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The Cost of Being an “Institutional” Church Member

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Devotional Thought of the Day

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

519    Serviam!—“I will serve!” That cry is your determination to serve the Church of God faithfully, even at the cost of fortune, of honor and of life.

Were they to take our house
Goods honor child or spouse
Though life be wrenched away
They cannot win the day
The Kingdom’s ours forever

(From “A mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther)

Yesterday, after a memorial service, one of the people there asked me how I can be there for people in times where the emotional pain is so evident, so dominating, so crushing. I shared one or two of my secrets, and the irony(?) that I have discovered, the more I can embrace their pain with them, the more I can laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry, the more that I see God at work, comforting them.

Funerals and weddings are not the hard part of ministry, nor are the other times when a pastor, priest or even a lay minister is able to make the presence of the Holy Spirit known to people. In those moments, the tears the grienf it is worth it.

But the challenge of being in the institutional church is when it seems not to be worth it. When you are in a meeting and people have hidden agendas. When people struggle with each other, and do not see the answer is struggling together.

When the brokenness of lives so blinds them to the healing that is found in Christ, the healing He does within the church, and through those He has called and given to the church.

When the church is forced to change its focus from the Jesus to dealing with the problems that are threatening to tear it apart. Such stuff happens in the institutional church, but it also happens in the house church, and in our families. As long as there is one sinner in the room, it will happen. And if you are there, or I am, there is a sinner there.

Yesterday, we ended the service by singing Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”. Not as a triumphal anthem, but as a song of need, a song of despair, and yet hope as he finds that God has him (and the church) THe part of the verse quoted above struck me again, especially given the loss the people were experiencing endured. It is echoed in St Josemaria’s words.

We usually think of such threats as external, or they should be. The people who for one reason or another hate the church, or feel threatened by it. But sometimes they are internal, as people do fall into sin, as people do deal with stress and brokenness. Paul easily recognizes the stresses that can occur when people are brought together, are drawn together in to the presence of God.

So if we are going to face that within or without the institutional church, why bother to belong to one? Why bother to deal with the added stress, why deal with the extra pain, the extra betrayals, the extra anxieties and fears? Why would someone who struggles with social constructs and the complications they bring ever dare enter into this willinging, and serve the church?

Why bear the cost of the trauma, the pain, the disagreements, the dishonour?

Simple. The eyes of a widow that full of tears, reaches out for a hug and whispers, “Yes, I know God is with me.” The grief that is shared, but the hope of the resurrection to life together in the presence of God. Watching God at work, reconciling people together. The joy, the quiet simple joy that comes as the people of God find themselves celebrating their forgiveness and their adoption as God’s co-heirs at the altar of mercy and peace.

Everything endured is worth that….whether the injury is external to the church or internal.

Seeing God at work is that priceless, and seeing Him at work in and through me and the people I struggle alongside, (and sometimes with) is nothing compared to the glory and healing found in Christ. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1258-1259). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can God’s Glory Be Seen in His Broken Church?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the day

11  “Israel was once like a well-trained young cow, ready and willing to thresh grain. But I decided to put a yoke on her beautiful neck and to harness her for harder work. I made Judah pull the plow and Israel pull the harrow. 12  I said, ‘Plow new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to me will produce. It is time for you to turn to me, your LORD, and I will come and pour out blessings upon you.’ 13  But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies. Hosea 10:11-13a (TEV)

2  God shines from Zion, the city perfect in its beauty. Psalm 50:2 (TEV)

892    How good it is to be a child! When a man asks a favor, his request must be backed by an account of his achievements. When it is a child who asks—since children have no achievements—it is enough for him to say: I am a son of such and such a man. Ah, Lord—(tell him with all your soul)—I am a child of God!

One of my devotional used the italics part of the first quote, along with the second quote this morning.

Set apart from the rest it sounds awesome,

It is time for you to turn to me, your LORD, and I will come and pour out blessings upon you.’

But when you include the context, it becomes a completely different matter.  The offer of God’s mercy and bless, now rejected, testifies against the people of God. It robs them of hope, it cries out that they are judged, and condemned. It is what they, and similarly, we deserve.

Yet it is out of the same people of God, that the psalmist recognizes God’s glory in, and the glory impacting the rest of the d.  The glory bursts forth from us, the very people who plant evil and have to deal with the consequences?

How can God ‘s glory be seen in us?  How can we be described as perfect in our beauty?

It is a question for today that we must deal with, for many need to know the answer.

I think part of it is learning to ask God for a favor, just like a child would.  Without thought of what we are owed because we have achieved this or that level or perfection.  Just a simple request to our Father.  A request that is answered.

Heavenly Father, clean us, your children up. Take care of us. Fix our brokenness. Help!

It is what God sought of the people in Hosea’s writings. Let’s work together, let’s me yoke you together with Jesus, and the blessings that He pours out upon us, the harvest itself will be beyond our ability to dream up.

The more you are hurt, the more you doubt, the more we need to learn to approach God in this way, knowing we are His children.

God is with you… He is your eternal Father, who loves you…

Ask.. and you shall receive..seek Him and you will find Him… for always He is here.

God’s peace!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2067-2070). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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