Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)
1 “Our Father who art in heaven.”2
2 What does this mean?
Answer: Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.
How often have we made the sign of the Cross, invoking without really adverting to it, the name of the triune God? In its original meaning the sign of the Cross was, each time it was made, a renewal of our Baptism, a repetition of the words by which we became Christians, and an assimilation into our personal life of what was given us in Baptism without our cooperation or reflection. Water was poured over us and, at the same time, the words were spoken: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The Church makes us Christians by calling on the name of the Trinitarian God. From her beginning, she has expressed in this way what she regards as the truly definitive mark of our Christianity: faith in the triune God. We find that disappointing. It seems so remote from our life. It seems so useless and so hard to understand. If there must be short formulas for expressing the tenets of our Faith, then they should at least be attractive, exciting, something whose importance for men and for our lives is immediately apparent.
Moving your hand from your forehead to your head to your stomach, from one shoulder to another, these simple movements are far too often done without thought, just a memory-driven motor response as we walk into a church, or start and end of a prayer, or see something tragic or traumatic.
For Lutherans, and Catholics and some Anglicans and others, it is a practice that we are very familiar with, even to the point of proving familiarity breeds contempt. Too other Christians, it may seem empty, a repetitious vanity that has no apparent benefit. (maybe their estimation is based on our attitude doing them?) These movements become too remote, redundant, lacking attractiveness and excitement and apparent importance.
Unless the movements are tied to understanding, unless we recognize the truth we are confessing in making the sign of the cross, we will do them in a vain and worthless manner.
But if making the sign of the cross reminds us of the gifts of God, they become something that causes us to pause, that makes our entrance into a church a point of transition. A point where we remember why we can approach God boldly.
Because of the Cross, because of the name of God which became what identifies us when God cleansed us of our sin. As Pope Benedict reminds us, we didn’t have anything to do with it! (see Titus 3:3- or Ezekiel 36:26ff) This simple act reminds us of God’s simple but profound act in our lives, beginning the change that is promised to be completed as we see eternity revealed to us.
Perhaps the simplicity is as undramatic as it is, because nothing could adequately signify the incredible blessings this act reminds us of, the guarantee of what awaits us. Nothing could explain the reality that we now can know. Immanuel, God with us, the Incarnation that occurs in each of us, as we are marked by God with His name.
And that the Holy Spirit is working even now, quietly conforming us into the image of the Lord who gives us hope. who loves us more than we can imagine, who brings us into the presence of the Father ( See Colossians 3:1-3)
This simple act reminds us we belong there, with God, for He has made us His.
So slow down, say the words thinking about the promises, the forgiveness of sin, eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that He will never ever leave or forsake us. These movements reveal who we are, the children of God, the ones who can boldly enter His presence, and confidently ask for His blessing….
Lord, have mercy on us
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 163–164). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (NLT)
We have quoted all of this here, not to begin an argument on this subject (his Imperial Majesty does not disapprove this article), but to make clear to all our readers that we defend the doctrine received in the whole church—that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with those things that are seen, bread and wine. We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that “death no longer has dominion over him.”7
826 You have to make your life essentially, totally eucharistic.
My father’s 88th Birthday was on Monday, and one picture of my dad continues to come to mind. It was him, kneeling at the altar rail, wearing his sunglasses (with a light brown tint )
I knew the reason he wore him, he was afraid of people seeing the tears that would flow as He received the body and blood of His Savior Jesus. The presence that would lay his broken and wounded heart out, and allow healing to happen. The tears couldn’t stop while he was there, the was nothing he could do about them. And there was, in the midst of the tears caused by ripping open the scars, a sense of wonder at the peace. It overwhelmed him. There are two pictures of my dad that come to mind when I think of him in his older years, and this is the primary one.
I then think of a phenomenon that occurs when the youngest of children approach the rail in my church. It started with one girl during an Ash Wednesday Communion service. She was 2 and a half, and so comfortable at the rail next to her mother that communed that she grabbed hold of it, and wouldn’t let it go. Her scream pierced the darkened church a moment later, “No I want to stay with Jesus!” she said! Since then, almost always on their first visit, we’ve seen children do this, again and again, grasping onto the rail, or trying to come back after their parents returned to their seat. Far too many times for it to be a coincidence, and my elders and deacons know well to simply tell the parents it is okay for them to stay there. They are welcome, and they are at peace.
When I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, as he advises us to make our lives eucharistic, ( or some Lutherans might use the word Incarnational) it resounded to me. The words were supported by the observation in the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession – as Melanchthon reminds us we are communing with the Body and Blood of Christ, the presence of the living resurrected Messiah, Jesus.
We are in His presence, He gives us Himself in this bread, in this wine. It is something that should leave us in awe at His sacrifice of love, at His desire to be part of our lives, part of us. That in this meal, at this moment, we find ourselves in the same place as the elders of Israel in Moses day.
9 Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10 There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11 And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)
He did not destroy Him, they were so at peace in the glorious presence of God that they ate and drank ( the NLT adds in “a covenant meal, ” but they were indeed celebrating the Mosaic Covenant – God’s promise to care for them, to make them His people)
I know my dad felt that overwhelmed, even if he had great trouble describing it with words. Just the thought would bring tears to his eyes, and cause him to struggle to speak. He would be so overwhelmed he didn’t want to approach it too often, he had to work himself us to go to that place, so overwhelming was the peace and his need for it. I think kids are more aware of the presence of God than we could credit them for, which is why the altar is a joyous, peaceful place they don’t want to leave.
I could tell you the story of others, whose body language shared how crushed they were by the world, or by the weight of their own sins, only to approach the altar and have all that pressure dissipate, all that weight lifted.
Not because of the pastor/priest, not because of the building, but simply because of the presence of God, Because of the gift, the grace He gives us in this holy sacrament, for He gives us Himself….. and like the elders, we do not die in the presence of God, but He nourishes us, as He reminds us of the covenant, of His promise that we are His.
I pray that you and I could be like the kids, who never want to leave, as we experience His presence, as He heals our broken hearts and souls. May we yearn for it, not to be considered pious by the world, but to experience the foretaste of heaven, and share in His glory.
May we receive His gift with gladness and joy! AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2935-2936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional/discussion thought of the day:
22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (NLT)
7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 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 2:7-10 (NJB)
It was one of the cries of the men who tried to reform, to re-focus the Catholic Church. Faith Alone, Sola Fide in Latin. It is still the point of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and a few of the protestant denominations. Even as I pray that the Church would be visibly one, hole, catholic, and apostolic; I struggle to see that this issue would be ever resolved.
There is a twist to this issue now, one that might be distinctly American, or perhaps it simply originated here. It cuts across all of the church, and it may be more destructive than anything the Great Schism or Reformation/Counter Reformation has spawned.
It is the addition of the little pronoun “my” to either “saved by faith”, or “saved by faith alone”. To add that skirts the border of heresy, and it bows to the idol of narcissus. It puts the glory and the credit for salvation, not in the God in whom we trust, but in the “me”. As if in some way, faith originated in me, by my own reason, by my own intellectual/spiritual/holy prowess.
Perhaps this is why we take every attack on Christianity so personally, as if ISIS, or the atheists, or whomever, is attacking us directly. Perhaps it is why we avoid martyrdom and suffering, instead finding our shields up, our notions of self defense well exercised. It is why we can justify missing church, despite what scripture says, because after all, this religion, this belief, this faith is mine. Such a personal faith focuses on our knowledge, or our work, on what we have gained or achieved. It can then grow into Gnosticism, or Agnosticism, for as long as faith is “my faith”, as long as it focuses one me, it will lead to emptiness, and more searching out for that arcane bit of knowledge that will justify me. At least it will justify me in my own sight.
Which is what really matters today, at least in the our own view.
Self-righteousness, self-justification, as if in “my faith” it is also “my judgement” that needs to be appeased.
I mentioned that this idea borders on heresy, but I didn’t say which side of the border. It is across the border, I believe, from both historic Catholic and Protestant perspectives. Because it ignites that faith is more than a doctrinal statement, more than a set of core beliefs. It is more than knowledge.
For you can’t have faith without having faith “in” someone/something. It is a verb, not a noun, and it requires an object. Going back to the Latin, we see the root of the word “confidence” (that is with faith) My confidence doesn’t save me, it is that we have confidence in the love and mercy of Christ which saves us. Not the confidence, but the love and mercy is what saves us. We see this in the Creeds, the “I believe IN”, I have faith IN”. Faith is simply the reception, the trust, the dependence upon the God who is revealed to us, revealed to be working in/on/upon and through us. That faith, trust, dependence radically changes us, not just how we think bu how we live. For that transformation is the promise.
That is why faith can never be “my” faith, it must focus on the object, the Lord whom we trust in to do what He promised, to do what He has done. To have faith in God means we abide in Him, we find refuge in Him, we recognize His work in making us His children, His people.
He has had mercy, He loves. Trust Him, have faith in Him, and know He saves you!
Discussion and Devotional thought of the Day:
“Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is supreme over every man…. 1 Corinthians 11:1-3 (TEV)
1 Finally, our friends, you learned from us how you should live in order to please God. This is, of course, the way you have been living. And now we beg and urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to do even more. 2 For you know the instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (TEV)
203 Surely all those consolations I receive from the Master are given me so that I may think of him all the time and serve him in little things, and so be able to serve him in great things. A resolution: to please my good Jesus in the tiniest details of my daily life. (1)
It sits there, on the sign identifying the congregation I pastor, on our stationary, on business cards and polo shirts.
A Label, something that identifies our heritage, but also potentially divides us from the body of Christ.
I both love it, and hate it, even despise it.
I despise it because people assume it is something that sets us apart, something that identifies why we are different, as if being a lutheran was a license to condescension, to some higher level of purity or knowledge or perfection. Though not it’s intent in every place bearing its name, there can be pride associated with that label. Because of both assumptions, I despise it, just as I despise the fact that we are 3 years from “celebrating” a division in the church, that is contrary to the will of God. It is my regular prayers that something would happen, a miracle, that would allow the entire church to find healing together in Christ. That my small section of the church would have the humility to encourage this, even noting our own sin, our own failures, our own poor theology that prevents it.
I hate the label, because it is not specific. Many “wear” it, and have radically different beliefs. Some have departed the focus on grace and mercy and Christ’s delivering us into the presence of our Heavenly father, saving us from sin… our sin. They have neglected the treasuring of a relationship with God that brought such peace and joy to Luther. For this man realized God was our refuge from the brokenness of the world. Others have gone the other direction, forgetting the why’s and legislating the hows and whens. They look more to great theologians of different eras, taking even their errors as being right. They will even say their own teaching is beyond question. Extremisms define the label today, far more than the basic teachings of the catechism, and how it summarizes truth from scripture. In some ways, the extremes almost defeat the benefit of the label. Knowing this, I would actually think a better description of my church would be the old name, the Evangelical-catholic church. Historically and with a pragmatic view to our work, it suits us well.
I think the reasons above are why some toss aside the labels, or at least try to toss them aside. They label their church community church (though there are denominations with that moniker), or Christian Church or church of Christ (though I was originally ordained in that denominational family…err brotherhood of churches)
So why not just hang out a sign that says, “a church”, or “the church on the corner”. Get rid of all other identifying markings, all other labels.
After all of this, why do I like the title?
1. It reminds me that who I believe, and what I believe about Him, is bigger than just me. It was handed down to me, entrusted to me by a larger community of faith. My congregation and I don’t stand alone. In the same way my friends in the Roman Catholic Church find comfort in seeing how saints have endured persecution and troubled times, knowing that God would work through Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, Walther, Pieper, Piepkorn, that broken men found solace and hope in God’s is incredible to realize.
They pass us down, not just an academic belief system, but a sense of hope, a story of healing, the assurance that God is our refuge, our help in times of trouble. As Paul encouranged us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus, so these men (and women) provide some helpful tracks along the journey. The label reminds me of this, and those that went before. Their failures, their successes, and how they coped with both!
2. While it doesn’t reduce or eliminate extremism, it gives me a base to start from, a point to evaluate what I teach, and preach and how I administer the sacraments. While their words are only legitimate when in accord with scripture, they do help me, to ensure I don’t fall far astream. Creeds and catechisms are never end all, be alls, but they help. One doesn’t have to go far back in history to see those who claimed to base their understanding solely on scripture fail miserably, leading people astray. (Jim Jones is an example, as are denominations like the Jehovah Witnesses) Think of a amusement park, and the “car rides”, which have a steel or cement center rail. Having a heritage of faithful people running along the same rail before helps us stay the course. (see Hebrews 11)
I suppose the last reason I love my particular label, is that the irony keeps my humble. I know Luther would shake his head at us, wondering why in the world we would name our denomination after such a sinner as he was. The irony that we did, because he was a sinner that God would use to restore something the church had lost (he also messed up a lot – please understand this!) But if God could use a pastor as broken, as crazy, as powerfully as he did…despite his pride, his temper, then there is hope for me, as I ask my people to follow me, as I follow in footsteps of all of those who follow Christ.
Rejoice, we aren’t alone in this journey, God has sustained people beyond number who have handed down to us, what we hand down to others!
By the way, know this, if your label is different, that doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome… just the opposite – please, plese come let’s find out why the labels are blessings… not letting them divide us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 901-904). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day….
1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (TEV) 15 I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.
5 Through the Word and the rite God simultaneously moves the heart to believe and take hold of faith, as Paul says (Rom. 10:17), “Faith comes from what is heard.” As the Word enters through the ears to strike the heart, so the rite itself enters through the eyes to move the heart. The Word and the rite have the same effect, as Augustine said so well when he called the sacrament “the visible Word,”5 for the rite is received by the eyes and is a sort of picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word. Therefore both have the same effect. (1) (from Article XIII of the Augsburg Confession)
“XXV. Of the Sacraments. Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.” (2)
“What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament? Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. ” (3)
530 Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar? (4)
Yesterday I had the great blessing of going back to my alma mater, and teaching a class on the Lord’s Supper (also known as the Eucharist and Holy Communion) it was really a good experience for me, and I think I caused some of the students to think.
I started the class with my own “personal theology” regarding the Lord’s Supper. I’ll briefly state it here:
You have a 16 oz cup that contains 8 ounces of wine. Do you:
(1) Agree and argue the position alongside the optimists that it is the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.
(2) Agree and argue the position that it is only grape juice, and it only is a act of faithful obedience….
or (3) find some bread and with the people of God celebrate (give thanks) the gift of God given to the people of God as you commune with Him?
As always, there is a third choice, as I I thought through the lesson, I was struck by something truly astonishing. While the sacramental churches disagree on what I would call the mechanics of the Lord’s Supper – exactly how and when and in which ways the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ, they don’t disagree that the Eucharist has a dramatic and transforming effect on those who trust in Jesus, on those in a relationship with Him.
For it is highly effective, and as a means of grace, brings into our lives so much, it is a wonder that anyone would ever avoid it, or not be glad to celebrate it.
The challenge is that how it affects us is not academic, or philosophical, but rather deeply spiritual, and if I dare us the word, emotional.
Maybe that is why we can’t agree on the mechanics, but can agree on its effect. We can’t academically and logically dissect the Bread and Wine, we can’t scientifically prove the presence of God there… and our post-enlightenment minds struggle with what we can’t forensically prove, what we can’t observe and demonstrate in regards to the elements.
It’s not knowing about God that is important when it comes to the sacraments, it’s about knowing Him. About realizing the depth of His love, the “sure-ness” of His presence, of resting in His comfort and peace, of being in community with Him, every part of us.
Melanchthon (author of the first quote from the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession) was absolutely right – this is about God’s work in our hearts. Like the very word of God it cuts our hearts open and circumcises them, cleansing us, as in our baptism – of the sin which ensnares us. Bathing us in God’s presence, His glory, His love, and bringing healing to our very hearts, our very souls. It is God working in us, the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us into the image of God – as the sacrament ( the physical element and the word of God – takes hold of us. ) is there.
I didn’t include the RCC quote I used – because of its length, but instead a quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a favorite writer of mine. I can begin to understand their practice of adoration and contemplation about the “mystery” of this – the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ. Of sitting silently in wonder at the depth of God’s love, at the incredible power of the Holy Spirit within us, to take the time to think through what we’ve shared in, this body and blood, this precious gift, that causes faith to well up within us. For far too often as he points out – we rush through such times – we want to get it done, move through it. Yet think about a good meal – bacon wrapped bacon wrapped shrimp for example. You want to savor the smell, the enviroment, the flavor. Could we take such a time with the Lord’s Supper as well, to let the moment nourish our hearts longer – to set aside our intellect and realize how precious it is, that God comes to us, that He is here? To realize the Spirit’s work in us, drawing us to Him, transforming us, healing us, taking our burdens…
If I, in this week of returning to my alma mater – convince them of nothing theologically – that’s okay. It’s not what I am aiming for. it’s not what the sacrament is about. Doing a dissertation explaining 5000 years of sacramental theology? Cool – but what is needed – knowing our need for God’s presence… and knowing He responds to that need, for this He has promised, this blessing is ours…in Him.
So my friends, take and eat…. take and drink often, and know that the Lord is with you… AMEN!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 211–212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) The Articles of Faith (Anglican) http://anglicansonline.org/basics/thirty-nine_articles.html
(4) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1282-1284). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
From the Large Catechism of Martin Luther:
But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. I am also a part and member of the same a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it.
A week from now, I will preach at a combined services of congregations, as we gather to celebrate Reformation Day. Last night, the above passage was discussed in a group I am teaching. The juxtaposition of which confounds me, and to be honest, depresses and saddens me.
I comprehend the details of Luther’s departure from the Roman Catholic Church, and the pain his writings reveal as he went through very dark days. His reaction towards those who should have discussed the issues is often inexcusable, even as we realize the pain which caused the reaction.
But there is supposed to be one church, a holy, united/catholic, and apostolic/missional church which finds unity not by its own reasoning and strength, but instead in Christ, as they are gathered by the Holy Spirit. Remember Jesus’ call that His disciples may be one – even as the Father and Jesus were One? We are supposed to be without sects or schisms, yet there are 40,000 denominations and within those denominations (including the RCC) there are movements and sub-groups which are competitive and divisive and questioned and not trusted.
So do we abandon hope for a church united in Christ? Or do we justify a decisions with a reference to the visible and invisible church, noting that just because we can’t see our unity, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist? DO we mourn the lack of unity in the church, and the sin which causes it? Or do we triumphantly rise in our sects and schisms and proclaim that we are the true church, and all heterodox bodies are less loved, less effective, and therefore God is not in control?
I pray, even as we approach the five hundreth year since the divisions in the church manifested themselves, and we are eight hundred and sixty years since the Great Schism, that we all pray, as our Lord did – that we would be one. Not in compromising our trust in Christ, but instead, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through word and sacrament to do that which we confess He does… making us one, holy, catholic and apostolic gathering….
Lord have mercy on us!
Devotional thought of the day:
It is a line from our creeds, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” Many believers – even a majority say such a phrase at least once a week, as we are gathered together by God, in His presence, in His Name.
Yet do we desire that which we state we believe in, that which the Holy Spirit creates as He calls and gathers us and sets us apart as His people. For the church is simply that – in Greek – “the called”, or “the chosen”. And many of us desire that the church be one, whether it is the church across the world and across all denominational boundaries, the church as in our particular denomination/synod/sect, or whether it is the church as in our own local expression of the church – the congregation – those gathered together in one place, where God put His name – so they can pray and know they are forgiven, and that those who don’t know God can pray, and they can know He is.
When the creed was composed, the idea of “one church” was obvious – both the word “one” and the word “catholic” testify to the church. But our forefathers in the faith were quite wise in adding the other words, “holy” and “apostolic”. For there we find some of the things which express our unity together.
Holy is much misunderstood these days – as if someone who is “holy” is a goody-two shoes, the person who never makes an error in morality, never doubts, always is serving others – an ideal saint. But if you look in history, saints were pedestal people (well – except for the Stylites…but that’s another story) They were common people often, who had to deal with anxieties, who had to deal with family issues, and financial struggles, who were challenged by their governments, and somehow – realize that the answer was not within themselves, but found in realizing that God was God, and God loved them. Their trust in God and HIs promises, was the the foundation of their strength, they would become attune to the direction of God, and while they would still sin like the rest of us, they could be assured that even there God was working.
The work of making them holy – wasn’t their discipline, it was and is the Spirit working in them, sanctifying them – making them saints. Setting them apart for God’s work, no matter whether the work is baking bread (like the lay-brother who wrote “practicing the presence of God – or the new baker whose work with provide for and subsidize a new seminary in the Sudan) or whether it is preaching and leading others deeper into dependence on God as priests and pastors and missionaries and Sunday School teachers.
And that brings us to the other word – we are an apostolic gathering of people. The question I’ve asked – is tha apostolic as in hearing the apostles teaching, or is it apostolic as in the idea that we – like the many people talked about as apostles in the New Testament (besides the 12 ) are sent into the word, to reflect the glory of God, and be His ambassadors to bring hope to the world. I tend to think it is both, but more the latter. And that is where the church is seen by the world, as it brings hope for healing -healing of relationships, healing from the damage of sin, healing of families, as we realize that Christ is healing us.
one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church – the body of Christ that is set apart to be salt and light in the world.
When you see it occur, you know it, and it is truly amazing….. God’s people, knowing the glory of His love and mercy and peace… and their reflection of that – drawing people into that very glory.
May we cry, “Lord have mercy” and find that He has…together.
Discussion thought for the day:
At lunch yesterday, I was reading a biography of a priest. He was serving in Spain during the Civil War that tore apart the country prior to World War II, and as he and many others were escaping across the mountains, the biographer included this…
“The student from Catalonia kept a journal of his experiences on the trip. On November 28 he wrote, “Here the most moving event of the whole trip takes place: Holy Mass. On a rock and kneeling down, almost prostrate on the ground, a priest with us is saying Mass. He doesn’t say it like other priests in churches…. His clear and heartfelt words penetrate the soul. Never have I attended Mass like today’s. “*
As a Lutheran pastor, such an impact is what I would desire – that no matter the location, a incredible cathedral, a simple chapel, a campground or on a retreat (this has happened on a few retreats I have been on – where everyone just knew… it was time to drop everything else… and rearrange the day around communion). It is not the location, by no means, but the miracle of God, dwelling in the midst of His people….
Such words as the student’s…most pastors and priests I know… would love to hear… because it means God is working through us…
To know that God could use, would use our words, much as this priest’s, much as St. Peter’s at Pentecost. To bring life and hope, to re-create the scene in Ezekiel 37, where life was generated, breathed into being… That the people would realize, not the presence of the pastor/priest, but the presence of God reaching them through the words, through the sacrament…
It brings to mind the words of Peter, as Jesus was abandoned by so many… and Jesus asks if they would desert him as well…
6:68 ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, 69 and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.’
John 6:68-69 (NJB)
May our words, the words of Pastors and Priests in mass/service, and the words of our people so be heard… for they are not ours – but His – words of eternal life, words that are clear, and heartfelt, but that penetrate souls…
* de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-19). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume II, God and Daring (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 3453-3456). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.