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The Reason the Church is Here….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  When they saw him, they fell at his feet in worship, even though some of them struggled to trust Him. 18  Jesus went to them and said, “I have been given all responsibility in heaven and on earth. 19  You area going disciple people of all cultures: by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and instructing them to treasure this covenant relationship I committed to with you! And I am with you ever day, for forever.”   Matthew 28:17-20 (parker’s paraphrase)

To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.

I have to start with a disclaimer.  I want to write nothing about this post, save what you see above.  The charge for us to disciple the world, by helping people enter into a relationship as part of the people of God, and then to teach them to treasure this covenant relationship, this relationship based on God’s plan, on His terms, for Hs is God.  That is the work of the church that is how we are to love our neighbor; that is the work of God, or as my favorite pastor/author noted, the Opus Dei.

These words of Cardinal Ratzinger in blue (later Pope Benedict XVI)  are an incredible description of that relationship, this discipling process.  Go back and read them again.  Go ahead, go do it.  And again, savor the words describing your relationship with God, as you are pulled into this incredible.

But is this what we are about in the church?

Is this what we value in our own lives personally? Do we understand this incredible, blessed fellowship we have been brought into with the Father, Sona nd Holy Spirit?

We need to, and we need to get that this is far more than obeying laws and commandments (though that is part of it).  It is, to use the Old Testament prophecies, the very “being” that is knowing that we God has made us HIs people, and He is our God.

This is what is revealed, from the very beginning to creation to each time someone is baptized or is revived as their sins are forgiven, or are renewed as they take and eat the Body broken for them, the bloodshed to bring them into this covenant relationship.

This is what we treasure; this is what we guard, (which is what tereo means – not just obey/observe) This is what we reveal to the world, it is how we disciple, this is how we live.

Even when we struggle, or doubt, for Jesus is our Lord. And He is with us.

AMEN!

(1)   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. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Monday: A perfect day for church! (I need it!)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 20 How great is your goodness, Lord, stored up for those who fear you. You display it for those who trust you, in the sight of the children of Adam. 21 You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from scheming enemies. You conceal them in your tent, away from the strife of tongues. 22 Blessed be the Lord, marvelously he showed to me his mercy in a fortified cPsalm 31:20–25 (NABRE)ity. 23 Though I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your eyes.” Yet you heard my voice, my cry for mercy, when I pleaded with you for help. 24 Love the Lord, all you who are faithful to him. The Lord protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full. 25 Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord.      Psalm 31:20–25 (NABRE)

42  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46  They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47  all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.    Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)

After the happy encounter on Easter morning, Mary Magdalen wants nothing more than to return to the former familiar status quo, to leave the Cross behind her as though it were just a bad dream. She wants to have “her teacher” as she had had him formerly. But that conflicts with what has transpired. No one can have Jesus as “his teacher” while disregarding the Cross.  (1)

As a young man, even as one who wanted to and was studying to be a pastor, I never understood why the church met in Acts daily in the temple.  Part of it seemed practical, how could you write a sermon every day, and do an adequate job.

Perhaps part of that is that I focus on the teaching aspect of their getting together, not the sacramental, the communal nature of it.  As one who was trained in expository and exegetical preaching, I tended to believe that the sermon was the critical part of any gathering of the people of God.  That it was and is the major tool in the box of the preacher, in order to make disciples of all nations.

Looking at Benedict’s words this morning, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  If we think Jesus’ primary role is that of the teacher, the disciple whose lessons show us how to live, we have tragically missed what being a believer is about. 

It is for walking with God, about living life in HIs presence, in the presence of God who loves us. The love which drove Jesus to the cross, that love which had the Father throw all of His wrath on Him, the wrath we deserved, onto Jesus.  Check out Isaiah 53:10 and Hebrews 12:2-3 to see this more clearly, as it was for joy Christ went to the cross, and it pleased the Father to crush Him there.

So we could be the children of God. the holy children of God!

So great is His love for us!

So back to why I want there to be a church service on Monday, what Catholics and old fashioned Lutherans call a “mass.” It is because of the Psalm above.  As God becomes our refuge, our hiding place, the refuge, and fortress that David sought, that Luther’s most famous hymn celebrated and rejoices to find. 

It is there, that Jesus becomes more than a teacher, as we celebrate His incarnation in our midst, as we celebrate His sacrifice, as we take and eat, and take and drink the very body and blood of Christ.  It is there, with our knees bent, we find our refuge, we find our peace, at the altar where we encountered the crucified and risen Lord.   Where we find our healing, where we find our peace.

Where we no HIs promise, that He won’t forsake us, that we don’t walk alone.

Maybe I am a wimp, or too weak in my faith, but why should someone like me not value and treasure such times?  I have to deal too often with death, and with brokenness in life, in my life, in those I minister to, and that refuge, that time of rest and renewal is too meaningful.

The cross, the grave, the resurrection, and the knowledge we aren’t alone…..

What a blessing…

Maybe the early church knew what they were doing!

KNow God is with you my friends… know He is your refuge!

Even on Monday.  AMEN!

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. 129). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

want a meaningful vacation? try this…

Featured imagedevotional thought of the day

25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you.  Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

Insofar as we can trace its history at all, pilgrimage is one of the primordial impulses of humanity. Man sets out again and again to find escape from the customary daily humdrum, to gain distance from it, to become free. This impulse is still active today in the more recent profane brother of pilgrimage, namely, tourism. Its continued existence accounts for the hordes of wanderers who incessantly make their way through our continent, feeling that they are not completely at home there. But pilgrimage must be more than tourism. I mean: it must realize more truly, more fundamentally, and more entirely what the tourist only hopes to experience.

I have to admit, I was tempted to put the entire devotion from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger into today’s blog, and leave it alone.  It is one of the most brilliant pieces I have ever read.  When we go on vacation, what we are, in the bottom of our hearts looking for, is a retreat, a pilgrimage, and encounter with something that will restore and give us rest.

Instead we often try to move so fast, see so much, experience it all.

A few years ago, my wife and I were given a gift – a vacation to Italy.  We tried to see it all in the ten or eleven days we were there.  Having read this, I thought back to the trip, and what made it special.  I asked her, and it was the moment I thought, as it was for me.

It was in a church; Santa Maria de la Pace, that was located in a place called Villa Tevere. The church was built in what we might call the basement of a very ordinary building.  It wasn’t ancient, it wasn’t even old by American standards, never mind Roman.  It wasn’t a large cathedral or a majestic major basilica.  It was a place where we were able to pray, given as much time as we wanted by the man who showed us around.  It was a place that invited such prayer, even begged for it.

It was the place where a vacation turned into a pilgrimage.

We could then identify two other places, much more humble, yet even more incredible and precious than the huge places that surrounded them.  The chapel/sanctuary where St. Francis was buried, under to other incredibly beautiful sanctuaries in Assisi.  And the pantheon, a place once dedicated to destroying life to appease gods and re-dedicated as a church, a place where people came spiritually alive as they heard the Word and received the Eucharist.  We came back from this trip not exhausted, but fulfilled, rested and aware of the grace of God because of those moments kneeling in prayer.

I don’t think either would have meant as much without the church inside Villa Tevere. Thirty minutes, simply quiet and on our knees.  Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict ) later wrote in the devotion why this is so critical;  Those moments were amazing, a taste of heaven in a way words cannot explain.

The purpose of pilgrimage is ultimately, not an object of interest, but a breaking through to the living God. We attempt to reach this goal by seeking out the scenes of salvation history. Its interior and exterior ways do not follow the direction of our whims. We enter, as it were, into the geography of God’s history, where he has set up his directional signs. We journey toward a goal that has been designated beforehand, not toward one that we invent for ourselves. By entering into his history and turning toward the signs the Church gives us out of the fullness of her faith, we go toward one another. By becoming pilgrims, we are better able to attain what tourism seeks: otherness, distance, freedom, and a deeper encounter.

It is a chance to get a sight of what Ezekiel describes, a foretaste of what we will have for eternity, a time where we realize the reality of walking with God, we see the fellowship, the communion that is life changing, that leads us deeper in faith.

If you can’t go to Italy, I can recommend two other pilgrimages.  The first is to travel in time, to go back to your baptism, to meditate on what was given there, promised there.  The promise God made to you, an eternal promise of life, an eternal promise of His presence. The second is also sacramental, the time at the altar, on our knees, as we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  As we realize we are one with Him, as we gain what we really desire, the sense of otherness, distance from the world, freedom from sin and Satan and so much else.  It is that moment where we arrive at a deeper encounter, a transforming and transcending moment where all we are aware of is God presence and the presence of His family.  So in a very precious and real way, every Sunday becomes a pilgrimage, a real vacation, a real time of restoration and rest.

Come and rest, come and leave your burdens behind, come and know that God is indeed with you.  AMEN.

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. 335). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. devotion for 10/22

God, please turns their hearts.. not to me, but to You!

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1 John 4:11-12 (NLT)  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.

But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.

We all have people that seem to cause pain in our lives.  Often we label the pains in the neck, or compare them unfavorably to hemorrhoids.  Some of us have people that cause a more negative response, people who threaten us, who we label adversaries, or perhaps even enemies.

We may not even know them, they may be politicians of the opposing view, or someone who has their 15 minutes of fame for something that causes anger to well up in us.  We may even label them names – either in discussion on FB or over lunch.  Maybe we even can keep those names in our minds,  But we still think of them as jerks, the personification of evil or simply call them assholes.  You might, having read the last word of the prior sentence be shocked I use it, or you might be saying, “But pastor, they really are!”

Or you may feel guilt, worrying about why you can’t get over the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, hurt, and resentment.

Read the passage again that is in red above.  Can we do this?  Can we love each other, knowing that “other” has the same definition the lawyer received when he heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This ability to love them is the work that the Lutheran Confessions (in green) speak of, where the Holy Spirit makes our lives and instrument, and a means of the Holy Spirit’s work.  It is the heart of Christianity that then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of, to realize that for each one of us, every human being on earth, Jesus died, willing let his blood be spilled for you, and for them.

In an old hymnal (TLH), as part of the prayer of God’s people we found a very proper and timely prayer. It said something like this. “Father, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries to you.”

This is where our heart begins to change, as we see their need, (and ours) to be reconciled to God.  For that is the answer to everything.   Without the blood of Christ, spilled to heal us all from the damage of sin, there is no hope to come together in peace.  In Christ, the peace is not just compromise, but it becomes community, it becomes love deeper than any other.

It is in Christ, seeing Christ’s love for them, which we begin to be able to love them as well.  That love may end up pleading with them, not to deal favorably with us, but that which is more important – their reconciliation with God. That becomes our goal; it becomes what we pray for, what we begin to do, to live for, even as God does…

And as we see the glory of God, as we worship Him, the glory of the Holy Spirit works through us… and they know they are loved.

As do we.

”Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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. 290). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Every time He said, A sermon on 2 Corinthians 12

Video Presentation of Sermon

Every time He Said, 

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

In Jesus Name

 

My God’s words of love penetrate your heart and enlighten your life, as you live trusting that His grace is indeed sufficient!

How many times!!

I don’t think it matters which relationship we talk about, but it seems that in every kind of relationship known to mankind, there is a serious issue that arises.  (SLOW CLICKS)

Simply put, we don’t know how to listen to each other.

For example, is there a parent who never questioned whether their teenage children listened to them all the time?  And wives, what about you, has there ever been a husband that paid perfect attention to everything you said?

I am pretty sure that there have been times where I wasn’t listened to, whether when I was in management or as a pastor, and there are times I am sure I didn’t listen as well as I should have.

Anyone here want to say they listen perfectly, all the time?   I mean, there was this cartoon on FB this week… Would it be there if a lot of people didn’t find it… true?

We have some good company then in the apostle Paul, in who letter this morning we heard… well, at least I hope we heard…

“Every time he (that is Jesus) said, “

Meaning that it took Paul three times to hear what Jesus said!
We’ll get to what we said earlier, let’s first deal with the topic of listening, and specifically, listening to God.

The Problem of Narcissism

Things have changed a little since the church came to America.  Back in the days of John Hancock, the Adams brothers and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the pastor or priest in most villages was the most educated man in the community.  Some would say he was also the smartest, and if he had been around for a while, one of the wisest.

Even today sometimes we play the game that was going on in Corinth, where the people wanted to be led by the smartest pastor or apostle, the best speaking one, the one who looked and lived like he was blessed by the gods.  We even get in competition some times when we gather.  Hey my church just doubled in size, or my budget is 8 million.

Rarely do we hear the stories I like to hear, and even more witness, about the 2 year olds that are so at peace at the altar that they do not want to leave when their parents get up from communion.  Or the children who might not be able to explain it, but know something incredible is happening when someone is baptized, or when the Body and Blood of Christ is given to eat, to drink.  Or do you notice your bodies relax when I get the pleasure of saying, “in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins…”

But do we hear that, or do we hear what we want to hear?

Do we try to find the most educated, most successful or at least the most popular person we can find to agree with us?  Do we hear ourselves saying, “this is what Bill Gates said, or Ronald Reagan or the Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther wrote; pointing to their words to back up what we want to hear?

The church in Corinth did that all the time.  Remember these words from Paul?

12  Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another, “I follow Christ.” 13  Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul’s disciples? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (TEV)
You see, sometimes our ability to hear and understand is limited by our own desire to be right, our own desire to be better than the person next to us.  That is why Paul had to go on what he called a foolish mission to convince everyone that he was as good as an apostle as the next guy,  He thought it foolish and a waste of time, which is why he said,

6  If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,

But sometimes, we need to be humble enough to hear it.  We can’t be so full of ourselves that we don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit to teach us.

Which means, sometimes like Paul we need to hear, over and over the message of God’s love, we need to be able to say with Paul,

9  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.

The Penetration of the gospel

His power works best when we can’t oppose it, when we are so desperate for His action in our lives, that we hear it.

In Greek, the word for hearing, and the word for obeying (to take action on what is heard) are related.  One is simply the other with the prefix “hyper”  Akouo and Hyper-akouo.  Think about it, when you ask someone if they heard you, what you are really asking is, are you acknowledging what I said and doing what I asked.  Right?

Yeah, some things never change.  To hear is to understand something so well you respond to it.  I came across this quote about faith that bears this out this week,

We do not simply choose grace for ourselves, for grace is by nature an answer and is therefore attributable in the first place to what comes to me from another person, penetrates deeply into me, and makes me open to say thou and so to become truly I. It is, in truth, a gift given me by another person, and yet I am more deeply and more completely involved in it than in any work I might have chosen for myself. Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him.[i]

I love that picture of grace, as it is described penetrating into us and opens in us the ability to recognize that the Lord is with us.  To be able to address God, not in the third person, but in the second.  For those who don’t remember English – to address Jesus as you – and not “him”!
Because God’s love penetrates deeply into our souls, getting us to recognize His presence, it involves us at a level deeper than just our intellect, and more completely than just our emotions.

It hits us in our souls, where we need to know we aren’t alone.  Where we need to realize His love at its deepest need, and enables us, as the quote mentions, to entrust ourselves to Him.

For we’ve heard the message, this message Paul had to hear 3 times.

His grace is sufficient, it is all we need.

Let’s pray,

Lord, help us to hear you in this, help us to realize the depth of your love, and may that message sink deeply into our souls.  Help us to trust you more, and cling to you in all things, and in all times and places.  Help us to rejoice in that which keeps us humble, for then we are able to see you at work.  God we thank You for your grace, which works in every person in Christ Jesus.  It is in His name we pray!

AMEN.

And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

[i] 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. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why We (pastors and priests) Do What We Do… and Your Role as well

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

Ultimately that is what the priesthood is all about: to have seen Jesus oneself, to have received with love him whom we have seen, to live in that seeing, and then to show him to others. (1)

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

One of the greatest challenges for a pastor or a priest in this day is to minister to those who think they are already “saved.”.This includes ourselves and our peers.  The challenge is complicated by the fact that we often forget what our calling is, losing it in the various functions of our ministry.

We are expected to be jacks of all trades, able to do plumbing, accounting, music, leading a non-profit, knowledge about employment law, property law, tax law, teach, and keeping the balance between being a solid administrator and a competent theologian.  It is this latter role, that of a theologian, which can consume us even more than the rest.  In letting it consume us, it can lead us away from the ministry, the ministering to which we have been called, and set apart.

It’s odd for a Lutheran pastor to quote a pope or a Catholic, I probably do it more than most.  The above quote in blue is from a pope, but not as some might expect Francis.  It is from Benedict, whose writings are as pastoral as Francis’s words. He sees his role, and that of priests (and I would hope pastors ) as simply and clearly as St. Paul did to the church in Colossae.  It is also, according to Lutheran confessions, the reason we are gathered together with the people of God.  This is seen in the quote in green, our purpose, our reason for existence as the church, is to give people what they need to know about Jesus.

It is that simple, everything we do as pastors, priests, ministers of all kinds in all places, boils down to that.  Introduce people to the love of Christ.  Help them as Paul says, explore (and be in awe of) the immense dimensions of God’s love for you, for me, for us, that is revealed in Jesus.  From the planning of our salvation before the world began, to its creation, to His incarnation, life, teaching, miracle working, suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and even His on-going advocacy for us at the Father’s side; He does this that we would know Him!

Our people need to know this, their friends and neighbors need to hear it.  Even our enemies and adversaries (and people who are simply a pain in the… neck) need to know Jesus.

Pope Benedict, a pastor at heart, in the same message, wrote why:

But when a person has once met Christ, when a person has once seen Jesus and really learned to know him, then everything is changed. Then everything else is comprehensible and life is renewed. And you priests have really only one task: to present Jesus to all people in such a way that they see him and learn to love him. Then everything that faith teaches will be self-evident. (1)

There it , it is why we do what we do… why we struggle to do it, trying to keep our eyes on Christ, working hard to see people know His love.

By the way, you are welcome to help as well, and as you get to know His love, you will find a innate desire to do so, for that is how much His love will mean to you.

(1)  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. 191). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.  (devotions for June 13th)

(2)  Augsburg Confession, Art XXIV

Reformation Day!

“This Is Eternal Life!!”

John 17:1–12

In Jesus Name

May the grace, mercy and peace of God envelop you, for you have been entrusted into Christ’s care!

Regret the Necessity

In a novel about the formation of the Green Beret, the commandant of the Special Warfare Center says the following to an officer applying to the program.  “That could be our motto here, that we do a lot of things we regret are necessary.”

I think it is a good description of the Reformation as well. Picture Luther, standing before a trial which called him to recant from that which he found so comforting, which brought so much peace to his tormented soul.  His words are not so much bravado, he knew he was testifying before those who could take his life.  Yet, without any contradiction from the scriptures and clear reason, he had to stand, there was nothing he could do otherwise.

It was something he regretted was necessary.

Not just for his own peace, but that the people of God could have revealed to them the love of God, the desire of God that not one should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  For that, for the moment was hidden,
Hear again the words from Jesus high priestly prayer from our gospel reading:

17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:1-3 (ESV)

On this day, as we remember the faithfulness of God, who revealed to us the name by which we are saved – may we realize why we regret the reformation, and why it was necessary.
Regret

During this prayer of Jesus, what is known as the high priestly prayer, there are a number of recurring themes – recurring phrases that are incredibly powerful.  As we hear one of them, we find our reason to regret the necessity of the reformation.

Jesus prayered, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.   John 17:11-12 (ESV)

The saddest of the unforeseen consequences of the Reformation is that today the one holy church is fractured  into some 40,000 pieces.  The church isn’t one, and perhaps because of it, we’ve lost focus on what makes her holy, what makes her praises pure, what makes her orthodox.

As we battle, Lutherans against Catholics, Methodists against Presbyterians, Baptists against Baptists and everyone else while they are at it, we’ve become a spiritual football conference, all excited by the baptisms here, but not the baptisms next door. It has become to easy in this day, if we don’t like what the pastor says, if we don’t like how close the sermon comes to calling us to repentance, to move to the church down the street.  Our faith is fractured, because we’ve lost sight of Christ, and that our unity is found in our baptism, our unity is found in the Name above all other names, not the name on the outside of our church.

And even as we hear the cry for unity, we understand that there is a time for a stand like Martin Luther’s, or like the families who left Germany to come to Misery in order to keep the focus on Jesus, and on His work.  But we also acknowledge that many of our divisions are for lesser reasons, reasons that don’t bring comfort and peace to those horrified by the consequences of sin.

We regret that it was necessary, this reformation, for the division it causes. Even as we rejoice that God is with us, that His church will prevail against the very gates of Hell.

 

The Necessity,


The reason that it was necessary to see the church reformed is also found in this same passage.

17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:1-3 (ESV)

We trust in God, we have faith alone in Christ for this very thing.   That in Christ we have been given eternal life, which is that we know, intimately know the only true God, our Father.  The one whom we live with forever and ever.  Not just in heaven, but even now.

That nothing can separate us from Him and His love, shown to us in Christ.  That it has been given to us, not conditionally, not with certain requirements for us to meet prior to our entrance.  We don’t have to merit it, it is not our work that will get us there. It is Christ’s, it is the Father’s.  Later in this prayer, Jesus prays

17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.   John 17:20-24 (ESV)

That is the message that is so necessary to get out – so necessary for people to hear, because it changes everything.  It gives us hope for today, and for eternity,

It is what we are about. It’s about eternal life.  It’s about trusting in God, it’s about knowing Him, having a relationship with Him.  Believing in Him for the impossible.

Even if that means we have to do what we regret is necessary.

The Hope

In preparing for this sermon, I came across this quote, as you hear it think about what it says, and what church they pastor:

The upcoming Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics (the church) to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics (the church is) are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.

If a Lutheran wrote it, I wouldn’t be surprised – but it was written by another German – a Catholic one – Pope Benedict XVI.  As I read this, I think I heard a smile and perhaps a giggle from Luther.  The church, not just the Lutheran church, and not just Rome, but also among the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, even the Baptists, in these anxiety ridden days is being brought back to Jesus, is being reformed.  We are starting to remember that this is about Jesus.

Maybe there is hope – but if wasn’t for a young pastor in Germany a half minute ago in God’s timing – it might not have happened.

He did what He regretted was necessary, and people found grace and peace because of it.   A grace and peace we need to bring to the world, for they need to know this as well as we do – that we’ve been brought into the love of God, the love

That’s what it’s about – this eternal life in Christ.

For we are His…

And in Him we have peace, peace that passes all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

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