May the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so profound in your life that you realize — you have learned by experience that you are loved!
If you have ever seen the television show Broken, you may tear up at the picture on this slide. We’ll get to the profound story it tells in a moment. But it is one I know everyone of us needs to experience.
I don’t care which political side of the synod you sit on; I don’t care whether you use LSB (though I still prefer TLH), or have contemporary worship. I don’t care if you serve a mountain congregation of 20, an urban congregation that is struggling, or Lutheran Mega-Church in Orange County or Arizona.
You all need to have the experience of the guy in the purple chasuble, to receive the forgiveness and mercy that God’s love makes so real.
Otherwise, this synod will remain broken, your church will remain broken, and you, no matter how hard you try, will be broken.
Twenty years ago, I left my non-denominational congregation to spend 3 and a half years to become part of all of you. I owe a great debt to Dr. Stephen Mueller, Bill Cwirla, Greg Seltz, and Bob Rossow.
Among the lessons I learned was one some of you might have memorized once… that’s why there is no slide for it.
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith (Martin Luther, T
Worship isn’t worship without that call and enlightenment. I don’t care how logical your systematic theology is, how reasonable your apologetics are as you try to prove the gospel, without the Holy Spirit working in your heart, soul and mind, it is as empty as the Bills or Vikings Superbowl Trophy Case.
What happens is what happens to the priest in the show. Dealing with the normal trauma every church experiences, from death to immorality, from injustice to darkness, the priest struggles to approach the altar. He states,
“because I know, in here, , that I am not fit to be a priest. So -at the supreme moment of priesthood – the consecration, this, this, reminds me of all the dirty filthy things I’ve done in my life, and the dirty filthy things that have been done to me. And it says, how dare you think yourself worthy of this…” Fr. Michael in Broken
When I came into the LCMS, the biggest difference I noticed was not logical. It was the acceptance of what Fr. Michael said, and yet every person in the church being drawn to the altar, anyway. It didn’t matter if it was at the page 15 service with Doctor Hendry officiating, or Mike Coppersmith preaching at a contemporary service. It could be gossip, being sexually broken, using God’s name in vain, the brokenness caused by sin was real…
People didn’t come to the altar thinking they were worthy of this…. But they came.
At the altar they found what was beyond logic, beyond reason. They found that they were loved. That’s what Fr. Mike in the show found out, even as he was communing someone he sinned against…who let him know he was a wonderful pastor. He knew God’s love far more clearly at that point…
Loved by God who was willing to die for them, and have them share in the death sacramentally, that they would rise with Him.
There, at the altar, broken people and broken pastors found something that Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus to experience…the prayer I read earlier…
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.
I saw this at both churches, as people came forward, their bodies betraying the conviction that they were stressed-out, overwhelmed, wounded by their own sin and sins of their community. They knelt there and received the body and blood of Christ again, and you saw them physically transform. Their bodies relaxed, their eyes bright, a smile breaking out on their face.
Greg Seltz used to call that incarnational and sacramental.
I have a better phrase, in that moment, we realize the intimate relationship God has drawn us into with Him.
In the picture, the lady had been betrayed, the relationship with her pastor destroyed. Not just because he wasn’t there when she needed him, but because he lied about it, and her son was killed. The grief and shame overwhelmed him and there, on the day he was planning to leave the ministry, as he gave out the Body and Blood of Christ, she and the church brought him back from the edge.
If we are going to be abundantly more, if we are going to accomplish infinite more than we might ask or think, where it will happen is at baptismal fonts and at the altar, in coffee shops and business meetings, where we plead with people, “Come back to God.” and they do…
And they experience what we have, the call and enlightenment that comes as the Holy Spirit opened our eyes through word and sacrament, and we begin “to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ.d God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
6 In our work together with God, then, we beg you who have received God’s grace not to let it be wasted. 2† Hear what God says:
“When the time came for me to show you favor,
I heard you;
when the day arrived for me to save you,
I helped you.”
Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; today is the day to be saved! 2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 GNT
13 Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. 14 As a matter of fact, it may save their lives. Pr. 23:13-14 GNT
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
As I read the words from St Paul that are the first quote above, the words of Shakespeare’s Henry 5th came to mind. From readings about Sir Horatio Nelson, who had his band of brothers who stood by him, and later in the annals of the Star Trek: The Next Generation, as a Frenchman mouthed those words to an American #1, a Klingon Security officer, a Blind engineering officer and.. an Android named Data.
While I am not sure of the romanticized brotherhood of Henry V, or of Nelson, and certainly Picard’s is fictional, I have seen sch brotherhood in action. In the Marines I have known when I served near 29 Palms, in the Sherriff’s Deputies who I have had the blessing to stand beside while they pick up the pieces after a suicide, or a officer involved shooting. I have been there as our hospice team took the time to finally grieve, having set it aside to deal with others facing death. All of these groups share in a
There is one other group, the men who serve as pastors and priests and deacons, especially those in sacramental brotherhoods. It is not that we are holier than the rest, far from it. But we have faced the challenge of being “there”. In the moments where life just really… sucks. In the moments where eternity hangs in the balance, and when spiritual warfare is overwhelming. Rarely do we stand in the same “there”, yet we’ve all been there. Been there to see the spilled blood of Christ cover sins. Been there as mercy conquers the sin which so ravages our people and our land. We’ve been there, and some have given so much, and battled so often, sacrificing their lives to serve..
Over the weekend, I attended three churches, two Roman Catholic and one Lutheran. Two priests, one pastor, and a deacon. Two other deacons cared for my people back home and I thought of them, not running into each other, but sharing God’s love. I think of others I have been mentored by, and mentored. Each a little different, each a little… well wacky… each bearing the scars of ministry, of having to discipline children, and the blessing of seeing them come home. Each one hoping that this week, some will receive God’s favor, that some will be saved…
We band of brothers.. not holier, not more special or talented, often far more scarred…but we’ve been there. So hear us, as we don’t tell tales of our heroism, but rather His. And if we have to discipline you… please know the goal is to help you see that God would befriend you through Jesus, transforming you from a sinner/enemy, to the beloved saint and friend.
We just get to be there.. and see the glory in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
35 Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36 Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40 because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40 (TEV)
The Bible contains stories of salvation which are completely paradoxical. In the tales and the stories of the world, we learn that the heroes were young, beautiful, strong and that they set off on an adventure. In the Bible, they were old, sterile and powerless and God chose them (e.g., Abraham and his wife Sarah). For us it always starts on the wrong foot! What is important in the Bible is not so much to be healthy or ill, but to be with God. One is healthy and holy when one is with God Who comes to meet us in our weakness. The place of our wound, our vulnerability, is the place where God meets us
There is a picture that people post on the internet that annoys the heck out of me. Well, actually there are a lot of them, but one in particular drives me up a wall.
It is a drawing of Jesus, surrounded by “superheroes”, Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America, those kinds of guys. And it contains the quote, “and that is how I really saved the world.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like the Marvel and DC ficitonal superheroes. They are a cool escape, and I understand their role in our society, giving people hope, and possibly giving them some moral lessons. But they are simply modern fables, they are nothing more than that.
Jesus on the other hand, and those who follow him, are more than that. Living in fellowship with God the Father and depending on people, they really save people’s souls, and oftne their lives.
They aren’t perfect either, as the quote in purple points out, their brokenness is declared clearly in scripture, which makes their work, done depending on God, all the more phenomenal. They don’t have a weakness – they have all of them.
They even doubt God at times.
But they depend on Him, and they dwell assured of his presence
For He has come to dwell with us, to heal us, to reasue us, to support us. To not just fly in and out, but to really care and help us in our lives, especially the dark and challenging parts.
Not just a symbol, but a God who inspires us all to depend on Him, even as we serve others.
And those who do depend on Him, whether old fogies like Abraham, or the ladies who teach preschoolers to sing, “Jesus loves me”, or the pastors in the inner city, caring for those too often left behind, or the missionaries in the Sudan and Cameroon and Nebraska – they are my real heroes. So are they who have gone through the darkness, those abused, those broken beyond imagination, those incarcerated, and those ill ( one lady who has battled cancer for 7 years – 5 years past the time doctors gave her and is going strong) These who found God waiting for them in their darkness and simply hang on.
They know God loves them, they know He is faithful and they go where He sends.
May the Lord help each of us to realize He has done the same with us!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 112). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29 But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30 It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! Matthew 6:28-30 (TEV)
13 You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. 15 When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there— 16 you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. 17 O God, how difficult I find your thoughts; how many of them there are! 18 If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you! Psalm 139:13-18 (TEV)
54 You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such. (1)
This is a hard blog to write, but perhaps it will make a difference.
Sunday, I was watching a new television show I’ve waited a while to see. It was pretty good, if a bit over the top at times.
But there was a scene that resonated to much with me. Like a crystal goblet resonating with a soprano’s high tone, it shook me a little to much. I’m still not sure if it shattered me, but it did come pretty close. It kept me awake most of Sunday night, and haunted me a bit since. it brought back memories from some of my darker days, days when I wasn’t sure who I was, or whether I fit in this world. Even more,it made me wonder how I adapted and changed to survive. Is the adapted me, really me?
I’ve only been shaken that much a time or two in my life. My Cardiac Arrest didn’t shake me like this. My heart valve replacement surgery did, but only for an hour. This… struck deeper to home. I know the other times, but even thinking of them… yeah – can’t go there.
The only consolation is that I remembered before that point in my life, I always wanted to be a pastor, (well back then, a priest ) I wanted to teach people about God, I wanted to give them the the Eucharist, the sacrament where Jesus gives us His Body, His Blood.
This morning, stiff and sore from working out, I got to my office. Getting out of the car slowly, I spotted the rose pictured with this blog. I took a picture of it, tweeted it, thinking of the Psalm I quoted above. I thought of just quoting the 14th and 15th verse, and thinking of people who need to realize this. Then I saw the end of verse 18, and found myself. Or the me I need to know.
It resounded when I thought of the quote from St Matthew’s gospel, and then it slammed home when I read St. Josemaria’s words. Resounded enough to make me forget the other stuff, until I started righting this. And yet, like that rose, being right there, where I could focus on it while stretching after getting out the car, it took on a different tone.
God is here.
He made that rose, He listens to my cries. He cares for me, and each of us, far more than that incredibly beautiful rose.
it doesn’t matter whether I am an extrovert or an introvert. Whether I am understood by the world or not. Whether my thoughts, outside of those sharing Christ, are understood,
What matters is I am His people. All who trust in Him are, and He is calling out to all of you who aren’t, yet.
And knowing this, giving our Heavenly and PRESENT father, that brings the peace and joy we need, even when we are shaken, broken, and shattered….
We are His people, He is our God!
It is more than enough. It defines us better than anything else we could ever know.
God, ever present, ever loving, is here with us.
Be at peace, drop all the other stuff aside, and know He is here!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
17 Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (1)
448 You haven’t been praying? Why, because you haven’t had time? But you do have time. Furthermore, what sort of works will you be able to do if you have not meditated on them in the presence of the Lord, so as to put them in order? Without that conversation with God, how can you finish your daily work with perfection? Look, it is as if you claimed you had no time to study because you were too busy giving lessons… Without study you cannot teach well. Prayer has to come before everything. If you do not understand this and put it into practice, don’t tell me that you have no time: it’s simply that you do not want to pray! (2)
Let’s be honest, most of us hate Mondays with a passion!
The trying to adjust to “reality”, the drudgery of work, the lack of “freedom”, the stress, and the fact that Mondays somehow seem cursed to have everything going wrong. The only thing that is worse, a Monday after a vacation.
If only there were a way to change the anture of Monday, to flip it on its side, to turn it from curse to blessing! We need to see it as a new opportunity rather than a drag. We need to somehow realize that Mondays, like Sundays and the rest of our weeks, is a day the Lord has made!
But it is Monday…. did I mention I hate them? Not because of their effect on me, rather, the effect they have on those I pastor. ( I simply lock myself in my office and study for next week’s sermon.) I see the frustration, the quickness to respond to defend, or attack, the cynical matures that peak, the sarcasm and struggles that turn into great burdens.
Even when what was heard yesterday was. “come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest...” It is as if we expect Jesus to say – well except on Monday – I take Monday’s off!
Here is the secret to Mondays. Sanctify them! Make them Holy! Set them apart as a special day for you to watch God at work in your homes, in your workplaces, in your appointments throughout the day. Spend the day in prayer, talking to God throughout it. Spend time praising His name, giving thanks, asking for His blessings and advice on each part of the day, and listening to that advice. ( I would suggest that you make sure it is consistent with scripture – that’s how you can confirm it is His voice you are hearing. )
That brings up a point – praying – using God’s name as He meant for us to use it, in our relationship with Him is not just a commandment, it is not law, it is the purest of gospel messages. It is a blessing beyond belief to realize we can spend our day walking with a God who comes to us, who will cleanse and restore and heal that which is broken, and that which we break. It is the blessing that transcends all others, this conversation that we have with God, this relationship where He is God and we are His children.
That is why Melancthon and the reformers considered Prayer a sacrament in the Apology… for then it might help men pray more often. . That is why St Josemaria, also noted the need for it to be the basic action of our life. This conversation, this relationship, it is who we are, what we are made for… praying will change us, change our lives, not because it is a forced, but because it reveals the presence of God… here for us.
It will even blow apart a Monday… even if you haven’t started it the right way… take a break… and start talking to Him.
Your Monday will change into a Sunday…
Start with this – Lord, Have mercy!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1986-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:22-25 (TEV)
324 The dust thrown up by your fall blinds and disorients you, and you have thoughts which rob you of your peace. Have you sought relief in tears by the side of Our Lord, and in confident conversation with a brother? (1)
If a pastor or priest or even lay ministers are honest, they will admit (but not often) that they have what some call a “crisis of faith” occaisonally. We aren’t perfect, and its my opinion that our people must know this. Simply put, if we are hoenst about this, then they will be as well, and we will be able to minister to them in spirit and in truth.
A crisis of faith isn’t that we don’t believe in God, but that we simply struggle to believe in God.
It may be that the trauma in our own lives is too much, or that the trauma we help others go through has taken its toll as well. It could be our sin, or temptation, which finds a spot in our weakened state and steps on through. Despising our own weakness, we try to overcome it on our own, rather than deal with it at the foot of the cross. Or it can simply be that we have fallen into a rote faith – we go through the motions, numbed by time to the words, and the God whom they reveal.
Either way, it is as our spiriutal life has become paralyzed.
There is a need in such times for each of us to have what they now call a “spiritual director”, or what I prefer to call a “father-confessor”. Someone who is able to speak for God to us, someone who will shepherd us and guide us, and help us until the fog clears. Someone who can share God’s love because they’ve known it during their own crisis, their own brokeness. (which is why I think we have to let people know we go through such times ourselves) They are the ones that can find us, and have our permission to find us, in our caves, when we choose to isolate ourselves.
We need those times, when we can hear the still small voice of God comforting us. Even so, we can’t, especially in those times, avoid gathering with others, sincere in our brokenness, yet needing the encouragement that comes from realizing we are not alone. We need to hear of God’s faithfulness, and to celebrate it together. This too is essential, a major part of our Christian life. For when we realize that God doesn’t give up on any of us, we begin to realize that His promise of being faithful includes us. The illusion is then pierced, and we realize the crisis of faith isn’t a crisis of trust, or us being abandoned by God.
It’s simply that we are tired and overwhelmed and… well yes broken.
We say at my church that we are a place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.
The cure for such times, is not to avoid the people of God, fearing they will not understand, it is to come and be embraced by them, to join them at the altar and receive the grace of God as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ (yes – during a crisis of faith – communion, the eucharist is a blessing.. a very needed blessing!) For we all have had, and maybe even having a a crisis of faith, and the church, the people of God provides a great sanctuary during such times. Let’s lift each other up, as God calls us together, a people He will care for, a people He will comfort.
And that starts with us, those who lead in church… those who are broken, so that you may have faith, for if God can heal us… He can (and will ) bring healing to your crisis.
For the Lord will have mercy!
I know – received it over and over. You can too.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1529-1531). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Quote to ponder this day:
When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, He will cure you. (1)
As i read this quote this morning, I recoiled a bit at the phrasing, especially “the weight of your wretchedness”. Wretched? Isn’t that a bit strong? I mean, my life certainly faces a lot of “challenges”, but “wretched”?
If I am honest, those “challenges” do weigh heavily on me, as can the guilt and shame that comes with dealing effectively with those challenges. I want to face them on my own, have the wisdom to deal with them, and I often instead cower in fear, or at least become paralyzed by it. I don’t think my wretchedness is just about my sin, though it obviously would include it. But we live in a broken world, and we live among broken people, and the situation at times does seem “wretched”, and that there is no way out. If I dwell on it long enough, I can become depressed and bitter towards God, – why haven’t You helped me!
It is then that a friend, or a passage like this shows up, and my world which was turned upside down… become at peace.
I may have to cry out to Him until I am exhausted and fall mercifully to sleep. It’s not because He isn’t answering, He does and I am often so overwhelmed, so wretched I don’t hear Him clearly. For what He will say is often not what I want to hear, but it is always there,, and is effective.
James talks about the prayer of a righteous man is very very effective – so is it that I am not righteous enough? Interestingly, that question’s answer is found in itself – the reason someone is counted righteous is because they trust God. because they know His presence, and rejoice in Christ. It is when we draw close, that we find those answers, that peace, that assurance in the middle of being overwhelmed, of being wretched. The situation doesn’t change as much as we think – what changes is that we are not as concerned as we are in awe…
So are you overwhelmed, has the situation nearly crushed you? Or at least, do you think it has? Keep crying out to God – until your heart is ready to listen, to be set at peace. I love the bullet point before the one quoted above, for it states why this is effective.
“Let us marvel at the lovable paradox of our Christian condition: it is our own wretchedness which leads us to seek refuge in God, to become “like unto God”. With him we can do all things.” (1)
Jesus said it this way:
6:31 What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Matthew 6:31-34 (MSG)
Lord, have mercy upon us, and as we are seeking that mercy, draw us through it to be aware of You Presence.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 927-931). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
It’s nearly 1 o’clock, and I am just starting to write my devotional today – which is kinda sad – because it is part of my personal devotion. Part of the reason is that things have been topsy-turvy, with several people needing to know God’s presence, and a busy schedule and once again, I feel pulled in a bunch of different places, and all I want is to find some down time. I feel like a character from my old favorite show, M*A*S*H*.
To be honest, I would hope that people think of me as like a cross between Fr. Mulchahey and Hawkeye, but I am probably more like C.E.W. III. ( When we were deciding my son’s first and middle name – even though it wasn’t the reason – it seemed right that he would be William Kristopher – the actor who played the priest!)
But in reality, a church is like a MASH unit – we are in the middle of a raging war against forces of darkness. and we are brought constantly those are wounded. A number of them are bruised and battered and won’t make it – they will stay in our wards until its time to leave this life – and several have recently. Some are here for a shorter time – a time of respite and healing, and then they are back off into the war. Dinged but not destroyed, hurt but able to function, able to heal. Others would head home, their lives changed, but their ability to cope with the damage due in part to the work of the doctors – all of them including CEW and Frank Burns. I remember well the incident with the pianist/private who lost his right hand – and CEW showed such compassion in showing him the musical masterpieces written by a composer – who only had a left hand
Indeed, each church is more the staff of the MASH than those treated there. Each one of us has a few screws loose – you have to, in order to survive a war. We have all the different characters, from Radar to Hot Lips, from Frank to Colonel Potter, and of course the inhabitants of the swamp, and the priest who was the only sane one, but that’s because he was more aware of God sustaining him. Some of us even have a Corporal Klinger or two… who thinks he’s not broken, but pretends he is broken, and finds he’s broken in other ways. We are a surgical unit – that works on hearts and minds brutalized by life, and a spiritual battle with enemies that are not human, yet, do great damage. Healing is only found in Jesus… and the Holy Spirit guides our words, actually His words of life – that surgically cut away the damage of sin, and bring healing to wounded relationships.
At its best… the church ministers in its community in spite of their brokenness – yet its their brokenness that allows them to survive. We laugh, and cry, and even go catatonic, but find the ability to get back to work when the sound of the wounded arriving on choppers echo into our lives. It is then we rely on God, and work without stopping, and as a team – for lives are on the line, not just physically, but spiritually, not just our patients, but our own as well.
We’ve got a motto here at Concordia – that would describe them well there. We are a place where people are healing in Christ, while helping others to heal.
Sometimes that healing is heading heavenward. Sometimes it will be moving on… changed, but perhaps more alive.
But we will forever be changed – by serving those whom God brings…
Lord have mercy, and help us see, and communicate – You have!
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the day:
I write a lot about broken people – and even about broken churches. One of the reasons is there seems to be an endless supply of them. And every time I think I am completely healed, or those I minister to are, life comes along and seems to break us again. It really doesn’t, but boy does the agony, and the pain, feel like we are broken again.
St. Paul reminds us what it is like to be broken, even as he reminds us of our being made whole….
3 There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and dissipations; we lived then in wickedness and malice, hating each other and hateful ourselves. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity were revealed, 5 it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit 6 which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8 This is doctrine that you can rely on. I want you to be quite uncompromising in teaching all this, so that those who now believe in God may keep their minds constantly occupied in doing good works. All this is good, and useful for everybody.
Titus 3:3-8 (NJB)
Obviously the way we were, – very broken- you can’t but read that and realize that Paul is describing people traumatized and torn by sin. As much their own sin ( which we don’t like to face at all ) and the sins of those around us, and even the sins of those who went before us. To be blunt – life being broken sucks!
Yet, God doesn’t – He won’t leave us there. I absolutely love the description of baptism in this and those two words:
Rebirth – being born again of water and of spirit – taking what is dead, and giving it new life.
Renewal/Restoraton – to make brand new! (and it seems like He has to do this daily – sometimes hourly)
It changes everything – our brokenness – no longer is there – though it may appear that way, though it may cause us to struggle,. That is why Paul urges us to keep teaching this – without any compromise – because our hearts need to trust in God’s doing this, more than in the circumstances in which we find ourselves! We are healed – by His stripes ( see Isaiah 53) God hasn’t abandoned us, He has rescued us and we can and do praise Him as the One in Psalm 22 does, as we realize we are not abandoned – we are His!
Living in view of that is different than living broken as well…. for our thoughts become less and less about ourselves – and more about others who are broken. We begin to do good works because He is working in us. This is a promise long awaiting prior to Christ – God’s great plan – which so many testitfied to – but one of my favorite promises of it is found in Ezekiel:
36:25 I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. 26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27 I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)
God has done amazing things to those He has cleansed – as He fulfills a promise to take our weary broken, anxiety laden hearts, and transforms them into His own image….
As we cry, “Lord, Have Mercy” may we trust that He has done what He said He would do! AMEN!
Thought of the day:
Last night I finally started writing a book. It’s an odd thing, since I don’t see myself as a wise sage, or a wildly successful pastor. Just a plain ordinary, slightly crazy pastor who believes that God puts churches in places to bring healing to the broken in that community. And the only time a church should “close” is when all the broken in the community are healed and are perfect. In other words, the need doesn’t happen until Jesus returns.
Of course the statisticians will tell you that there are life cycles to church – usually a 40-50 cycle where around 20-25 the church starts slowly dying, or at least losing its significance. I know a few that fit that model, and I know a few that have been around 10o or 200 years, or more. Go to Eurpose – there are some there that have been in use for 1000 plus years – and in India, 1800. So while the stats guys have noticed a phenomena – it ain’t necessarily a law/ My book will be about keeping the church in the business of healing, in the business of salvaging people, and their relationships. There is hope for such churches, and for those who attend them, and for the community that surrounds them.
The hope is found in soup – specifically “stone soup” and focuses heavily on the sacraments, and on Eph 2:8-10 – especially 10:
“2:10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)
As a lutheran – we focus a lot on 8 and 9 – and for good reason. But if there is a answer, if there is a way to stop churches from closing, it is in realizing that we are God’s art work, His poetry, and there is much work to be done as we heal from the damage of sin, and the work, the poetry God has called our lives, because He called us, is key in that process of healing, together.
I’ve seen it happen, in churches in the desert – in a church in the suburbs. This isn’t some how to get er done book, with methodologies to implement. It’s a radical way to see the church return to faithfulness, one ingredient at a time. The recipe is a parable, and realizing the truth in it. A truth best described in Eph 2:8=10
So pray for me. as I write a parable about healing broken lives and broken churches, simply with sacred simple things, water, a Stone, and some bread.
oh and realize, that this book is about all of us… for there is hope for all – no matter how broken, how burdened, how alone.. as we heal together in Christ!