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Where One Finds Hope….

MarkJ AdventDevotional Thought of the Day:

30  And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? 31  For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. 32  And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 33  Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” 34  Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all. 1 Corinthians 15:30-34 (NLT)

Heaven, then, is none other than the certainty that God is great enough to have room even for us insignificant mortals. Nothing that we treasure or value will be destroyed. As we ponder all this, let us ask the Lord on this day to open our eyes ever more fully to it; to make us not only people of faith but also people of hope, who do not look to the past but rather build for today and tomorrow a world that is open to God. Let us ask him to make us who believe happy individuals who, amid the stress of daily living, catch a glimpse of the beauty of the world to come and who live, believe, and hope in this certainty. (1)

These days, from just after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve are called the season of Advent, the time where we wait for the second coming of Jesus, and eternity to be revealed.

It is a time of hope, of expectation.

Time we need, for many of us are experiencing a time of life that seems hard, and one without any form of hope.

Advent is not the answer to the hopelessness in and of itself. It simply seeks to remind us of the hope. It is a time where we go through, recognizing our need for hope, our need for something more, that this life is not all there is.

When we know there is something, we learn to wait for it, fully expectant in the promises of God. That hope gives us the ability to depend on God for the strength to endure.

For heaven is waiting, the place we can’t describe, yet what we know is enough.  For we will be with the one who loves us!  As Pope Benedict points out, this gives us a sense of happiness, a sense of joy, even amid the stress of daily living.

Which is why the Lord’s Supper is the ultimate moment in Advent.  It is that piercing the curtain between our mortality and our immortality.  The Body and Blood of Jesus, a feast that God our Father serves us, is the moment we find ourselves in His presence so clearly, so completely.  From that moment, as with our baptism, the hope of heaven is more than a dream, it is real, the presence of God quite tangible.

Which is the point of Advent, amid the stress of life, as it seems we are in the midst of darkness, affected by disease, division, depression and even death; it is then these extra moments, assuring us of God’s promises, and His faithfulness, are so needed.

This is life, as we don’t just walk with God, we let Him carry us… and safe in His arms, expecting a new day, we find peace.

(1)  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.

Where is “THE” Church? The Quest of a Naive Cynic

Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” 16  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17  Jesus replied, You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18  Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19  And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
Matthew 16:15-19 (NLT)

40 Learn this article, then, as clearly as possible. If you are asked, What do you mean by the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit”? you can answer, “I believe that the Holy Spirit makes me holy, as his name implies.”
41 How does he do this? By what means? Answer: “Through the Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
42 In the first place, he has a unique community in the world. It is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit reveals and preaches that Word, and by it, he illumines and kindles hearts so that they grasp and accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.

Catholic theology must state more clearly than ever before that, along with the actual presence of the word outside her boundaries, “Church” is also present there in one form or another; that, furthermore, the boundaries of the efficacy of the Holy Spirit are not congruent with those of the visible Church. For, on the one hand, the Spirit, the grace, on whose action the Church depends for her very existence, can be wanting even to those within the Church; on the other hand, it can be efficacious in those outside the Church. To borrow Congar’s cogent phrase, it would be both foolish and perverse to identify the efficacy of the Holy Spirit with the work of the ecclesial apparatus.

Yesterday was the day that many of God’s people celebrated what is called the Confession of St. Peter.  The celebration that God the Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Father. Like Pentecost, it is one of the formative days of the Church, for it is that day when the church received it’s first “creed”.

A creed is simply a statement that describes what you depend upon in life.  It is not a complete statement of doctrine, of that which people intellectually know.  For while a “belief statement” or “doctrinal statement” expresses what is contained in our mind, a Creed adds to that what is in our heart, our soul, and is the source of our strength.  It is what we depend upon, the truth we believe we can base our entire life upon.  It is what distinguishes the church from every other group.

And so, like Pentecost, yesterday was a celebration of the church, and what it is built upon.

Christ, the Son of the living God.

With that being understood, I must confess a different problem, which is caused in part by both my naivete and my cynicism.  Naivete because I expect the church to be the church.  And I expect its leaders to strive to limit the politics and power struggles.  I naively expect them (and myself) to live according to this truth we hold dear, this Man, who was the Messiah, the one Anointed to save us.   My mind tells me logically; there must be that church, led by those striving to be like Christ, who’ve set aside everything and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and focus on Christ, the author, and perfecter of our faith.

Can’t there be such a thing, a group of people who are gathered into one Body who live and breathe based on what they believe in?

My cynicism says, “Uhm, no.”

Yes, we can find congregations where this is a focus and priority.  Or a Bible Study.  But there doesn’t seem to be a denomination out there where this is true.  I have to admit a lot of frustration in this, because why can’t it be so?  I can look at one denomination, where the leadership is struggling to help people live like Christ, yet their doctrine gets in the way.   I look at another where the doctrine is as good as it can be, and yet the power struggles are so blatant, so extreme that it sickens me. I’ve seen too many crushed by it while seeing others rejoice over the pain caused to their “enemies.”

Is it foolish and perverse to want to identify an “ecclesiastical apparatus” with the efficacy of the Holy Spirit?  My naivete calls for such a church; my cynicism wants to find a cave and lock myself into it.  The option is not to spout that I want a relationship but not a religion and head for the beach.  If ti were, Christ is a liar.  He said nothing couldn’t prevail against His church.  He died for her, so she must exist!

Both Luther and Benedict point to such a church, a church that is focused on what Peter confesses, a church where the Holy Spirit is working, sometimes clearly within the structure of the denominations, but often not.  A church some theologians would label the “invisible church”, but because the Holy Spirit is working, it is visible, you know when you are there.   A church based primarily on doctrine, not primary on the organization and structure, but gathered by the Holy Spirit.  Where the Holy Spirit is using the word, is connecting people to Jesus and then to the Father.

This is what Pope Benedict wrote of, “the Spirit, the grace, on whose action the Church depends for her very existence,” and Luther reveals why, “The Holy Spirit reveals and preaches that Word, and by it he illumines and kindles hearts so that they grasp and accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.

As I see this, it comforts by shattered naivete, you see the church does exist!  We see Her as we see the Holy Spirit working; as the Spirit reconciles people to God and each other, as the spirit heals the broken hearted, and sets free the those bound by sin. It also shatters my cynicism, for the miracle of the Holy Spirit at work just denies the idea that there is no church.  For what else could explain what happens when Christ crucified is preached.   For then, the church is no longer invisible but is becomes an intact mosaic, one that is not bound within the lines drawn by man, but rather drawn together in Christ.

The church, broken, yet healing, is a glorious thing, as this occurs,  St Paul described it well.  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.”   2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)

May we be patient and determined, as the Holy Spirit works, pointing us to Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.  AMEN!

 

 

(1)    Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 416). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)   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. 29). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Has the Church Forgotten the only Fact it needs to focus on?

devotional thought fo the day
Featured image
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”   Mt 1:23 

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Mt 18:20 

“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”  (1)

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.  (2)

584    Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!”  (3)

We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things  (4)

When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog.  Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read.  It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember.  The critical fact I need to remember.

To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us.  He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us.  Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.

It all begins and ends with that relationship.

Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship.  The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.

This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism.  It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)

This is what our religion is all about, walking with God.  Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.

It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.

I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.

The Lord is with you!

1.   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana

3.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4.  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. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Crying Out Loud

Crying Out Loud

Featured imageGalatians 4:4-7

IHS

We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”

A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!

A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.

I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between.  People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.

I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.

How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?

Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.

For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.

Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….

For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer…  and in praise.

That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His  being Immanuel – God with us,

It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…

This What the Right Time is about!

When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.

It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.

He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity.  I love how one theologian-pastor put it:

Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]

What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!

No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.

Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.

It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.

The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!

That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right.  He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God.  Another Christian leader put it this way:

“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,

We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father.  Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.

The pastor went on….

It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ,  To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.

Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”

AMEN!

[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Are We Worthy to Be In Their Company?

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35  Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)

258      What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is!  (1)

I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need.  I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict  XVI.  I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham,   I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness.  Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives.  I think of King David and Bede,  Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley,  Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.

And I wonder, do I belong in their company?

My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me.  This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.

Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven?  In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?

After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me.  I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.

Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game.  God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.

In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust.  How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.

But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people.  People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt.  People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.

First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;

40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Without us.  Without you and I.

God has something in mind… that we will join them.

These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..

And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did.  Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus.  He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained.  He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..

they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.  

We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ.  And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…

AMEN….




Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

A Second Call to Biblical Teaching/Preaching… appeal to Christ and His word…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

 28  When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29  He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority.  Matthew 7:28-29 (TEV)

405      Draw close to Jesus who has died for you; draw close to that Cross, outlined against the sky on the summit of Golgotha… But draw close sincerely and with interior recollection, which is the sign of Christian maturity. That way the divine and human events of the Passion will sink deep into your soul.  (1)

This morning I saw a FB thread that brought this topic to my mind – how do we teach, how do we prepare, and do we have authority.

The thread itself is not important enough to identify, save that it was about who was more orthodox, the author or those critiquing him.  What amazed me was that the appeals for orthodoxy were based, not in Scriptues (our baseline) or the Lutheran Confessions (which we have found to be in agreement and a sound explanation of scripture) but rather in this theologian or that theologian in recent historiy.

It reminded me of other discussions I have had recently where the “stars” of recent Lutheranism are held up, and their writings are held up, as if they are our baseline, as if their writings must be held as authoritative.  Or the class I recently took, where the professor said questioning the textbook author’s position was not allowed – even though all he did was quote other “expert theologians”, appealing to some and questioning others.  There are others, who are trying to show their expertise and their theological acumen, wanting to become the “next” theologian worth quoting or attacking, by quoting this person, or criticising that person.

In my opinion, they are not far from the scribes (the religious and theological experts of their day)   They were more concerned with the talmud and traditions of their forefathers, than they were with the texts that were given to them… by God.

So when Jesus quotes scripture, when He teaches, not appealing to some other authority, people note the difference.  He isn’t appealing to others thoughts to justify His own, but rather – He is focusing on the text, letting the Holy Spirit work through His words, that the people would have, as Peter called itthe words of Life.. 

That is why Paul will write:

5  For it is not ourselves that we preach (or your theologian of choice) ; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6  The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (TEV) 

Please, note, I am not saying we should dismiss these scholars of our past or present. They have some good stuff, and they can help us when we struggle.

English: Engraving of Jesus Christ on Golgotha.

English: Engraving of Jesus Christ on Golgotha. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But their works are not our basis, it is not to them we should appeal.  They are not our hope, their are not the glory of God incarnate and present in our midst.  They are not our word and sacraments.  They can help us, but the conversation should never be about them, nor should they be the standard to which we aim.

That has to be Christ. that is who we want our hearers to draw close to, that is who we must be drawn close to, if we want to teach/preach/worship in a way that leads to change. Theology is His logos, His reason, His revelation to us… that we may come to know Him.

We don’t cry, “theologian have mercy on us,” for they cannot…

We cry… “Lord, have mercy….”  and He has.  So cling to Him.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1572-1575). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Evangelical Catholicism – an interesting read..

Devotional/Discussion point of the Day:

A friend on Facebook recently put a couple of quotes from a book he was reading on his feed, noting the title. Looking at the reviews, the book intrigued me, and I started reading it yesterday at lunch.  Technically, it seeks to document how the Roman Catholic Church is negotiating between the rock and hard places in the last century.  The Rock being the counter-reformation and its simplistic catachesis and demand of obedience, and the modern progressive views which would demean and dismiss scripture in view of modern philosophy and practice.

It is a similar path to that which some of us navigate in my own denominaiton – as on one side legalism, and the other the extremes of Church Growth theorists.  In my opinion, which isn’t much, I see the same issue on both sides – they would reduce the walk of faith with Christ to a simple programmatic practice. I’ve been on both sides.

I am probably going to go through this book slowly – much slower than others, trying to see how much is applicable.  After all, Lutheran theologians and the Lutheran Church was originally known, as “evangelical catholics..”  I will probably have to sift a bit of this book – as I do with those from evangelical proteestants, but I have a feeling it will be..beneficial

At any rate – here is the first quote that really stood out:

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth. Paul, Barnabas, and all who have been truly converted to Christ— such that friendship with Christ and extension of the possibility of friendship with Christ to others has become the basic dynamic of their lives— have become something different. Radically converted Christians have become men and women marked by tongues of fire, animated by the Spirit, whose abiding presence they recognize in the liturgy by their common prayer, their exchange of the peace of Christ, and their common reception of the Lord’s body and blood.” (1)

I like this statement, especially the italicized portion.  It seeks neither to dismiss our liturgy and those communal, sacramental, incarnational practice, nor does it diminish our intimate dance with the Holy Spirit in them.  (I use dance purposefully, for dancing uses our hearts and minds and bodies – all at once – which the Holy Spirit does engage.)

I also resonate with the three specifics mentioned

– a life of prayer – together – as the early church did. (see Acts 2)  From the cry for forgiveness, to the Kyrie, to the prayers of the church and the prayer Christ taught, the church comes alive when in conversation with God.

– the exchange of the peace of Christ – what a way to describe this!  (much stronger than the passing of the peace!)  This has become a hallmark of my present congregation – the point in the service, where assured that the peace of Christ is with us, we confirm that it is also among us, that God’s peace is… uniting us, breaking down the walls – infusing mercy, and the desire and act of reconciling us to each other.  This is not just a time for a casual greeting.. but a time where tears of joy, and sorrow are shed, where peace is created by God among us in a powerful, transforming way.

and lastly….

their common reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood!  Do I have to explain how the Spirit revives and renews us, in this simple act of incredible…significance?  To know we are welcome to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice – realizing we are welcomed at this table, that together we are having a feast that is the most significant meal of our lives?  The words can’t express what it means to partake of the Lamb of God, to see and taste salvation…

Occaisonally, I will add a post to my blog about the book – not replacing the devotions, but perhaps helping navigate these waters, as we try to be neither legalists, nor faithless moralists.

Hopefu

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (Kindle Locations 489-494). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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