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Will You Let His People Come?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  After this, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘This is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says, “Let my people go, so that they can hold a feast in my honour in the desert.” ‘ Exodus 5:1 (NJB)

1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.
2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith. (1)

Hear, Lord, my prayer; let not my soul faint under Thy discipline, nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee all Thy mercies, whereby Thou hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that Thou mightest become a delight to me above all the allurements which I once pursued; that I may most entirely love Thee, and clasp Thy hand with all my affections, and Thou mayest yet rescue me from every temptation, even unto the end (2)

Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful34. For in the liturgy, God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer. (3)

All of the above readings are selections of my devotional reading, and they all have one thing in common.  The people of God were responding to His love, to His call, to be in His presence.

For as people come into His presence, as they are made aware of His love, as they begin to understand it, something wonderful happens.  Augustine describes this transition so clearly and begs God to help preserve it.   It is a state of being where we are completely freed from anxiety, from guilt and shame, and we find rest in God’s presence.

The Augsburg Confession describes how the sacraments help bring about this awareness, as do the writings of Vatican II.  That the liturgy brings this awareness out, as God’s love is revealed through the word, delivered in the sacraments.  It is in these events that our faith is surely strengthened, our love of God and each other grows.

So now to the Bible passage – the Pharoah, who will hear these words from God over and over.

“Let my people go!”  Put slightly differently, “Let my people come and feast with me.”  It’s not a request from God to Pharoah.  It’s not a suggestion.  Pharoah will pay for his obstinance, for his attempt to block the will of God.

I sometimes wonder if the church is acting more like the Pharoah than it is acting like Moses.

We hold people back from coming into God’s presence.  We won’t let them go, and feast with God.  Consider…

*  We don’t let them go when we put man-made systems and rules in place, which then deny them the desire God is putting in their hearts.

*  We don’t let them go when we think they aren’t interested, or won’t bother, and we leave them in the suffering slavery of sin.  ( Israel wanted nothing to do with Moses a couple of times in the process, remember?)

*  We don’t let them go when we think they aren’t the right kind of people. (Check out Ex. 12:38 it wasn’t only the Israeli’s that were counted among the people of God in the Exodus!)

*  What kept running through my mind during the devotion is that we don’t let them go, when we let our fears and anxieties stop us from letting them come among us, the people of God.  Those who are fleeing violence, or drugs or war.  When we tell them, hundreds of thousands of you in need aren’t worth the risk

In this last case, I am saddened by the number of church folk, people who claim to follow Jesus.  As He is being lifted up by missionaries “on the ground” working with those refugees and they are coming to know God’s love, we are sending them a different message with our posts that they aren’t welcome, by the political leaders comments that we share, men who say just shut the borders down completely, and offer no option to helping those in need.  We are showing those in dire need that we are more afraid of man than we can trust and obey in God.

We won’t let them come, because of fear.  We won’t let them come to a place where they will hear of Jesus and find out about his love.  We won’t let them come and feast with them.

Are we any different than Pharoah?

Read the blue, green and purple words again, and remember what Jesus said about if He is lifted up, he will draw all men to himself.

Reach out to all around you, and help them come to know Jesus.

One last thought, from last Sunday’s reading from the Old Testament

 And those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.   Daniel 12:3b (NLT)

It is time to shine, people of God, and find out there are far more os us, than we ever thought, as God draws people to Himself.  AMEN

 

 

 

 
(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 35–36). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

(3)  Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Unity of the Church, Seen in the Ministry of Reconciling People to Jesus…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

11   (He, Jesus) filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher 12  to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, 13  until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (MSG)

2. The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. (1)

The person who wants only the God whom he has invented for himself—how is he to be certain that there is a God, how is he to love one who never answers him? But God has come to meet us in our groping search. He speaks to us in the community of faith, he challenges us, he lives among us. That know-it-all pride that wants to put itself above the Faith of the Church and her living community inevitably ends in an aversion for God and for itself. In the community that God himself has formed and that comes to us from his love, he can be loved in return. It need hardly be said, then, that love of God is never a private relationship between me and him who is both mystery and eternity. The community that he created includes me; hence this love is returned to it and transcends it because God wants to unite all of us in a single city of eternal peace  (2)

7 Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ  (3)

I’ve been thinking a lot of the differences in the churches recently. I hate the divisions that exist in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church we confess in the creeds. .Even as I respect the people who take the division seriously, and lament it, even as they recognize the need for it.   (that is another blog… we can’t simply dismiss the differences)

One of the things we do agree on, is the need of people to know Jesus, not just to know of Him, but to know Him.  Which means being drawn to Him, to find Him in the midst of His people, the life of Christ into which we are called is lined in the community of faith.

Both Vatican II and the Lutheran Confessions agree on this, as would most pastors, even if we don’t agree on what the church looks like, the need of Jesus’ involvement in people’s lives is their greatest need. 

For knowing Christ brings joy, even as it removes all guilt and shame.  Knowing Him means that our brokenness is being healed, that our lives have meaning that extends beyond this moment.  The mission, the apostolate that God entrusts to us is incredible.

Incredible because of the change that occurs in the life of the disciple.

Incredible because of the trust God places in us.

Incredible in view of the unity we find with each other, as we find ourselves in God’s presence. In His finding us, we end up finding each other….and as we see people come to know God’s mercy, they become part of His people. That we are being bound together in Him extends over all other things that could divide us, even as we struggle (or should struggle) to see those things settled, not as compromises, but as brothers with one goal – being in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, the hope of unity is there… because He is.

Lord, bring you church together, reveal to us that we are one, even as you and the Father are one.  Lord have mercy upon us.  AMEN..

 

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 226). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

(2)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 226). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(3)
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Christian Religion; A Confident, Holy, Healing Walk With God.

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 10  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that Day the heavens will disappear with a shrill noise, the heavenly bodies will burn up and be destroyed, and the earth with everything in it will vanish. 11  Since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, 2 Peter 3:9-11 (TEV)

26 Augustine also reminds us that we would understand the word “faith” in the Scriptures to mean confidence in God, assurance that God is gracious to us, and not merely such a knowledge of historical events as the devil also possesses.

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. (2)

As I was going through my devotions this morning, there was a simplicity to the various readings I do.  It’s Monday, so a review of the basics seems appropriate.
The definition of faith found in the second quote got my mind moving.  Especially that word “confidence.”  Augustin is correct of course, and the amateur theologian sees the Latin for faith, “fide”, buried right in the middle.  To live life, not just believing in God, but having a relationship so deep, so nurtured by Him, that we trust Him.  To have faith means, we have confidence in His working in every part of our life.

That can only come from knowing God’s desire is not to condemn mankind, but to show us love, to cleanse and heal us from brokenness, to set us apart for a relationship with Him.  We trust Him do what He has promised! We know His heart and desire is to save us, to have us dwell in His peace.  We know His beauty,we know that He loves us, you and I.  Put you nickname there, God loves me.

Amazing!

That is why reading scripture is so essential in my life. Not because pastors and holy folk have to do it but to hear more of God’s heart toward us, to grow in our trust of God.  To know that He makes all things, even pain and suffering, work for good because we love Him, we trust our God and our Heavenly Father.

That is why St Josemaria (and Luther for that matter) could speak of living confidently, even though he knew physical pain, and suffered in many ways.  (his biography is fascinating!) Even though he ministered in the midst of war and famine, in spite of adversity.  Luther as well knew these things, as did those who accompanied him. They, like so many who had and have confidence in God’s love for them, endured and even looked at life optimistically while they endured.

They knew the promise of Romans 8 well, that all things would work out as a blessing, that nothing could separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Not because of intellectually understanding anything, but because they knew God, knew His constant and continual presence, knew the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit, which is unlike anything in the world…..

They had confidence in God.  Knew He would fulfil every promise…from saving us from sin to dying on Cross, to rising from the dead to uniting to us in that journey.

That makes an eternity of difference and affects our lives each day.

Trust in Him, have confidence in His love and greet everything in His life, as an incredible blessing!

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 45). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 960-961). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do You Struggle To Live as a Christian?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

155    Jesus is never satisfied “sharing.” He wants all.

156    You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God … and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody and everybody.

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. (2)

A few days ago, my facebook history brought up a blog I wrote about the crucifix.  How some churches and believers avoid it, how we would prefer to have an empty cross, I’ve also been thinking about what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What would our reaction be if that read, “let yourself be crucified as you follow me”?

That makes the question very real.  The question then challenges us greatly.  Let myself be crucified?  Willingly submit to suffering and being a sacrifice?  To what end?

St. Paul tells us we have seen crucified our passions and our lusts (Gal 5:24) if we know Christ.  That our sin has been crucified, that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:1-8) That is part of it, and it is no error that concept arrives above in Timothy’s case. It is also the kind of life St Josemaria advocates, in giving ourselves completely to God, to letting Jesus take “all”.

It isn’t optional, it is what really happens in our baptism.  It isn’t a requirement of our salvation, as the Augsburg Confession testifies.  St Paul agrees with that when he says we strive to possess that which already possesses us.

But we do strive, we do struggle, for it is a struggle.  Satan would distract us, the temptation would draw us away, our own pride and brokenness will oppress us.  It takes effort to keep our eyes on Christ, to confess our sins, to gather with others in prayer and worship, and to pray on our own. It takes efforts to walk with Christ, to abide with Him.

It may seem less beneficial than working out, or writing some theological or political manifesto,

It isn’t, nothing is more important than communing with God.  That is what this is all about.

Walking with God, being His kids, enjoying the peace that comes from that…. that is enough.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 494-496). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.Augsberg Confession, The

(2)  Augsberg Confession, The

Augsburg and Trent, A Journey Through Both…. but to what end?

Discussion Thought for the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

3  Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. 4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (TEV)

2 The desire was also expressed for deliberation on what might be done about the dissension concerning our holy faith and the Christian religion, and to this end it was proposed to employ all diligence amicably and charitably to hear, understand, and weigh the judgments, opinions, and beliefs of the several parties among us to unite the same in agreement on one Christian truth, 3 to put aside whatever may not have been rightly interpreted or treated by either side,1 4 to have all of us embrace and adhere to a single, true religion and live together in unity and in one fellowship and church, even as we are all enlisted under one Christ.  (1)

For, whereas we saw that there was need of peace to deliver and preserve the commonwealth from the many impending dangers, we found all things replete with enmities and dissensions; above all, the princes, to whom well-nigh the whole direction of matters has been intrusted by God, at enmity with each other. Whereas we deemed it necessary that there should be one fold and one shepherdc for the Lord’s flock, in order to confirm the integrity of the Christian religion, and the hope of heavenly things within us; the unity of the Christian name was well-nigh rent and torn asunder by schisms, dissensions, heresies. Whereas we could have wished the commonwealth safe and defended from the arms and insidious attacks of the unfaithful, yet, through our transgressions and the guilt of us all,—the wrath of God, forsooth, hanging over our sins,—Rhodes had been lost; Hungary harassed; war both by land and sea had been intended and planned against Italy, Austria, and Illyria; whilst our impious and ruthless enemy, the Turk, was never at rest, and deemed our own mutual enmities and dissensions his fitting opportunity for carrying out his designs with success  (2)

 

I was messing around with some changes in my Logos Software last week, and I came across a crazy idea.

You see, my Bible software can take any of the thousands of texts and break them up into chunks.  You can read them over a week, a month, 6 months a year or more.

So I figured I would use it, starting November 1st, to read through the Bible again in a year.  While I was at it, it updated some of my books, so I thought about adding the Book of Concord, and just reading a small section of it over the next year.  (Not academic reading, just a light survey.  And for some reason, I then decided to add another work.  Looking through the works, I saw various works of Luther, and Melancthon, of other works ranging from Martyn Lloyd Jones ( a famous British preacher) and Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI.)

For some reason, my mind kept coming back to The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.

For those who are not theologians, putting the Book of Concord (which is the Lutheran accumulation of Doctrine in its early days) and the works Trent (which was somewhat written to counter the Lutherans, Calvinists and other early reformers) is like putting a Oklahoma and a Nebraska football fan in the same room.  Or a room with a Red Sox and a Yankee Fan…. or splitting an atom.  The two schools of thought are diametrically opposed to each other on many items (though on some they aren’t.)

They won’t match up, point against point, but this is not going to be an academic exercise,  I am thinking of it more as a devotional exercise, a way to go back 500 years and see the heart of men who professed to follow God, and struggled to put what that means in writing.  They were under pressure, both had an added incentive of trying to appease Kings so a war could be fought together against the Turks.  They both had stubborn folk involved. Like I said, these documents were written back when wars were waged, and people killed over differences in doctrine.

What will come of it?   I don’t know,   Probably a few dozen blogs, probably some shaking of heads at my silliness.  Maybe more confusion on my part.  Hopefully some great discussions….

So far, one of the things that amazed me was the desire for the church to be one, they both shared that in the quotes above.  I think they said it, hoping to convince by scripture and logic, and if not by force, the entire church to be one. Yet, that goal at least will be the same.  They see the unity of the church as the basis of the survival of life as they know it, the ability to stand together.

Five hundred years later.. we still stand divided.  I don’t commune with my friends who are Catholic priests, they don’t commune with me.  Some of peers rejoice in this, some of our peers, like us, weep that a church could be so broken. But rarely do we sit down and strive for unity, rejoicing in the Christ who died for us, who on the day of His return will unify those He has called His children.

Maybe I am a hopeless daydreamer to think anything will come of this… then again…we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation, of healing brokenness as people are drawn to Christ Jesus. So a little time spent pondering our common doctrine, and our radical differences, may be beneficial, if not, it should be at least interesting.

I would ask people who read this, and if any follow, over the next three years, to pray for all the people of God, no matter the name of their denomination, brotherhood, synod, or even the name of their church sign.  Pray that we could find healing for our broken church in Christ and that brothers could eventually break bread together, or at least look forward to the day we can, as we stand before His throne, at the wedding feast of Jesus, and His Bride.

God speed,

and Lord, have mercy on us all…..
 

 

(1) Tapperrt, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 24–25). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Buckley, T. A. (1851). The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (pp. 1–2). London: George Routledge and Co.

 

A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders….

Devotional/Pragmatic THeological Thoguht of the Day:SAMSUNG

18  “But can you, O God, really live on earth among men and women? Not even all of heaven is large enough to hold you, so how can this Temple that I have built be large enough? 19  LORD my God, I am your servant. Listen to my prayer and grant the requests I make to you. 20  Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21  Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us.    2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (TEV) 

32  “When foreigners who live in a distant land hear how great and powerful you are and how you are always ready to act, and then they come to pray at this Temple, 33  listen to their prayers. In heaven, where you live, hear them and do what they ask you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is where you are to be worshiped2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (TEV) 

658  We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, He guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions. We believe this—but we live as if God did not exist. For we do not have a thought or a word for him; for we do not obey him, nor try to control our passions; for we do not show that we love him, and we do not atone… Are we going to continue living with a dead faith”? (1)

“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (2)

Tomorrow we start a new year in the church.  I would ask that for a moment, like “secular” new years, we think about our lives as those who facilitate the worship of the people of God.  (Both those who know they are, and those who will come to know they are in this year)

Tomorrow is also the first Sunday of Advent or the Parousia, that season we spend trying to understand the desire of the peope of God for the Messiah to come, for the promises to be fulfilled, for God to dwell among us.  We do this, so that we too can desire God’s presence and His return.  That is why the ancient church cried out “Maranatha!” the cry of Come Lord Jesus!

There are days, especially in this last year, where I admit I was crying this out for the wrong reason, And perhaps, leading my people to cry this out for the wrong reason as well.

You see, I cried it out because things were rough, because I was in mourning, or in despair.  Where I wanted the suffering of people around me to end,  Not that we would die, but that we would be rescued from this place, and brought into the presence of God in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more cancer, no more death.  I wanted us all to be rescued from this life, and brought into the joy, the glory, the peace of God that we shall know for eternity.  We have endured a lot these last few years…have had to minister to each other, with seemingly no break. We need rest and healing and a time to breath in deeply, and know the message of Christmas, that God is with us.

Something we already know… sort of.

And that is where the challenge for this New Church Year is going to be found.

Making the experience people have when they come to our churches have be one where they are sure Christ is with them.

Where it’s not about us, where we don’t go through the motions, where we don’t block people’s reception of God’s presence because of our poor-formance (misspelling intentional)

Look at the readings from the Dedication of Solomon’s temple above, there is an assurance in Solomon’s words that they are in the very presence of God.  All of Israel, gathered there, assured of His love and that nothing can spearate them from His love.  That strangers, people who don’t even know who God is except for his title, would be able to come and know that this place, this altar, where we stand, is where God has gathered them as well.

For the sake of our people – this article isn’t about worship styles, traditional Liturgy, or contemporary.  It’s about us, you and I, and how we approach this blessed time we share with the people of God. The time were our voices, our body language, our intimate reverence and joy betray to our people that we KNOW we are in the presence of God the Creator, That  He is here.  I would desires that our readings are filled with awe, realizing that this is what God has thought through and inspired so His love is revealed to His people.  That the readings are also clear, and done in a language and manner that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand.  That our prayers, whether pre-written or from the heart, assist them in laying every burden down at His feet, entrusting them to Him, as He desires. That every spoken word be such that thy know this is something we do, but something that is our life.  That our music and the way it is played isn’t about leaving them in awe of our talents and voices, but lead them voicing their awe at the God who loves them so much, that for the joy of revealing this to them, endured the cross and all its sufferings. The God that welcomes them and draws them to Him, broken, sinful, needy, that He might heal and comfort, cleanse and encourage.

That every person, whether life-long church goer, or first time guest of God, encounter Christ.  

That’s what our ceremonies are designed to teach, whether liturgical or common, whether accompanied by majestic pipe organs, or simple strings, or even acapella.

That’s what makes the difference in our lives, in the expression of our trust in God.

KNowing He is here.

Desiring Christ’s last return, not just to escape the pains of this world.. but because we will see Him, the God who loves us, face to face.  That the glory we now see hints of, as we see one baptized, or receive Christ’s Body and Blood, as we see the prodigal welcomed home, and the joy of all in celebrating it, that we would see that joy, that glory in its fullness.

In His presence.

So here is the challenge, as you enter the church tomorrow.  Breathe deeply, let your nerves calm down, your burdens be dropped, His joy lift you high.  For we dwell, as Solomon did that day, in the very presence of God.

The God who has had mercy on us, who has come to us, and in whose presence we live.

Then, as our people see this, may they know and be assured that and rejoice they dwell in Christ as well!

AMEN
(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2759-2766). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession.  Article XXIV  (p. 56)  . Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Liturgy, Language and the People it is for:

Discussion thought of the Day:

2  Those who speak in strange tongues do not speak to others but to God, because no one understands them. They are speaking secret truths by the power of the Spirit. 3  But those

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Eva...

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2006), 15. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

who proclaim God’s message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort. 4  Those who speak in strange tongues help only themselves, but those who proclaim God’s message help the whole church.    1 Corinthians 14:2-4 (TEV) 

Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Corinthians 14:2-9, but it has also been so ordained by man’s law. The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship.  (1)

Last night, during the time my son and I spend reading scripture and now the Augsburg Confession together ( in Kindergarten – he chose that after 10 times reading the small catechism to me!) we came across this passage, one I think my denomination overlooks I think.  I know I do – simply because in a conversation a month ago, I brought up the quote from 1 Corinthians 14 and was told that it wasn’t speaking about Latin and German (and High English) but rather (their words) just speaking in tongues.

Sigh, I allowed them to get away with it – forgetting that in this Article – it is made all to clear that our spiritual forefathers  were talking about using language that people know – and use regularly.

I have also backed down a bit when people claim that the liturgy is not for people seeking God, but rather for the initiated, for those that cherish words like salutary, words like Nunc Dimitis, and grasp the many varied and intricate ways the mass point people to the fact that Christ is merciful, loving and present in their lives.  This is a reaction to those who claim that the church service must be seeker-sensitive ( I think they mean seeker driven – but that is my opinion)  Again – look at our Lutheran Confessions, the ceremonies of our liturgy are not for those with all the knowledge – but are to benefit those without such knowledge.  It’s not for the spiritually elite, but those of us who have been spiritually bankrupt – without understanding what we need to know about Jesus. ( His love, His mercy, His presence – heck even the middle one needs to be unpacked — mercy= His compassionate and careful cleansing us of all that is unjust – our sin and the sins of others that affect our lives )

I so love the attitude of Melancthon in writing this – an attitude that shows me how much our forefathers cared about those who didn’t know God, or those who knew of Him, but didn’t know Him.  I love the balance that says – what we’ve done is good – great – this liturgy speaks of Christ – but let us speak in a language those uninitiated in the faith.

Let our words proclaim His love, His mercy, His presence in our lives!  Let those words be such that they are heard, and treasured.

And may we see the glory of God that is with us, as we see the awe in faces as they hear and know the love of God – and with us begin to explore its depths, heights, breadt and width!  AMEN!

(1)  — Augsberg Confession, Article XXIV

Millions of Churches or One…His?

Devotional/Discussion of the Day:

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”   Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT)

“Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6.”    — Augsberg Confession, The

I am in on ongoing discussion, that concerns me greatly.  It is about the church and how it ministers in a community that is diverse. both in terms of ethnicity and in terms of generations. As I occasionally do, I challenged the unexplored presuppositions, and commented about whether the church has to focus ministry one way, or the other – why can’t the church just reach out to everyone, and what you end up with is a multi-cultural church, one that very well may resemble the church described in the red letters above. 

I was surprised, because of the push-back I got.

It’s only experts who can pull that off,  it can’t be done, the big churches have tried, etc, etc. etc.  They talk about the nature of a church denomination  or the, “it was tried once”, or “the people have to have that call” and a number of other things that I disagree with, simply because there is no scriptural basis.  Indeed, the early church was multi-cultural – because their communities were.  And the zeal to see people freed from the bondage of sin, the oppression of satan, and the anxiety of death is overwhelming, when we actually realize it ourselves.

The answer isn’t in planning to have a monoethnic church, nor is it to plan to be multi-cultural.  Simply put, the plan is to be the church – the CHURCH described in the founding document of the Lutheran Church – the Augsburg Confession.  Interesting that we usually think of  the CHURCH as in denominations finally getting their act together, finally uniting in mission, in the apostolate given to us by God.  But the CHURCH is a body that transcends everything that could describe us, as we are united in Christ.  Our people have to realize that – the grace of God is communicated through the church, through its members/the priesthood of all who trust in Christ.  It is heard as the scriptures are explained, as we witness people receive God’s grace through the sacraments God ordained.

It’s His church, His people, and the way to be the church is not to plan which group we are to reach out to, but to reach out to the people that are around us, realizing their need to know Christ.  To get to know them, to show them the love of God.

George Wiegel, in a book on the changes in the Roman Catholic Church wrote this… which still sticks with me…

What is at stake in the demand for doctrinal clarity (and for the clarity of Catholic identity that follows from doctrinal clarity) is not a matter of winning an intellectual argument, which is how self-absorbed intellectuals often understand it. Rather, doctrinal clarity is a matter of equipping “the saints,” the men and women who have entered into friendship with the Lord Jesus, to become his witnesses in the world and the servants of those who most need to see the face of the Father of Mercies.  (from Evangelical Catholic)

For a parish, for a congregation, it is essential that they grasp how incredible this message of God’s love is, that God will remember their sin no more, that He has freed them from guilt and shame… and as they do – as they begin to treasure that their sins will not be remembered anymore, as they begin to explore the breadth and depth, the width and hight of God’s love, revealed in Christ – they will reveal that – as those God sent into their neighborhoods, and their businesses, into the places they shop and eat….

And the church, if in a multi-cultural area, will become multi-cultural… it cannot help but to do so…

Lord may we see the mercy that you have for us, as you reconcile us to you, that we may plead with others to become reconciled as well….


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