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The Church’s forgotten mission: Hospitality

Devotional Thoughts for today

 Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. •Amen.  1 Peter 4:7-11  HCSB

By unremitting study they should fit themselves to do their part in establishing dialogue with the world and with men of all shades of opinion. Above all let them take to heart the words which this council has spoken: “Since humanity today increasingly moves toward civil, economic and social unity, it is more than ever necessary that priests, with joint concern and energy, and under the guidance of the bishops and the supreme pontiff, erase every cause of division, so that the whole human race may be led to the unity of God’s family.

Yesterday, a man I had lunch with caused me great concern. He didn’t, rather something he said did.

He was someone I met at a chamber of commerce event, and he engaged some of my staff in a discussion, and then as I walked up to the table, we talked for a while.  While very friendly, he was sure the church was based on falsehood, as he didn’t believe our God existed.  I invited him out to lunch, to discuss things further, and handed him my card. 

To be honest, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t take me up on the offer.  But he did, and we had a great conversation, both of us rarely eating what was on the table before us.  We learned a little bit about each other, talked about religion in general, Christianity, the church, and why a successful computer geek would sacrifice comfort and a great job to become a pastor in the middle of nowhere.

And what intrigued him the most, why a pastor/priest/minister would take the time to take him to lunch.  ( or for that matter, why a Christian who didn’t know him would)

And in retrospect, the very thing he was curious about, causes me great concern. 

The man has lived in my community for as long as my church has been here. There are other churches in my community that are as loving as caring as mine, and other pastors ( Mike, Bill, Father John) that are shepherds that care for people and for those who are lost or broken as I do.

So why would it take 4 decades for a man to be invited to lunch by a pastor/priest?

Why would we allow a man to go so long without knowing we could take him to lunch, and in a friendly discussion ( even with some teasing) help him explore what he doesn’t understand, that God loves him. 

That God is with him, even as he sees a new doctor today. 

God commands such hospitality, even to those who are alien to us, actually very specific to those who are alien to us. We are to love them, welcome them, help them experience and explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love.  

The awesome thing about this is that we aren’t welcoming them on our behalf only, we are acting as agents of God’s grace, as those who have been tasked with serving as reconcilers, as those whose work is described in these words,erase every cause of division, so that the whole human race may be led to the unity of God’s family.

(Although I a Lutheran, I often find the missional wisdom of Vatican II inspiring, especially in a place like this.)

We can enter into dialogue with the world, assured by God that we don’t go alone. Prayer reminds us of this, as does our time of meditation, especially on the sacraments, which are all acts of God’s hospitality, revealed in very tangible means. 

We know a peace beyond understanding, we know a love beyond the ability of poets to describe, we have a God who welcomes u into His presence and would welcome all, forgive their sin and inviting them to share eternal life, with Him.

Heavenly Father, help Your people again show Your will at work in their lives, as we open our churches, our homes, and our lives to those who need to come to know that YOU love them, as we show them that love, as we love them in YOUR name.  And bless my new friend John on his journey, and be with him at his doctor’s appointment today. AMEN!

Do me a favor, share with me stories of how you have been welcomed and loved by churches you have visited.  Or stories in which you share how you could have been made more welcome. THANKS!

 

(p.s – the end of the lunch included John inviting me out to lunch, to continue our discussion)

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The Paradox of Christian Generosity: Do Jesus and Paul disagree?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. 2  “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 3  But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. 4  Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (TEV)

10  And God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity. 11  He will always make you rich enough to be generous at all times, so that many will thank God for your gifts which they receive from us. 12  For this service you perform not only meets the needs of God’s people, but also produces an outpouring of gratitude to God. 13  And because of the proof which this service of yours brings, many will give glory to God for your loyalty to the gospel of Christ, which you profess, and for your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else. 14  And so with deep affection they will pray for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown you. 15  Let us thank God for his priceless gift! 2 Corinthians 9:10-15 (TEV)

723      You are an ordinary citizen. It is precisely because of that secularity of yours, which is the same as, and neither more nor less than, that of your colleagues, that you have to be sufficiently brave—which may sometimes mean being very brave—to make your faith felt. They should see your good works and the motive that drives you to do them.

Maybe it is me, but as I read the two passages from scripture above, I am confused.  It would seem, at face value, that Jesus and Paul disagree.  That Jesus is stating that we must do all our good works in private, and Paul wants us to do them visibly so that many people will give thanks to God.  It would seem that St. Josemaria agrees with Paul.  

So is there a difference between Paul and Jesus?  

Should we do things completely anonymously, or so that people can see what we do?

Have to admit, this is one that always stumped me.  I knew there had to be an answer, that scripture is not contradictory. but how do you think this through?

I think St. Josemaria hits on the answer, that what we are doing is making our faith felt.  

Our actions can’t be based on the motivation of other people praising us, or others focusing attention on us. If our actions are done to focus attention on us, then, yes, it is far better that they are done in the dark.  Like the priests who would pray and make a big show of donating to those in need, such acts are passing in their effect, and have no lasting impact.

Paul speaks of another kind of giving, a giving that requires bravery, of courage.  Of going past ourselves, and meeting a need that isn’t just financial.  To give in a way to help a person know that someone cares, and the reason they care is that of the love of God that unites us, His creation, His children.  Paul wants the people in Jerusalem to know that their gentile brothers and sisters in the world still care,  To put names and faces to the much-needed relief.

The result of which is God glorified. That is the impact of being part of, being invited into a community, a community where God’s love binds us. Where those who observe us see love that is not forced or fake, but really a reflection of the love God has for us.  A love that would quietly embrace pain or sacrifice to help someone else.

God is with you – as you meditate on that, as you live in that truth, you will do things to help others, without regard to others watching.  And in doing so, both Jesus and Paul’s directions will be heeded.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2631-2634). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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Can You Leave Your Friend there… in danger?

Devotional Thought for our days…

20 “If a truly good person starts doing evil and I put him in a dangerous situation, he will die if you do not warn him. He will die because of his sins—I will not remember the good he did—and I will hold you responsible for his death.  Ezekiel 3:20  GNT

13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. John 15:13 (GNT)

993         In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.

I read an article the other day, that made the argument that a pastor cannot be friends with his congregation.  That he has to stay aloof, separated so that he can call them to repentance when needed, and that they will hear him when he does.

One of my questions in the conversation that followed was, “shouldn’t your friend also care enough, love you enough to call you to repentance”  I had several questions about the concept, but this question is one I think we need to address today.

Should a friend help a person see the error of their way?

Or should we simply ignore the path they were on, letting them move on to perdition?

This job isn’t just a pastors.  It belongs to anyone that cares about anyone else. A parent, a teacher, a co-worker, a son or daughter, a friend.

There are a couple of challenges to this.  

The first is taking sin seriously enough.  St Josemaria helps here, helping us realize that sin can only be reconciled at the cost of life, the life of Jesus.   His brutal death, the shedding of His blood.  We get that about murder, or grand theft, or adultery.  I am not sure we realize that about that little white lie, or lust, or envy or gossip, And what about not treasuring the restful time we call the Sabbath when we gather with other believers and weep and laugh and rejoice together? Do we see this as sin?  

The second is more akin to comfort.  We are afraid to broach the subject, we are afraid our desire to care for our friend will be misunderstood as condemning them (We are trying to stop that!)  We are afraid of that awkward moment when they have to look in the mirror when they have to see their sin and error.

But their salvation, is that not worth the discomfort we might experience in calling them back? 

These are hard questions, and yet, evangelism is not a matter of “Law”, but one of Gospel, one of Love.  One of Joy.  We want people to experience this because we know the difference being forgiven makes.   We know the difference being clean creates in our lives, and knowing the hope of eternal life.

Our friends need this to know about this love of God that can take a sinner and make them a friend, that revive a broken soul, that can restore to its strength.  We can’t-do this because we have to, because it is a duty because it is what good Christians do.  We do this because we love them, and we love the God who is merciful.  For then, our thoughts aren’t about preserving our life or being comfortable.  It is about knowing them.

SO that we all can have the same heart and mind – that of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You Need Hope! (whether you think you do or not….)

Devotional Thought of the day:
15 When Jesus heard about the plot against him, he went away from that place; and large crowds followed him. He healed all those who were ill 16and gave them orders not to tell others about him. 17He did this so as to make what God had said through the prophet Isaiah come true:
18 “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, the one I love, and with whom I am pleased. I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will announce my judgment to the nations. 19 He will not argue or shout, or make loud speeches in the streets. 20 He will not break off a bent reed, or put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
21 and in him all peoples will put their hope.”  Mark 12:15-24

491    Nonne hic est fabri filius? Nonne hic est faber, filius Mariae?—“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” This, said of Jesus, may very well be said of you, with a bit of amazement and a bit of mockery, when you really decide to carry out the will of God, to be an instrument: “But isn’t this the one…?” Say nothing, and let your works confirm your mission.(1)

I stood there, having voted for everything but a candidate for President.  My mind was not made up  even then even after praying a lot. Serious concerns over both candidates, and indeed about the political spectrum in which we exist delayed that vote.  I have dear friends, many of them who follow Christ, who made passionate pleas for me to vote for their candidate, and those friends were advocating four different choices.

My thoughts were about them, and as the night closed, and this morning dawned, I saw some urging us to work together, others railing in triumph, and others drowned in despair.  What words could I write this morning that would minister to these beloved friends?  There is comfort needed, encouragement needed, and in some cases, a gentle rebuke, on that would re-focus them on Jesus, and restore a true hope.

Daily I do what I call devotional reading.  Reading not to prove my devotion, but to see God’s devoted care for us revealed. It is there I found these readings this morning, and the promise of God’s precise care for us.

Even as we are at our weakest, our most broken, shattered point, Jesus does not crush us. Even though we are burnt out, God knows where that little spark can be found, enough that with care the fire will roar again.  Even when we are at our weaknest – not because of despair, but because our success leads us to be vulnerable, and we don’t see a need for the hope we have in Jesus.

Yet justice, His justice, not ours, will prevail.

His.

No loud speeches needed, no arguments, no cheering or wailing.   Instead caring, comfort, a correction of course for those, re-orienting all to the presence of Christ.

It is so hard in these days when we let anxiety rain, or celebrate beyond what is beneficial.  When we go on the defensive, trying to justify our position, to show those who mock us they are wrong. When overwhelmed by sorrow or joy we don’t pay attention to those around us and end up breaking yet another relationship.

It’s time to stop – get back to what we do, to be silent and not take things personally, and to simply point people to the comfort and grace that is found in Christ, because He died, He rose, and He leads us into and keep us in His peace.

Rest there, no matter who you backed, and greet those who like you, find a respite from the days past. Let Jesus minister to you – bringing you life and hope!  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1199-1203). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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