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Is this why the American Church is paralyzed, and of no effect?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for our days…
1 God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.  We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake,  Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD of angel armies protects us.  River fountains splash joy, cooling God’s city, this sacred haunt of the Most High.  God lives here, the streets are safe, God at your service from crack of dawn.  Godless nations rant and rave, kings and kingdoms threaten, but Earth does anything he says.  Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD of angel armies protects us.  Attention, all! See the marvels of GOD! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,  Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. 10  “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” 11  Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD of angel armies protects us.  Psalm 46:1-11 (MSG) 

Sometimes the impression arises that behind our hectic hyperactivity there lurks a paralysis of faith, since in the last analysis we have more confidence in what we ourselves contrive and accomplish. But we are effective by no means only through what we do but also through what we are if we become mature and free and genuine by sinking the roots of our being into the fruitful stillness of God.

These comforting sayings are all true and surely do not deceive us: Psalm 46 [:1], “God is our refuge and strength, a great help in the trouble which besets us.” Sirach [Ecclus. 2:10], that wise man, said, “What man who has put his trust in God has ever perished?” And [I] Maccabees 2[:61], None who puts his trust in him will lack strength. Again, Psalm 9 [:10], “Lord, thou hast not forsaken those who seek thee.”

If I were to believe those who study the church in America, God must be on vacation in Africa.  For this generation is lost to us ( although I remember them saying that about my generation as well)  The church develops this program and that to reach them, they have conferences to ponder what might be effective, and there are days I believe there are more church consultants and coaches ready to help advise pastors, or if you can’t afford an hour or two of advice, send you the video’s of their training seminars.

Yes, church attendance is down, but I think a major part of that is that our calendars are too jam-packed, that they are too hectic.  Pope Benedict was right – our hectic hyperactivity caused by our anxiety has resulted in a paralyzed faith.  It’s paralyzed, not because God is on vacation, but because we are looking to ourselves for the solution, what we can accomplish.  

Paul Borden’ written a number of books about revitalizing the church.  I’ve read them and was amazed by his insistence on the role of prayer in the process.  Yet when I talk to revitalization specialists, what I find is that they omit this crucial step, and move on to steering committees and those who will do the outreach.  They only start with churches that are over a certain size, knowing the rule that says 20 percent will do 80 percent of the work.  They don’t think prayer is a major part of that, they don’t see the necessity for spending time in communion with God.  We paralyze the faith of our people by robbing them of prayer, of sacred times 

Why do we wonder why the church is shriveling up?  

Luther found great comfort in Psalm 46, in the role God reveals as His own.  He is our castle, the place we find safety and serenity. (it is the basis for his masterful ballad, A Mighty Fortress. Pope Benedict notes that we sink our roots, deep into this truth, that God is our God, as we are still in His presence, that is when the fruitfulness comes.

In awe of God, in awe of His love, in awe of the fact that He will lovingly wrestle with us, letting us struggle, so that we learn to trust Him, that we learn we can depend on Him. That the mission of the church is His mission, His work, that He does in and through us.

That is the difference between the church here, and the church that is exploding in other places.  The amount of stillness, of seeing God at work, of knowing His presence.

So know this, the Lord is with you, His church!  He is your fortress, your sanctuary, and He will give you peace.  And from there, in the stillness of His glory, we find that we are not paralyzed… that we aren’t drained… but rested and ready to serve at His side. 

 

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 43. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

Confidence In His Message, Not Ours…. Means We Need to Hear Him…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Acts 2:37 (NLT)

 17  So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:17 (NLT)

Simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. 1 Peter 3:13 (Phillips NT)

“Stillness is not simply silence, but an attitude of listening to God, and of openness towards Him”  (Celtic Prayer Book 1/14 Finian Reading)

I am amazed, as I read the gospels when Jesus talks of a people that hear and see, but don’t understand, that don’t perceive. That have all the tools for being servants of God, yet fail to “live up to their potential.”   They get caught up in legalism, or in liberalism.  They get caught in the idea of their own faithfulness or orthodoxy, or their own serving the least of these, and hold out their position as proper and right.

Been there, done that myself.  Too many times if I am honest.  Too recently if I am blunt.

It is interesting to me, that these times don’t come when we are struggling with the darkness of our life, when we are staring in our own failures, our own sin, our own brokenness, face to face.

It is when we are going well, that our confidence slips, and becomes confidence in our works, in our actions, our wisdom. It is there that we are in the process of sinning, just as the Pharisees did, just as the Sadducees and canon lawyers of Jsus day did. It is when we confuse His message with our own.

And hearing, we do not understand, and seeing, we don’t perceive.

It is those times when we need the silence, not of rest and sleep, but the silence that allows God to speak to us.

It is why i so prefer to deal with the broken, those who are crying for help as they struggle with sin, or the injustice/unrighteousness of the world.  To see to them revealed the blessings of walking with Christ, of being comforted by the Holy Spirit. of rejoicing in the Lord who reveals Himself in word and Sacrament, and through the service of other broken people.  People like me.

We need to hear Him…we need to let Him cut open our hearts, to let His word penetrate, to hear the hope that is only found in Him, and to speak it to others, who need to hear it as badly as we do.

That requires faith in the simplicity of the word and Sacrament, the simplicity of Christ crucified, our hope, of the love of God to be revealed, not through our logical manipulations, nor our self-inflicted martyrdom’s (which really isn’t martyrdom..but we want people to see it as such)

we need to hear that message, that cuts us open and pours transforms, enlightens, grants repentance, that reminds us, we are God’s work of art… not artisans ourselves….

Yes, even to us “mature” Christians,

Be Still.. and know… He is… God.

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