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Our Responsibility to Each Other…from the beginning

Devotional Thought of the Day:

The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it. 16 But the LORD told him, “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, 17 except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong. If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!”
18 The LORD God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.” 7 So the LORD took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. That’s how they got their names.
None of these was the right kind of partner for the man. 21 So the LORD God made him fall into a deep sleep, and he took out one of the man’s ribs. Then after closing the man’s side, 22 the LORD made a woman out of the rib.
The LORD God brought her to the man, 23 and the man exclaimed,
“Here is someone like me!
She is part of my body,
my own flesh and bones.
She came from me, a man.
So I will name her Woman!”

genesis 2:15-23 CEV

Is there an unconverted servant or child absent this morning? Make special supplication that such may, on their return to their home, gladden all hearts with good news of what grace has done! Is there one present? Let him partake in the same earnest entreaty.

Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.

Every November 1 I set up my new “devotional readings” for the year. Usually it includes a devotional work or two, a different translation of the Bible (from the Douay-Rheims to the New Jerusalem, from the ASV to the GNT and this year the CEV) and a couple of harder texts, like the Book of Concord.

This year, as I started, I was reminded of our need to care for one another, for our need to pass on our faith, to be discipled and to disciple. That would seem obvious in Spurgeon’s’ quote, taken from a discussion about Philemon, and what it means to have a church that is your home. And the Catholic Catechism makes it clear that discipleship is the work of the church.

But I see this as well in the creation of Adam, and in the command to not eat the fruit of the tree that gives the knowledge of right and wrong. We see there that even as God gives Adam a partner, he has a responsibility to her, to ensure she won’t eat of that tree.

And he fails.

He doesn’t equip her whether enough or at all, with the simple knowledge he has been entrusted. In fact, he will allow her to convince him to try. This first peer-pressured sin is in fact, a sign of his failure to take responsibility.

We need to remember we are in this together! Not just those in the church, but all people, of all backgrounds, all languages, all ages. This is who we are. James writes

19  My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20  remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (NIV)

This isn’t easy in our day, but it is what we are called to do, called in loving our brother and sister, our wife and children. To teach and disciple, to call back, and care for, to remind each other these simple words,

THE LORD IS WITH YOU!

and someday, rejoice together as we all realize how true it is!


C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 8.

500 years since Luther, have we forgotten…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13  Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14  Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (TEV)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

3 Although the people are supposed to be Christian, are baptized, and receive the holy sacrament, they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten commandments, 3 they live as if they were pigs and irrational beasts, and now that the Gospel has been restored they have mastered the fine art of abusing liberty.
4 How will you bishops answer for it before Christ that you have so shamefully neglected the people and paid no attention at all to the duties of your office? May you escape punishment for this!
5 You withhold the cup in the Lord’s Supper and insist on the observance of human laws, yet you do not take the slightest interest in teaching the people the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or a single part of the Word of God. Woe to you forever!

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the start fo the reformation, or at least one of the events that gave it some traction, the posting of an invitation to a discussion about practical theology.

What the host had thought to be a discourse that would make grace real, that would help people grow in faith; that would help them live in the peace which God had promised them.   What he hoped would unify the church, shattered it.

Luther’s words in blue, from the introduction f the small catechism, a book for dad’s to teach their family about God, show the damage to the church then.  Damage we see in the church at large now.

For our people are more focused on things of human invention than in the peace that comes from understanding the way of God, a way detailed in the Ten “Commandments” (the way we are described when we live in fellowship with the God who saved us) , the Creed, (the way God revealed Himself to us, that we may trust and depend upon Him) and the Lord’s prayer (the way we communicate and what we desire to know God is doing, that He promised).

Some of our people may know these from repetition, but how many know them.  How many rejoice in this, and it drives them to know more?  How many know these things so well that they are internalized, and affect their very lives?

We see the damage in the ways that people are blown about by every change of doctrine; we see it in the fact that they cannot teach why they trust in God to a neighbor over coffee. This problem isn’t new – the apostles dealt with it, (obviously) and so did Luther.  They saw the imbalance between what was verbalized and what was confessed.  What people said out of habit (or listened to) and what they knew.

In this day where the church, whether contemporary or traditional, missional or confession (terms  used to distinguish the extremes in my movement) or however else the church can be divided is battered and broken, we need to return to the joy of our first love, to plunge into exploring the dimensions of God’s love, of how He reveals it, of how we live in it.   For that changes everything, including how we look at one another.  Including how we find ourselves reconciling rather than being divisive forces.

So let us pause, and think about how great this salvation is, how great it is that Jesus delivers us into the presence of the Father, who fills us with the spirit, and makes us His own.  And let us rejoice in how he does that, even as it confronts us in our sin,  brings us to faith, and to know He is with us.

AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 338). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

When being “spiritual” or “in a relationship” isn’t enough. Our need for religion.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  Then your children will ask, ‘What does this ceremony mean?’ Exodus 12:26 (NLT)

1  As for you, my son, be strong through the grace that is ours in union with Christ Jesus. 2  Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (TEV)

318         Many years ago now, I saw most clearly a truth which will always be valid: the whole web of society needs a new way of living and spreading the eternal truths of the Gospel, since it has departed from Christian faith and morals. Children of God at the very heart of that society, of the world, have to let their virtues shine out like lamps in the darkness—quasi lucernae lucentes in caliginoso loco. (1)

“What does this mean?” – Martin Luther (throughout both the small and large catechism)

People often respond when they find out I am a pastor with responses indicating that they are “spiritual” or are only interested in a relationship with God.  They might even note they have no need for organized religion, (not a problem if you’ve seen my office) or some other disparaging remark about being religious.  It’s been going on for almost all of my adulthood, as each generation takes up the mantras in a different way.  (you might even say they religiously do so!)

Even among theologians and pastors there is no immunity from this, as when I ask about prayer life or worship or personal Bible study time there is the response that they aren’t pietists.  Some will even justify this by claiming that they aren’t saved by such things. (And a lot of the articles about being in a relationship not a religion are written by people who employed as church workers… imagine that!)

I am going to say this, and I want you to hear it clearly.  We need to be religious!

When Luther’s catechisms were developed, the one question asked over and over is, “what does this mean?”  And then the dialogue would show our need to be in a relationship with God, and how that commandment, belief, prayer, sacrament affected that relationship positively.

I am not talking about heavy theology, I am talking about the basic things a follower of Christ does, that helps them trust in Jesus more.

Growing as we being to Understand Gods will for how we live (the commandments) and how that blesses us.

Growing as we grow deeper in understanding God’s will and actions in creating, healing, and being set apart for that relationship

Growing in our conversation with God, as we learn and pray, giving Him all that causes anxiety and fear, and trusting that He will not only answer those prayers generally, but specifically in our lives.

Growing in appreciation and desire of how God pours out His blessings, His mercy, His peace in those things we call sacraments.  Baptism  (as He adopts us and marks us as His own), Confession and Absolution (as He comforts and heals us in our brokenness and cleanses us from our sin, and the incredible feast celebrating Christ’s work for you.

All of these things are what I think of when I think of religion.  I don’t see anything objectionable to any of them.  We should desire to know God more, but that means on His terms. He’s God after all, and He is Who the relationship depends upon.  Knowing such things, knowing the “why’s”, gives us hope when life is shattered, when we are oppressed, when we are anxious.  A relationship without formed, or formed in our minds cannot do that, for it has no reality in Christ.

Paul told Timothy to pass on what he learned.  He was basically telling him to teach people to answer the “what does this mean” question.

It would be a good question to help people ask. And then, religiously answer it, passing down to others what gives you hope.

God bless you as you ask, and give answers to those who ask.  For this is your religion, revealing the relationship God wants to have with each of us.

AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1506-1509). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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