He Knows My Name(s?)! Their Name (s?) too!
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross…
It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon’s house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?” Acts 10:3-18 GNT
St. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was a master wordsmith, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. It comes as a surprise then that he vacillates so much on St Peter’s name in this passage. Talking to others, the angel uses his full name – “Simon Peter.” Yet when addressing the the Lord in a vision, the Lord only uses the name Peter was given by God, “Peter.”
Is it only a curiosity? Is it only something with a hidden message, that only those who have been introduced to the full mysteries of the faith are to understand? Or is it a message to Peter, to prepare him for a lifetime lesson?
For sure Cornelius’ men don’t know – all they have been told is to fetch Simon Peter.
But for Peter to hear Simon again, the name he had before he encountered God, should have shaken him. It would be like me calling one of you Saint and Sinner, identifying the before Jesus you and the you who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. But identifying you as well as the Saint you are becoming… and are.
For Peter it is the lesson in a microcosm – the vision retold, personally…
God declared Simon Peter clean.
And as Peter hears the voice from heaven speaks, it addresses him… not as Simon Peter, but simply as Peter.
Peter the cleansed, Peter the one restored to ministry after he denied Jesus 3 times. (John uses the same Simon/Peter description on the seashore in the same way)
Peter will go and minister to those God would declare clean – even though the world sees them as sinners. He understands what Luther noted,
“Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, in as much as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other. Christ also pleased not himself, hence we are to do as he did.”
As we look at equipping the saints in the churches we serve, understanding the sinner-saint dynamic will be important. We aren’t any better than Peter as we judge what we see in the brokenness of the churches and the schools we serve. We need to consider the work God can do with those who are broken, as we bear their infirmities, as they see God at work in our lives, so that they know that God can work in theirs.
We talk about the fact that we don’t have authority as ministers of the gospel. We only have the ability to influence people. And the greatest influence we can have… is helping them see how complete the work of Jesus is, in those weak enough to depend on Him.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 169.
Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 1 Peter 5:1-3 (NLT)
If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9 if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.1 John 1:8-9 (NJB)
402 People have to be taught how to work, but their training need not be overdone, for actually doing things is a way of learning too. They should accept in advance their unavoidable shortcomings: the best is the enemy of the good. (1)
It is one of the hardest lessons that pastors and other Christian leaders have to learn. I still struggle with it, the guys I mentor, yes they do as well.
It seems a paradox, counter-intuitive to the responsibility for them that we have been given. We want them to succeed, we want them to grow, we want them to rejoice in all things.
So we have to let them fail?
Yes! And yes, it hurts, yes we want to go in and fix everything, to make an event succeed, to help a couple before they need counsel, FOr oto wait, the problems will be worse, the pain to correct them more intense. The question then arises, will they blame us for their failure?
But I think it is caring even more to embrace the pain of their failure, to be their, waiting for the prodigal to come home.
Two reasons for letting them fail.
1. We learn better from our mistakes. It stops the learning process if everything always goes smoothly, They have to learn when to ask for help, when to admit they are overreached, and how to do the work to correct their errors, For it is there, that the most significant
2. They need to learn about God’s presence there, ready to cleanse them. They need to know that failure doesn’t result in condemnaiton, but in reconciliation. People have to realize that God loves them, (and so should we) even when we fail, so that we run to Him first, so we know we will encounter grace not condemnaiton. That they will realize what it means for God to be God. To be their Father. They have to get that, and it is more important than their doing everything right the first time.
Two reasons for those around them…
1. We all need to learn to be graceful to those around us. If failures are treated with grace this will happen. We don’t want to encourage people to fail, but we want them to know that some failure, some shortcomings is unavailable.
2. We, as servant leaders, need to grow in our faith of God. Every servant leader in scripture failed, some dealt with it (King David, St. Peter), many didn’t (king Saul for example). But to let our people fail, to even stand by and watch it happen, requires us to have both a pastor’s heart and a deep faith that knows that all will work for good for those that love God. That in failure, our people will have to meet Christ crucified, that they will adore the God who knows their sufferings and will rescue them. We must trust God…. and that trust has to grow…that expectation of His grace has to be so ingrained in our lives, that it is lived in view of our people. THat we realize that the sins of the people of God and all unrighteousness and evil is cleansed from us.
So let them fail, and be there with God to lovingly pick them up, be there to see the wounds heal, and to help them learn the lesson.
FOr that is what we do….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1816-1818). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Have We Shut Down…the church (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Dare to Be Christian Means Dare to Be Broken (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Proper Practical Pastoral Care… and a Pimple… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Another Post on Real Leadership in the Church
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day;
Yesterday, I spent my day with brothers, who like me, serve a number of churches in our denomination. We’re called circuit counselors, and we have 8-12 churches and pastors we are elected by, to serve them, and to represent our district to them. A lot of the day was talking about our new manual, and what we are to do, what we are not to do, delineating responsibilities and the policies and guidelines which guide our work. One of the challenges is balancing out pastoral care to those we serve, and the responsibilities we have as “officials”. It is a challenge.
In a article I read this morning, a man that is rumored to be a potential archbishop of Indianapolis. Beyond having a very cool last name, (personal story there) the article talks about some politics in the Roman Catholic Church, but quotes the Archbishop on an issue, which seems to me to indicate a strong reason why he was chosen for the task.
““I am not here as a policeman, nor am I here as a tourist – I’m here about something much more serious: it’s about what we have bet our lives on. You and I have bet our lives on a person, on a message, on the dream of a kingdom.” (see http://www.indystar.com/article/20121017/NEWS/121017027/Reports-Pope-name-new-leader-Indianapolis-Archdiocese)
Now, while Joseph Tobin† and I may differ on a few points of theology that we both would contend are critical, in my opinion he gets the concept of Christian Leadership perfectly. It’s not about being a cop for the bureaucratic powers, a leader is not a polite tourist here to sample the culture – leadership is about the person of Christ, and about His reign and rule in our lives, and the responsibility that is inherent in His being our Lord, our Savior, and as I preached about a few weeks ago – our Brother who is not ashamed.
Does that mean there will be times where, in order to re-focus the ministry and work on Christ, there will be times of correction and even discipline? Yeah, there might be. But there will always be times of great joy as well – when all realize Christ’s presence, and the way it manifests itself in the life of people whom we serve. If we have bet our lives on the One who came into our lives to give us hope, then we have to work together, through it all, working together to keep the focus on Him.
I suppose that is what an Archibishop does, or for that matter, a Lutheran circuit counselor/pastor. Or nuns or elders or deaconesses, or deacons, or anyone who serves in the church. It all focuses on Him, and as we shepherd His people, it is to Jesus we must guide, cajole, encourage, and sometimes drag back to Him.
So He can love them, provide for them, heal them, protect them, be their Master and Lord. Ultimately, that is all a Christian Leader does…
Lord, have mercy on us, and on all who are tasked with leading God’s people home.