Discussion/Devotional 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)
In the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, summing up a line of development that had begun with Leo XIII’s new engagement with modernity, taught that the Church does not have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Church does; rather, the Church is a mission, and everything the Church does is ordered to that mission, which is the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of the world to Christ. 43 Evangelical Catholicism is that form of twenty-first-century Catholicism that has fully embraced John Paul’s teaching on the nature of the Church-as-mission and that declares itself and its people to be in permanent mission. 44 And as such, it is the form of Catholicism that will complete the deep reform of the Catholic Church that has been underway since 1878.
In an evangelical Catholic perspective, mission measures everything; or, in the language of management theory, Evangelical Catholicism is mission-driven. Even in the sacred liturgy— that part of the Church’s life that seems to be a step back from the world, or better, a step into the real world that is the Kingdom of God in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb— the Church is being equipped by sacramental grace for mission. Even contemplative vocations that really are cloistered, from both the world and the rest of the Church, are mission-oriented. For the consecrated life, as John Paul II taught in the 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, is the spiritual engine of the Church. Here the energies of evangelism are refined and shared in a great exchange of gifts by which the entire Church, as the Bride of Christ, strives for union with her divine Spouse. 45 Thus the mission of the Church in-the-world is ordered to the coming of the Lord in glory and the New Life of the New Jerusalem.
If mission measures everything in Evangelical Catholicism, it also measures everyone, for as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught, “each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith.” 46 In an evangelical Catholic perspective, every Catholic is a missionary, an evangelist, a baptized disciple commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to every nation, calling all to be baptized in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Thus does Evangelical Catholicism respond to the challenges posed by evangelical Protestantism (in which sharing the friendship of the Lord Jesus is understood to be everyone’s responsibility) and clericalized Catholicism (in which mission is something reserved for the ordained). (1)
I think that believers in Christ are greatly confused by two words – Church – and Mission.
You might say, “Pastor Dt – we know about church – it’s not the building, its the people that gather together to worship God.”
That’s aa good start – but it is deeper than that – the word for church is ekklessia – “those called”, and defines us by what we are into, not just the call itself. We are called to be in a relationship with God, a relationship that is much like a dance, where He guides us through life, and He directs how we interact with others, and indeed, where He goes – we follow. So church is not just “the people” but its the people of God, walking, dancing, living in Him.
That life then, is the mission. As Wiegel asserts above, it also defines us, not in the sense of being a characteristic of our lives; rather mission is our life together. It is inviolate part of our calling, for mission is at the very heart of our relationship with God – from His sending (the word apostle is used regarding Him) Christ on the mission to save us, to the “Great Commission”, to the very revealed will of God – that none would be condemned, but that all would be transformed.
I love, absolutely love, Wiegel’s description then – of the gathering of the church above, “Even in the sacred liturgy— that part of the Church’s life that seems to be a step back from the world, or better, a step into the real world that is the Kingdom of God in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb— the Church is being equipped by sacramental grace for mission.” For how can we encounter God’s grace, poured out through word and sacrament, and then enter a world that is dark and bleary and without hope – but filled with narcissistic emptiness? Are we that hardened to the plight of people without God? Are we that unaware of what life is like, without dancing with God?
Do we take our own salvation so much for granted, that we do not desire the world to know?
Last January, I went on a “mission trip” sort of, a chance to go to China and preach in a church there, for a friend. A chance to visit others, who teach English, and share their love of God with those who ask why they have such hope. It was amazing to see a hall that through which a million people would pass each day – as they cleared customs from Hong Kong to Mainland China. But there, as odd as it seems, the work seemed easier, people desiring to know about God, wanting to learn, asking the hard questions about their faith, and desiring to learn how to give others the hope they only recently encountered. O how I wish we could bring that attitude here… I thought. WHat would do it?
I think Wiegel’s words give us the clue, it’s not another seminar on apologetics, it’s not another program/class on evangelism.
It’s standing at a baptistry or baptismal font, and knowing the Lord who cleansed us there, who opened our eyes – who guaranteed our lives with Him.
It’s kneeling at an altar, wondering why God decided to bless us with an invitation to feast with Him, to feed us the very Body and Blood of Christ.
It’s staying there, crying, as we realize we can pour everything we are, our pains, our sorrows, our hurts…. as He revives and renews our trust in Him…..
Then, as we leave there…. looking at our neighbor, hearing the pain in their voice. Seeing the anxiety building in the young mom at the market, visiting our friends in the hospital….
Seeing them, not as numbers to get to church, but as people to bring to that altar, to that font, so they can know the rest and peace… that we celebrate and rejoice in.
We are those called, we are those led on a mission…. it is who we are,…. already… in Christ.
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 85-86). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- The Necessity of Teaching People Worship and the Liturgy: Evangelical Catholic IX (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Now available: “Evangelical Catholicism” by George Weigel (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Mission, the New Evangelization and the Gospel of Life (respectlifechicago.wordpress.com)
Devotional Thought as I prepare to leave Jiangmen
25 And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 27 All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (TEV)
14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Romans 12:14-16 (TEV)
“ Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God—your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles? You can… and you must!” (1)
As I prepare to leave this city of Jiangmen, and head off to Macau, I am again consumed by a sense of homesickness, of missing my wife and son, and the people I fellowship. Yet in just a few days, I have come to like this city, its people, the road that runs beside the river with its trees, the noise and neon lights, the contrast of high-rises next to 100 year old brick and stone buildings. The people greeting me with a very enthusiastic “Jo-san” (not sure if spelling is correct)
The people aren’t different. All have their hopes, their fears, the things they would hide, the laughter that reveals both mirth, and yet…. pain. It is the same in America, or here in China, and in Italy, and in all the world. Indeed, some of us, are so used to the tears and pain, I am not sure we know how to deal with estatic joy.
The challenge is to realize that God didn’t mean for us to bear our burdens alone. They are meant to be shared. Some couples can do this – yet – many cannot. Never mind sharing both our joys and sorrows with our church families. Or our fears and anxieties. The very thought causes more fear and anxiety.
We so need to realize the dynamic that happens when we are joined with Christ. In each book that Paul writes, there is a need to address our community of faith – not just the local church but the church in its entirety. We are joined together, and completely and intimately as we are joined with God – because we are joined in God.
That is how both our joys and pains can both serve God, not because we force them to by an act of will, but because they do as we are united in Christ. It’s the outcome of who we are. For if indeed our bodies are living sacrifices, then everything we do and think and experience and feel – yes our emotions, becomes part of God’s tapestry – and can be used to glorify Him….
I think that is what has made this trip so memorable – seeing God bring home to me the unity of those He has made one in the faith. Whether it be the pastors showing me their churches, the young Americans here to teach, the people I’ve been able to meet with and pray with…. God is there… having created a dynamic relationship – in Him
As we work together, one body, united in Christ. No walls dividing us, not age or ethnicity, not gender or intellect, not even sin….
That is what it means to be one holy, catholic and apostolic people who God has called together… in Him.
Go and embrace the work God does in your life today…knowing He is with you.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2505-2507). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Answer to “That” Question
Isaiah 63: 15
† In His Name †
As we ask the questions, we cannot find the answers to, may become aware of God’s richest grace and mercy and love enfolding us, allowing us to poor out our pain, our grief, our anger… on the One who came to take it away…
It is a movie I watch a few times a year – one of those favorites, that even though you know the lines, the plot – and in this case – the incredible martial arts… you love to sink yourself into.
As a kid, I loved it because of the martial arts, and the hero taking on odds of 20, 50 even 100 to one. As an adult – as an one studies mankind, the movie is fascinating in a different way – as there are different reactions to injustice, to hatred, to evil.
There are the bad guys, who do whatever they want – and do not care about the victims. The ones we love to hate, yet in the end, find ourselves pitying, even as they get what they ask for.
There was the sheriff and the doctor – who though on the side of good, restrained their public speech against those who “controlled the town.
There was the pacifists – who took action by doing their own thing – trying to protect everyone – even at the cost of their own suffering, even hiding that suffering in a supposedly noble desire to avoid further violence, further pain, further sin.
Then there was Billy, the one who could spin and kick and whose presence could intimidate and cause people to behave for the moment… but who couldn’t be everywhere at once. Over the movie, he would transform – from a man focused on retribution to one who would publicly submit – that there could be some hope for reconciliation, some hope for peace… some hope for a future.
As the credits role at the end, as the hero is taken away in police cars, as the people honor him, the trauma is still left behind, and while there is some hope for the future… there is also a past to heal from. I look at that… and it is…right.
For none of those involved in the story have the answer… and in this world, it seems like all we can do some time is try to project how to prevent such trauma in the future. And maybe that should be enough – but for me it is far from it.
There is a verse that expresses what my heart cries out to :
Isaiah 63:15 (MSG) 15 Look down from heaven, look at us! Look out the window of your holy and magnificent house! Whatever happened to your passion, your famous mighty acts, Your heartfelt pity, your compassion? Why are you holding back?
Today, in light of Robert’s funeral, in light of the massacres in China and Connecticut on Friday, in light of all the trauma – the question has been asked to me multiple times – where is God? Where is He? Has He abandoned us?
Advent of all times in the year – perhaps gives us the best answer…
One that wasn’t heard in the movie, which is why, it left me with questions, with just a momentary hope, and no peace in the present.
The Pain –
In the movie – all the reactions to something so horrible, so incredibly unjust, are our normal reactions. Even if we are only witnesses from a distance, we almost adopt the people involved – as we are grateful the incident wasn’t here, or across the street. The sorrow and grief grows – especially if we have been in a situation similar, or cared for those who were. If we’ve seen the life-less eyes, robbed of joy. The pain grows as we hear things, some true, some not so true.
With the pain, there often comes frustration – we can’t even begin to conceive a logical explanation for these times of suffering – and that frustration turns quickly into anger. Anger at the perpetrator, anger at the evilness of society, anger that something wasn’t done, anger that we can’t do anything to help.. anger at God for even allowing such evil to exist.
That anger soon turns on those who allow it to ferment – and we saw that in the last two days, as people tried to diagnose what caused the young man in Connecticut and the man in China. Such anger also occurs, when rather than praying, we find ourselves engaged in debates on how to prevent further incidents such as there. We try to work everything out while we are still pained, stressed, grieving, remembering… and we end up, in our pain, not seeing, or caring for those who are likewise trying to grieve and process the news and emotions.
Heck – I find myself incredibly pained and frustrated and angry at how my friends treated each other, as they tried to make the case for their positions, when instead we should have all been on our knees, praying for the comfort of those directly affected, and those whose scars from prior tragedies have those scars ripped open again….
We might even find ourselves, internalizing all of this or trying this time – to ignore the pain, the grief, or trying to find someone to vent upon – or pour out our wrath upon…and then the guilt is added to the scenario – if we realize we too…have our victims.
The time to purge…
We can’t avoid dealing with these things… we can’t just bottle them up – we have to find a way to vent it all, and to vent in a way that doesn’t create other victims. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen – we should never ever not be in pain when they do.
There is a key to this, that is in that verse….there – right in the middle –
“Whatever happened to your passion? Where is your pity? Your Compassion?
You see, they knew of God’s love – even when they were in pain. Isaiah described it a few verses before…
I’ll make a list of GOD’s gracious dealings, all the things GOD has done that need praising, All the generous bounties of GOD, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant. 8 He said, “Without question these are my people, children who would never betray me.” So he became their Savior. 9 In all their troubles, he was troubled, too. He didn’t send someone else to help them. He did it himself, in person. Out of his own love and pity he redeemed them. He rescued them and carried them along for a long, long time.
Isaiah 63:7-9 (MSG) 7
They knew His compassion, His love, that we indeed are His people – it isn’t his nature to leacev us alone – it never has been, from Adam and Eve, to Abraham and Lot, to Moses or Joshua or David… or Job.
I love it that it says – in all their troubles, He was troubled too…
And it is incredible to realize – that God comes down, that He doesn’t leave these things up to others – but in these times – He is here…
And that is the message of advent.. He doesn’t leave us alone….. He never planned to, He never does, even when it seems that all is going to hell in the world…for that is what Mary had to treasure…the manger would lead to the cross, to the bearing of all sin, all pain, all anger. Isaiah again says it well
1 Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought GOD’s saving power would look like this? 2
4 But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. 5 But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his stripes we get healed. Isaiah 53:1-5 (MSG
Can we lay our burdens on the crucified one?
I know we hurt, even those on the fringe, or who see the fears for their children lived out in the lives of others. We in our anger and pain want to strigke out – want to rail against the evil – we want to take on something. I understand that! I know that desire – to somehow focus all of our rage, all of our pain on someone….
There is only one place to focus that rage – to focus that pain, to focus the anger…..the place that God focused it – along with all His wrath – not just for this massive evil example of sin, but all of the sin we deal with…
We have to go to the cross – to pour out our pain, our anguish, our anger on Jesus Christ – as He lies there – a victim unlike any other – for He chose to be the victim – to take all of the wrath for such actions, to let such sin, and the grief it causes to be nailed with Him there to the cross.
It is there – that our reactions, which can in themselves be sinful and trauma causing and sinful.. can be poured out…. on Jesus, as the cross…
Empty of the pain, our eyes perhaps unable to cry anymore… we find at the cross peace…