, without stealing or killing. Speed up the pace of your piety and your work: you still have such a long way to go: Live happily with everyone, even with those who annoy you, and make an effort to love —to serve!—those whom you despised before.

It is an overwhelming thought that God invests in His people His mission to make disciples from every nation on the earth.

Yet too often we overlook this, caught up in the hectic nature of the world.  Our people are in trauma, our buildings need to be maintained, there are committees to serve on in our community and in our church.

And too often, we let opportunities to serve people slip right by us.

We overlook seeing the broken person standing before us, seeing only someone who is offensive and a pain in the ass.  We overlook another opportunity because we have to get this done or get that done. The tyranny of the urgent causes us to overlook the very people God has brought into our lives so that we can share his love.

The problem is that we read passages like this, and words like mine and guilt sink in, or if it doesn’t, indifference does.

Those reactions cause us to miss the blessing that is inherent in the word of God. If there is a reason to serve and minister to others, to love them and reach out ot them, it is the incredible joy found in leaning on God for the words, in depending on him to calm our nervous hearts, and to see Him speak through us,

The reason we do this isn’t that we have to, but like little children working with their dad, we get to!  It means we spend time with God, we see His love for others,

Then we don’t have to fear our master coming back, for we know He is with us,  Right here, right now, pointing out to us those He would pour out His peace upon, healing their souls, even as He heals ours.

That is what we encounter as we minister to others, our Lord at work.  SO let Him deal with the complacent spirit, the anxiety that would limit your ministry, and rejoice as you encounter the Spirit at work!

AMEN

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 916-920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Real Pastoral Care: Real People & Real Brokenness Being Guided to Jesus

Devotional Thought of the Day:

76 And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,r
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our Gods
by which the daybreak from on high* will visit us 
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1 76-79

Finally priests have been placed in the midst of the laity to lead them to the unity of charity, “loving one another with fraternal love, eager to give one another precedence” (Rom 12:10). It is their task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one need feel himself a stranger in the community of the faithful. They are defenders of the common good, with which they are charged in the name of the bishop. At the same time, they are strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine.56 They are united by a special solicitude with those who have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or perhaps even from the faith. Indeed, as good shepherds, they should not cease from going out to them.
Mindful of the prescripts on ecumenism,57 let them not forget their brothers who do not enjoy full ecclesiastical communion with us.
Finally, they have entrusted to them all those who do not recognize Christ as their Savior.  (1)

As Zechariah considers his son’s birth, as the Spirit fills him, as it will fill John, the words are worth considering, worth being struck with awe.

John prepares a people who are lost, blinded, in fear of death ready for a miracle.  He is to begin to reveal to them their salvation, to ready them for the day when the Glory of God, seen in Jesus, will shine into their darkness.  He would give them the knowledge fo the forgiveness of sin, which his cousin Jesus would actually bring us.

That God, Himself and no other, would come to guide us, to shepherd us into a place of great peace. To prepare the people of God for the arrival of the messiah, that was John’s role, as it is the role of everyone in ministry, especially pastors and priests. (though really, every Christian is in ministry)

Decades before the term “missional” became in vogue, Vatican II noted this when it describes the role of priests. I would include pastors in this, but I want to draw attention to these things,

the are to reconcile
They are to see no one feels themselves a stranger in the community
the are to defend the common good, and the assert the truth – that is to present Jesus and His mercy so clearly that people aren’t blown about by doctrine.

But get this as well

We who are in ministry are to unite with those who haven’t encountered Jesus in the sacrament, who haven’t been trusting and depending on Christ.  We can’t cease to try and guide them back to Jesus.

And if brothers are divided – knowing that Jesus would see us unified, we don’t just dismiss those whose theology is different than our own!

And finally, Vatican II says – those in ministry have entrusted to them ALL who do not recognize Jesus as their savior.

This was John’s ministry, it is ours.  Some will call it being missional, some will call it the apostolate.  I really don’t care which you use, as long as you actually are doing it.  A mom guiding her children, a pastor guiding Hs parish, a friend reminding another that God is indeed with them, and cares and loves them.

This is the ministry, this is our life as a church, led by priests and pastors, we guide people to Jesus, we reveal His love, and then we are overwhelmed again and again, as He works in their lives.

Revealing to us that they are the children of God, the ones He died to reclaim.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, help us lay aside our own brokenness, that we can help others see their salvation.  AMEN!

 
(1)  Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

 

The Reason the Church is Here….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  When they saw him, they fell at his feet in worship, even though some of them struggled to trust Him. 18  Jesus went to them and said, “I have been given all responsibility in heaven and on earth. 19  You area going disciple people of all cultures: by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and instructing them to treasure this covenant relationship I committed to with you! And I am with you ever day, for forever.”   Matthew 28:17-20 (parker’s paraphrase)

To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.

I have to start with a disclaimer.  I want to write nothing about this post, save what you see above.  The charge for us to disciple the world, by helping people enter into a relationship as part of the people of God, and then to teach them to treasure this covenant relationship, this relationship based on God’s plan, on His terms, for Hs is God.  That is the work of the church that is how we are to love our neighbor; that is the work of God, or as my favorite pastor/author noted, the Opus Dei.

These words of Cardinal Ratzinger in blue (later Pope Benedict XVI)  are an incredible description of that relationship, this discipling process.  Go back and read them again.  Go ahead, go do it.  And again, savor the words describing your relationship with God, as you are pulled into this incredible.

But is this what we are about in the church?

Is this what we value in our own lives personally? Do we understand this incredible, blessed fellowship we have been brought into with the Father, Sona nd Holy Spirit?

We need to, and we need to get that this is far more than obeying laws and commandments (though that is part of it).  It is, to use the Old Testament prophecies, the very “being” that is knowing that we God has made us HIs people, and He is our God.

This is what is revealed, from the very beginning to creation to each time someone is baptized or is revived as their sins are forgiven, or are renewed as they take and eat the Body broken for them, the bloodshed to bring them into this covenant relationship.

This is what we treasure; this is what we guard, (which is what tereo means – not just obey/observe) This is what we reveal to the world, it is how we disciple, this is how we live.

Even when we struggle, or doubt, for Jesus is our Lord. And He is with us.

AMEN!

(1)   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. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Revival and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
5  Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.    Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.   2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT)

Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the Gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine

.126      You asked me to suggest a way for winning through in your daily struggles, and I replied: When you lay your soul open, say first of all what you wouldn’t like to be known. In this way the devil will always end up defeated. Lay your soul wide open, clearly and simply, so that the rays of God’s Love may reach and illuminate the last corner of it!

We used to refer to it as “Private Confession” in the Lutheran Church.  Theologically we refer to it as COnfessiona and Absolution, with the emphasis on the Absolution part.  The quote in green is from our confessions, where it is numbered among our sacraments, and in the minds of our forefathers, too great a treasure to forgo.

My brothers in the Roman Catholic church call this the Ministry of Reconciliation, and I have to admit I like that name as well.  It reminds us what forgiveness does, it makes things right, it applies the blood of Christ to our brokenness, it brings healing, much-needed healing to souls damaged by guilt, shame and resentment which comes along with our sin and rebellion,  It is the duty of the church, it is at the heart of its very mission, to  pronounce this news of God’s mercy, of His care.

It is what brings life back, this far too overlooked sacrament, this anxious moment where we trust God enough to lay our soul wide open.  It is then, as the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit circumcises our heart with the power of God’s love, that all which hinders our life.

This is a ministry we all need, for we need the freedom that we find as Christ delivers us from sin and death, as He liberates us from the oppression that can so dominate our lives.

Luther makes it clear, that part of this ministry is too timid consciences, those that are unsure of God’s grace, those that are bruised and battered by their own lives, by their pasts, by the fear that they won’t be accepted by God, or by His people.  That is no different today, as people will  gradually talk to a pastor or priest, as if trying to see if the water is scalding or frigid, only to warm up and get to the heart of what troubles them.

They need our ministry, our time, out ears to hear their confessions, our mouths to say what they long to hear, our eyes and hearts to assure them that the forgiveness we speak, is not ours, but we speak it for Him.

Because this life-giving ministry was given to us.

To stand by their side, to encourage them to cry out to God, to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”

And to know that He has had mercy… and will walk by their side in life.

 

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 312). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 644-647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Not all roads lead to God, yet…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5  God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6  God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7  Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (MSG)

231         I like the motto: “Let each wayfarer follow his way”, the road God has marked out for him, to be followed faithfully, lovingly, even though it is hard.  (1)

It is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a pastor.  It is one that is not often taught in Christian Universities or Seminaries, except maybe a short aspect of a pastoral care class.

It is simple and profound, it wears you our and leaves you in awe.  Here is one of the greatest secrets to ministry:

You can’t minister to every person the same way, you can’t shepherd 100 people from 105 different places along the same exact path.  They need to be drawn/dragged from where they are at to the foot of the cross, to the very mercy of God, poured out as His blood paid for all our sins.

Yet we are trained to use the same materials, the same processes in our discipleship of those in our churches.  Those processes are based in some core thought that is essential ( for example, afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin. ) but how that is applied to the people in our churches should fit a particular process.   it is a big job, but discipleship is both corporate and individual.

Is it any wonder that most churches stop discipleship once people have passed a new members class?   Or if there is is a program, some drop out because it assumes a different starting path, and they are too frustrated to wait and see if it comes by where they are.

I know a great example of this, a lady who is a member of one of the churches I have pastored.  She insists that she is a novice when it comes to faith, yet lives a life a devotion to God.  A life I think is far more “along the path” that she realizes.

So how do you do this?  Do you make everyone take the same path?  Study the same scriptures?  Do you not care if people get lost or bored?  Or do you work with people individually?

It’s the same issue that Paul was talking to the Corinthians about. As they would serve in different ways, in different manners expressing the faith and growth in their trust of God.  Not everyone will do the same things, have the same vocations, have the same exact path to spiritual maturity.

So how do we minister this way, effectively discipling people, shepherding them from the basics of trusting God, to actually walking with them?

Not sure yet, but it will be a lot of what I think through during advent.

Discussion very welcome on this one!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1161-1163). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dare We Pray, THY Will Be Done?

Featured imageDo we Dare Pray:
Thy Will Be Done On Earth?

 

May you be so aware of the grace and mercy of God our Father that you desire and to see His will revealed in your life!

A Picture of God’s Will, made Complete in heaven:

I want to re-read the Revelation passage, that describe what God’s will looks like, when revealed in Heaven:

9  When this was done I looked again, and before my eyes appeared a vast crowd beyond man’s power to number. They came from every nation and tribe and people and language, and they stood before the throne of the Lamb, dressed in white robes with palm-branches in their hands. With a great voice they shouted these words: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!”
11  Then all the angels stood encircling the throne, the elders and the four living creatures, and prostrated themselves with heads bowed before the throne and worshipped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength be given to our God for timeless ages!”     
Revelation 7:9-14 (Phillips NT)

It is the vision of the Nunc Dimitis, the incredible song Simeon spoke as he held Jesus. The song we will sing, having been given Christ’s body and blood…

29  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30  I have seen your salvation, 31  which you have prepared for all people. 32  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Luke 2:29-32 (NLT)

When we pray for God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, we are asking Him to save the world, to bring us all into a relationship with God the father, through Christ.  To see the love of God revealed, to and in the people we know, to see them join the name of those whose names are written in the book of life.

What a thing to celebrate.

For every time a sinner is welcome home, cleansed and made a child of God, the heavens rejoice, and so should we!

Every time they learn to pray and trust to lay everything in God’s hands, including their very lives, the joy of heaven is inexpressible.  God’s will had been revealed in our midst.  Every time we approach this altar and share in His feast…. His will is seen again, for we take His body and blood into us, even as we have been joined to His death, and the resurrection, and added to the number whose voices will thunder His praises!

But Why Would We Hesitate?

       To see this happen, what needs to happen to us?
Do we dare pray this happen?

Do we realize what we are asking God to do?  How He will change us?

What will it take, for Jesus to be that well known here by people here, in our little corner of Cerritos?

it is the same question that Chris asked a couple of weeks ago, when He asked what it meant for God’s name to be Holy in this place.   We are going to have to let God, not Chris or Albert or I, meddle in our lives.

We will have to embrace being uncomfortable, as we have to make sure our traditions and practices work to draw people to Jesus, that what we do and say and think reveal that our lives have been changed by God, and that we are eternally grateful.

We will have to embrace change, as God cleans us up, ridding our lives of our desires, our words and actions that aren’t consistent with His will, strengthening us against the temptation, ridding our hearts of anything that isn’t loving towards anyone.

We are asking God to invade our lives, and rip out anything that isn’t loving, that isn’t reflecting His love and mercy.

Because if His will is to be seen in our midst, it has to be seen in our lives.

You resent others?  That has to go.
You hold on to things people have done and said to you?  Those feelings and thoughts have to go.
You are jealous and envious of others things or relationships or roles because you deserve better – that attitude has to go.
You would rather be safe and secure, rather than be willing to give up all, that some would know Jesus?  Time for that to change as well.
Frustrations, Anxieties, Lust, unrighteous anger, desire for revenge?

They all go, because they will stop you from realizing the will of God, and seeing what God desires happening in your life, in our life together.

Do you still want to pray this prayer?

Are you ready to?

Why We Pray this may be done among us.

So why do we pray this?

Go back to the vision, of people from every place and time, from every culture, from every language coming together in the presence of God – all of gathered as His people, as His family.

To a place where tears no longer flow, where there are no enemies, no adversaries.  Where we gather to celebrate His love, to see the miracle that we are, when we have been saved, and realize that God wanted to do this very thing.

To realize that when we pray this, that God’s will be done, it is being done in our lives, personally, and as a community.  Right now!  When see someone baptized, and united to Christ means they are united to us as well, they become part of that crowd that will be there in heaven, with each of us. This service is a foretaste of that To kneel at this altar with people, to be part of the great company of heaven singing His praises.

You and I, despite our selfishness, despite our sin, welcome into His kingdom, and not just welcome, but welcome as His children, His blessed children He wants to share His glory with.  His greatest desire, His will is that we would be with Him.
May it happen in heaven… and may it happen here and now….

For the Lord is with us, and we know we need to know His will, will be done here in our lives.  So let us spend the rest of this service talking in prayer with our Father…. Amen!

Be a Missionary: Serve All People, including the most broken around us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9  letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10  a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earthEphesians 1:8-10 (MSG)

22  On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; 23  and those parts that we think aren’t worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don’t look very nice are treated with special modesty, 24  which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honor to those parts that need it. 25  And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26  If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 1 Corinthians 12:22-26 (TEV) 

“It’s easy to love the people who are standing hard and fast, pressing on to meet their higher calling.  
But the one’s who might be struiggling?  We tend to judge to harshly, and refuse to try and catch them when they’re falling.
We put people into boxes and draw our hard conclusions, and when they do the things we know they should not do we sometimes write them off as hopeless and we throw them to the dogs.  Our compassion and forgiveness sometimes seem in short supply.”  (1)

600  Serving and forming children, caring lovingly for the sick. To make ourselves understood by simple souls, we have to humble our intelligence; to understand poor sick people we have to humble our heart. In this way, on our knees in both intellect and body, it is easy to reach Jesus along that sure way of human wretchedness, of our own wretchedness. It will lead us to make ‘a nothing’ of ourselves in order to let God build on our nothingness.  (2)

On my mail pile, and about to be in my discard pile is a small poster, challenging people to “become a missionary.”  It saddens me in a way, because the it focuses mission somewhere “out there”.  It is of course, and there are those God is calling to be a missionary in places that are far different, far more “extreme”.   But it overlooks the fact that we are all missionaries, we are all “sent” as the apostles were, to take the gospel into places where only we go.  To our families, to our neighborhood, to our work places. 

We are missionaries when we determine to love those that are struggling, when we reach out to those that are falling, when we patiently work with them, helping them take each step, being there when they cannot.  Being willing to look at their situation, their actions, their lives, not to condemn them, but to realize how much they need God’s love, and how they will have to be nursed back to spiritual health. 

Make no mistake, ministering to the broken takes time and effort, patience and endurance, and mostly, trust in God.  Know that God has given us all we need to minister to them, He has provided all that is needed to see them brought into His family.  They are the ones to whom we are sent, even though the work may bend us over, and we feel like we will break.  If not break, that we will lose our patience, succumb to frustration, or even despair. 

Yet that is our calling, they aren’t just a mission field, they are the mission, they are the ones God has loved enough to send Jesus to die for, and to send us to serve, to minister to, to bring God’s love so that they can find healing.

Perhaps the challenge in doing so is that we have to confront our own brokenness, our own inability, our own failures.  Indeed we must, for it is then we see the power of God at work in our healing, that leads us to the confidence that God desires that they, yes, even they, can come to know that healing.   It is through our weakness, that we see the power of God unleashed, and trust Him enough to do what others see as impossible, There, in our humility, we find the very things they need, the mercy, the comfort, the peace, the love of God, who delights in making us His own.

SO do not fear, do not hide. cry out Lord Have Mercy, and go tho those He has sent you to, that they may learn the cry as well!

(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper One Publishing, pg. 307  (attributed to Chuck Firard)

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2220-2224). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dare to Be Christian Means Dare to Be Broken

Devotional THought of the Day”

Matthew 9:9-13 (MSG) 9  Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him. 10  Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. 11  When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?” 12  Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 13  Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”  

229         Teacher: may you be eager to make your pupils understand quickly what has cost you hours of study to see clearly. (1)

I’ve written about this Bible passage recently – maybe a month ago.  But I was rereading it this morning – and I thought about the context.

The calling of an apostle.

The choice of God of who would write the gospel!  The future bishop of Alexandria, Eqypt, from whom all of North Africa would hear the gospel.

And if you hear it carefully … as the pharisees critique Jesus because of who He hands out with.. you will realize this incredible truth.

Matthew was one of the broken.  He was one of the crooks and riff-raff, the undesirable because of how broken he was.  Broken by the work he ended up doing,   I have wondered before if all the quotes of the propehts in Matthew weren’t just about the need to prove Jesus was the Christ, but perhaps even more, that Matthew knew the need to be re-assured that these promises, that this Christ, came for Him.

To restate it this way – if we work with Christ, if we have a relationship with Him, if we follow Him- – that means – we have been broken.  Broken by our own sin, by our own narcicism, by the sins committed against us, that we struggle to forgive and we sturggle to heal from.

And this is a lesson that we learn the hard way, those of us who have grown up in the church, those of us who have studied for ministry and are trained to be theologians aren’t taught this lesson in Bible Colleges and Seminaries.  We don’t make sure people have learned it  beore sticking them in Sunday School classrooms, or elect them as leaders of the church, or help them

I love what Josemaria Esriva says – we need to teach our people this – that lesson that has been so brutal for us to learn, that we are often dqueamish about about even remembering, never mind discussing.  It’s uncomfortable to dare to do this, to be that transparent, to relive those pains, to remember being that… broken.

Being a Christian is about following Christ, as He comes to us in our brokenness – as He is healing us, He takes us to others whom He is going to heal.

We can teach them about His work in their lives – only because we know.

But that means – we have to dare to be broken…

So we can teach them what has taken us so long to learn…..

and we find it even more incredible…..

God’s come to us. to all of us…

Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (6)

Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (6) (Photo credit: Lex Photographic)

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1157-1158). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Who should lead our churches? Evangelical Catholic Review #12

Crucifixion of Jesus -2011

Crucifixion of Jesus -2011 (Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna)

 19  If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20  I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21  All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22  But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News.  Philippians 2:19-22 (NLT)

  Now may I who am myself an elder say a word to you my fellow-elders? I speak as one who actually saw Christ suffer, and as one who will share with you the glories that are to be unfolded to us. I urge you then to see that your “flock of God” is properly fed and cared for. Accept the responsibility of looking after them willingly and not because you feel you can’t get out of it, doing your work not for what you can make, but because you are really concerned for their well-being. You should aim not at being “little tin gods” but as examples of Christian living in the eyes of the flock committed to your charge. And then, when the chief shepherd reveals himself, you will receive that crown of glory which cannot fade. 1 Peter 5:1 (Phillips NT) 

 

1.     In his manner of life and his priestly ministry, does this man manifest a deep personal conversion to friendship with Jesus Christ? Has he made a deliberate, conscious, and irrevocable choice to follow Christ? Has he responded to Jesus’s question to the disciples, who were shocked by his command to eat of him, the Bread of Life—“ Do you also wish to go away?”— with Peter’s answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” [John 6.67– 69]?              

2.     Does this priest take preaching and teaching as among his primary responsibilities? Does he preach clearly, biblically, and with conviction? Can he make the Church’s evangelical proposal to unbelievers? Can he, with charity and understanding, teach, and if necessary correct, Catholics who have embraced notions contrary to Scripture and apostolic tradition? How many converts has this man made? How many Christians of other communities has he brought into full communion with the Catholic Church? How many baptized pagans has he brought back into a fuller communion with the Church?  (1)

I have been primarily dealing so far this month with the issue of leadership in the church.
We just elected those who will work beside me as the leaders of this congregation, for the next two years.

  • I am in prayer about, and met with other district delegates last saturday, the national convention of our Synod next month
  • I just finished a two day seminar, the third of four, of a program in pastoral leadership
  • Above you see the passages for the two Bible Studies last night.  The first one is our midweek Bible Study, the second for the Bible Study of my elders.

So, it is little surprise when I took up Wiegel’s book this morning, that the topic was his understanding of the new standards for the leaders (bishops) of his church, the Roman Catholic Church.

But what find admirable, and indeed would love to see in my own denomination, is these first two standards Weigel sets, as our own concerns. (replacing of course – Catholic Church, with LC-MS)

What would happen if the leaders of our churches were first men whose lives were formed by a deep friendship with Christ. Whose character displayed such Christ-likeness and the servants heart we see in both Paul’s description of Timothy, and in Peter’s encouragement to the elders.  This is the nature of the men we should have leading us.  Men whose devotion and adoration of God, their treasuring of the first commandment, is the hallmark of their life.  If they were less guided by their own intelligence, their own wisdom, their own inner compass, than by the very kind of love that showed they experienced and reveled in the love of Christ?

What would happen, if the second dominant characteristic was that they could communicate this love of God that they were so sure of, this friendship with God that so defined them, to others with great compassion, great skill, and could do it equally well with those in the Body of Christ, (both those that depended on God and those who rebelled against God)  What would happen if he had a track record of bringing all into a deeper communion with God and God’s people – no matter whether they were mature, sacrificial believers, new believers, those who tried to “cafeteria plan” their faith, or those who were apathetic or antagonistic towards God.  What if they were truly apostolic/missional in this way?

What if we had such men to pastor our church body, what if we had such a man to imitate, even as they stripped themselves of all perks and privileges of being “the leaders”.

What if our priorities were discipling leaders like this, with these two characteristics being more a priority than academics, or linguistic expertise, or knowledge or political savvy?

Lord Have mercy!  Help us to be leaders like Timothy, like Peter… like Paul… as they cared like Christ cared… AMEN

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 122). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Apostolic Mission that is the Church… and overcoming fear…

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day”

 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. 18  Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:17-20 (TEV)

In grasping the outstretched hand of Christ, the Church of the twenty-first century, and of all time, finds the remedy for its fear. It also finds the criteria of authentic Catholic reform: the criterion of truth— for it is the truth of Christ that measures all in the boat that is the Church— and the criterion of mission— for it is by Christ overcoming our fear that the Church finds the courage to be the mission it is. (1)

Even after forty days of coping with the disturbing fact that Jesus died, and the more shocking fact that He had risen, the apostles struggle.  They know enough and desire to worship – but doubt and anxiety, even as it appears Jesus will be leaving them, begins to grow….they begin to waver… to be unsure of what’s next..

He commissions us, the entire church, to share this message.  But then there is the beautiful thing – He promises again, that we will not be alone, never alone, in this work which is our life.  Yeah, I said our lives, lived out in fellowship with God.  You see, mission is now about what we do as believers.  It’s not what we do to prove our salvation, or to become holy and sanctified.  It isn’t about working in the Kingdom, as if it is some other part of our lives. some chore we do as God’s children.  It cannot be – that kind of effort, programmed, built into us, can be used by God for sure….yes we grow in the skills, in the use of words, in understanding the people we serve and love, yet – you can’t plan to grow in love for someone, can you?

The answer to the wavering is in realizing the presence of God.  The “disciplines” we “endure”, the Worship Services, the  Bible Studies, the prayers, private confession and absolution, even things like fasting or almsgiving, is not about strengthening us like lifting spiritual weights, but they strengthen us – because we come into contact with Christ’s strong hand, we realize the presence of God, right here, right now in our lives.  The joy of that encounter is what causes us to be missional – to realize where we have been sent as God’s apostles.   It is His overcoming our fear, our doubts, our wavering, and the complete surprise that He is with us that those things we do have as their objective.  To create a dependence on God’s presence, that is what we do as believers instill in us.

Wavering about what happens next in life?  Where God would send you?  Who around you needs to know about Jesus’ love?   Look first to Jesus.  Find your hand already grasped by Him.  Relax and know His love… know He will not abandon you… and see who needs that same peace.

Go in His name, with Him.

 

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 92). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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