Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15 Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16 The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)
250 I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.
In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.
His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.
If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him. Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.
Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.
I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.
Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description, It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.
Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do. In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.
It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help. It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression. A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.
But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect. It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.
We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.
Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 For we are partners working together for God, and you are God’s field. You are also God’s building. 10 Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each of you must be careful how you build. 11 For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid. 12 Some will use gold or silver or precious stones in building on the foundation; others will use wood or grass or straw. 13 And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality. 14 If what was built on the foundation survives the fire, the builder will receive a reward. 15 But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire. 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 (TEV)
939 Be men and women of the world, but don’t be worldly men and women. (1)
As I read this scripture passage this morning, it seemed to confront a popular thought about heaven that I’ve bought into for years. It is usually expressed this way,
“I’d rather be a doorkeeper in heaven, than to rule hell.”
More often it is seen by an attitude that wants to do the absolute minimum to get to heaven. That would rather not be bothered with striving to be holy, or to be inconvenienced by reaching out and serving others. The attitude that acknowledges that pastors, priests, deacons and other ministers are servants, but expects them to serve by meeting our desires, by making us comfortable. By doing our favorite music, to preaching in a way that inspires but doesn’t challenge, to making us realize the danger of their sin, but not our own. To show us the needs to send a few dollars to missions over there, but not to see the mission field in our neighborhood.
This is building with straw and wood. The stuff that doesn’t survive the test on the Day of Judgment. The stuff that won’t leave us in awe, for we won’t see how God worked through us.
For you see, while we do things with the “gold, silver and precious stones”, those are the things God brings into our lives. This isn’t about being proud of what we have done, what we have built, but being able to see God at work in our lives. It is about our living, really living, beyond that which we are by nature willing and capable of doing on our own.
It is about living the baptized life, realizing we walk this journey with Jesus. It is about the Holy Spirit transforming us, as we reflect Jesus into this lost and broken world.
So this Lent, instead of giving up chocolate or caffeine, give up a weak faith that is comfortable for one that is built on Christ’s comfort, and shares that comfort with others.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2180-2181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
6 An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. 7 Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap. 8 In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. 9 They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. 1 Timothy 3:6-10 (NLT)
825 Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment. That work—humble, monotonous, small—is prayer expressed in action, which prepares you to receive the grace of that other work—great and broad and deep—of which you dream. (1)
Not being a fan of monotony, I struggle with what St Josemaria calls the “obligations of the moment”. Those tasks that are the adult equivalent of a third graders math homework, doing 50 or 60 problems to learn the present lesson. Give me the process, let me try it, (as opposed to it trying me) and let me move on!
It’s taken a long time to learn the difference between vain and repetitious and beneficial and repetitious. I always thought repetition was vain.
Such an attitude made prayer a challenge. Because it seems repetitious to offer the same prayers, to ask God to intercede with the same names, day after day week after week. Can’t I just entrust the person once to God and then move on to the next person in crisis?
And the Lord’s prayer, let me turn it into an outline, let me use it as a guide, let me find something to do to make it more special, more pious, more holy. What good is it if I simply pray it in a rote manner, time after time? ( never mind that rosary! Even if Luther used it, how monotonous is that!)
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that repetition and vanity are not synonyms. That those names I gave to God yesterday, I became anxious about, that the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart are so broken that my words fail me. That is when the words of the Lord’s prayer become my life preserver, tossed to me so that I can still use the Lord’s name in a way that is not vain. So that I can use them to call out to Him and ask Him to revealed His comfort, His love, His mercy.
When all other words seem beyond my ability to form, His words, given to me for such times, becomes words I savor, that become more than beneficial, that become precious. I realize that as they are answered, they express His plan, they reveal His desire. This brings him delight, as I call out to Him, trusting him to fulfill what He’s promised. They are what I need in that moment, not just because I am obligated to pray, but because they remind me of His obligation as my Lord, as My Savior, as my God.
Then, at peace, I might find the strength for something else, the ministry of which I have dreamed, the works that will be exciting, but no more glorious than simply knowing He is here, listening, comforting, sustaining, loving me! This is the nature of our faith being tested, of becoming mature enough to realize that we start and end, and live conversing with God.
Even if things are of what I’ve dreamed, those simple words, no longer monotonous, are precious, and savored.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is, in heaven! Give us this day our daily bread! And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not to temptations, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and glory, for ever and ever, Amen!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1893-1895). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We will be Like Him!
1 John 3:1-3
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, as you realize you are the Father’s beloved, blessed children!
Awfully Big Shoes to Fill!
Jesus often taught in parables, so it makes sense that pastors should use them on occasion. Stories and words that paint a picture, and that we get the lesson of, intuitively.
I also like to use them because I can then address them as “Pastor Parker’s Panoramic Parables.
I bet that doesn’t sound quite as nice in Chinese!
Well here is today’s parable, the kingdom of God is like this,
The kingdom of God is like a child trying on their Father’s shoes!
We are just kids who can’t resist trying on Dad’s shoes.
And while the desire to be “grown-up” seems a good thing, we far too often want to try on God’s shoes and walk in them. And the usual result is that we fall down and hurt ourselves, and others.
We Can’t Walk in them Yet!
As children, we often want to be like our parents, to act like they do, and putting on their shoes is symbolic of that. It is a cute thing, but not so much when we try to put on God’s shoes.
It happens, we play God when we want that parental level of authority, we want to be in charge. Usually, there is another brother or sister involved, and if we have God our Father’s authority, we can judge them and put them in their place.
Instead of being responsible we want to condemn them, or get revenge, or just make sure everything is fair, according to what we perceive!
I mean, even as adults we have trouble loving our neighbors as we are supposed to love them. Can you imagine the temptation and the damage we would do if we were actually God?
I mean – it would be nice to get on the freeway and command everyone else to get off, so we wouldn’t be stuck in traffic!
Really, we are still kids, we still can be a little self-centered, we can still do things where we try and play God. We still mess up – we still get self-centered, we still want things our way, and will do things to try and make it happen. We even still throw tantrums when we don’t get our way – if you don’t believe me, wait until Tuesday, when some adults will be poor winners, and others poor losers. Either way – there will be tantrums, arguments, accusations of cheating and people saying “It’s not fair!”
And God will still be God, and He will look on us and show us mercy and love, and as that love leads us to repent, our sins will be washed away
That is why the Father sent the Son to the cross – to draw us into Jesus, to restore that relationship, to make us again His children, and to show us what we will be like when Christ appears, for we will be like Him.
But We will – This is assured!
Hear the words of the Apostle Paul that were written to the Colossian Church.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)
This is the same thing the apostle John wrote that we heard today
But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.
Holiness, purity, is simply living like Jesus, being like Jesus, and that is the transformation that happens, starting when the Holy Spirit brings us to life, gives us faith and cleanses us in baptism.
It comes as the Holy Spirit transforms us, as we gain that hope, that expectation that God will complete the work, the transformation He has began in us, as He promised.
We like all children will grow up – spiritually, this happens when we arrive at being completely like Christ Jesus. The good news, is that is His work, and the world of our loving Father. Want to know what you will be like – you will love the Father like Christ loves the Father, you will love each other the way Christ loves us.
So trust God, depend on God, and know that in Him we have a peace that goes beyond all understanding – that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
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.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 338). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 You are to open their eyes and turn them from the darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God, so that through their faith in me they will have their sins forgiven and receive their place among God’s chosen people.’ Acts 26:18 (TEV)
182 Be filled with wonder at God’s goodness, because Christ wants to live in you. Be filled with wonder also when you are aware of all the weight of your poor wretchedness, of this poor flesh, of all the vileness of this poor clay. Yes, but then remember too that call from God: Jesus Christ, who is God and Man, understands me and looks after me, for he is my Brother and my Friend.
A lot of my thoughts these days seem to be about the Church, especially as I see it enduring an ebb tide, as the everything seems to be receding. From church attendance (especially in the USA and Europe ) to the number of men preparing for ministry as pastors, to numbers of other church workers, to the money which we think makes this all possible.
I also think about it because I get so many different “solutions” offered to me, or advice. I hate to say it, but most of it is treated with the same attitude I have towards used toilet paper. It’s not about the technology we use or the organ that we cherish. It is not the philosophy that will address the issues of only one generation. It’s not about planting new churches that are buying into the fact that they will be irrelevant in one generation ( that’s the justification in planting them – only significant growth happens in churches 25 years old or less – at least that is what we are told! ) It is not about keeping our doctrine and practice as pure as it was 50 years ago, or even 500.
Real growth, from maturity to conversion is the result of revelation. It is found in the awe of knowing this paradox, that those who are evil, vile, depraved, wretched, trapped by sin, its shame, its anger, and resentment; that these same people are understood by God, saved, found to be righteous, and made HOLY. They are made God’s children, HIs family, HIs people, are counted as Jesus’ siblings and are called by Him, friend, and beloved.
It is hearing this revealed that a light shatters the darkness, it is more shocking than getting in your car after having lent it to a teenager and not checking the stereo volume before turning the key. This is so shocking it is like a prisoner, kept in jail for 25 years, being let out, or the patient who was told they were dying being healed.
The shock of the Revelation, of the greatest Apocalypse ever, to know that God understands me, knows my weaknesses, knows my rebellion and brokenness and still loves me. Jesus names means it all – God Saves. His title Immanuel echoes it – He is God with US. More intimately, more completely that even the apostles knew before the cross.
Despite my sin, despite yours, He came to us. He cleanses us, He redeems us, He justifies and sanctifies us, not as a theological exercise, but as reality.
This is the Revelation we need, it gives hope to the Church, as it creates and recreates life in Her. It gives the meaning to her sacraments, to her work, to her worship and praise. It gives the churches hope, for as God is transforming the CHurhc – this Revelation calls men to shepherd, people to serve. And to each of us, it gives the most incredible of hopes, the greatest expectation, we walk with Him, from now through eternity.
Share this hope, reveal the depth and height, the width and breadth of Christ’s love for those around you to them, and be astounded as it becomes more that the hope it of your love. For His presence will be the focus of your life.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 840-843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Built Up in Love
† In His Name †
As the waves of this life, and the strong winds that would steal from you the hope given you by Jesus, may you realize the grasp of God on your life, as He surrounds you with His love and mercy, and may you rest and rejoice in His peace!
The Tossed Church
This week, a scrap of parchment, no bigger than a business card, was supposed to have enormous impact on Christianity. It was supposed to revolutionize everything, and it was soon nicknamed in the press – the “gospel of Jesus wife”.
All the major papers and news stations picked up on the story, as a lady Ph.D. showed the 4th century Coptic manuscript, which she claimed was a translation of a second century Greek manuscript. She “translated” the passage, then interpreted the words as meaning that Mary Magdalene was Jesus wife. The articles then extrapolated that since the 4 true gospels never mentioned Jesus having a wife, that they were unreliable, and this business card size peace of parchment was the true gospel. One reporter said, that even if it wasn’t authentic, it should cause us to re-examine (i.e. doubt) what scripture tells us about Jesus.
Do you remember the Ossuary’s of James, those white marble boxes where Jesus’ bones were supposed to be? What about The Gospel of Judas Iscariot? This wasn’t the first time in the last decade that someone promised their revelation would drastically change our faith, and I seriously doubt it will be the last attempt to discredit the claims of Jesus.
For each one of these lies, for each one of these hoaxes, there are people who hear them, and as Paul describes – are carried about like a feather floating in the wind, or like someone caught in the winds and riptides at the beach. Some of us buy into the “experts” analysis, some of us get caught up in the hype and have to try and prove their theory wrong, with so little to work with, and both gradually lose focus on the why God created the church, the Body of Christ. They are blown about, tossed about, and distracted from why the church exists… what its purpose is…
What is the church’s purpose – What is our goal?
That question, “What is the church’s purpose?” is on our second reading focuses us upon this morning. The purpose doesn’t change by location, it doesn’t change by the name on the sign, or how the pastor dresses, or even what kind of music and liturgy is used. The purpose of the church, both a congregation and the church throughout the world is simple.
The purpose of the church is the title of the sermon – “to build itself up in love,” which means that it is “to build itself up in Christ”.
Let me read verse 12 and 13 from a different translation:
4:12 …(Christ gave the office of holy ministry) to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:12-13 (NLT)
Three times it describes this “building up in love” as our purpose, our goal.
It’s why the people of God are equipped to serve, to do the work of God.
It is what is described if all come to such unity as we trust and know Jesus
It is what it means to mature in the Lord, to measure up to His completeness, to meet the Father’s expectation of His children.
For when we are described as such, we are living in complete accord with the two basic commandments, to love our Father in heaven with everything we are, and to love His children, our neighbors, even as we love ourselves.
Not an easy task, and yet it is why God has given the church those who would proclaim the gospel – apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastor-teachers. Not to do the work building each other up, but rather to equip the church to do that work in their daily lives. My friends we have a lot of work to do, both in the equipping, and in the actual work, what is called the poeima Theo in Greek, the Gottesdienst in German, the Opus Dei In Latin. Or to use the words of Paul two chapters prior to our reading today,
2:10 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 2:10 (NJB)
That’s what it means to live in Christ – that each of us works in the same vocation as Jesus, working to see every person mature in Christ. That’s what I call “job security”.
How do we measure it?
In business, when you have a task – there are things called benchmarks. Ways you can measure both progress and effectiveness of the work being done. It’s not a pass/fail thing for us, but there is a benchmark for our growth as believers.
It is our unity, how we truly work together, how we see ourselves so joined together in Christ, To understand that we are so united in Christ, that we can together stand, even thru the challenges in life.
That is why Paul encourages us to not be subject to the schemes and manipulations that would distract us from Christ, but rather to “speak the truth in love”. To speak in such a way requires tremendous faith in God, and tremendous love for those to whom we are speaking.
In talking about the truth spoken in love, the Greek word pictures not just our words, but all of our communication being focus and communicated through love, as it is translated in 1 John 3:18, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” It isn’t talking just about speaking truth in love as we confront each other either, it isn’t about what some have called “tough love” in the past. Were we talk about our needs as well as helping others reveal their need. Speaking the truth in love means sharing the difficult burdens and tasks, and identifying how we need to grow, together. It’s talking about a life lived transparently, and know that we can expect care and compassion and that God will use every situation, every pain, every challenge that have, or that we bring to others.
It’s the kind of love Jesus showed, as He willingly forgave others, as He shared His life on the cross, and the night before in, through and under the bread and wine. As he sought to bring healing more than He sought His own pleasure.
So can we live lives like that, can we trust in God deep enough?
We are equipped, built up, given hope
The answer is no.. and yes.
No if we try to love each other that completely on our own. No if we protect ourselves from pain, and hold back. No if we are waiting for others to make the first step. There will be times were we are betrayed, hurt, and the challenge is not to become to defensive, to accept the challenge and even the pain, knowing the strength the enables Jesus to love in such a way, and endure the cross.
Remember, this passage started out by listing the various roles within what we call the Office of Holy Ministry, or the “Pastoral office” and that they were given to equip you all to do this work, to fulfill this commission.
Each of those aspects of the office of ministry exist to train the Body of Christ to build itself up in love – to do the incredible work of God of living a life that is true and loving and merciful, where we do that which God has always desired,
6:8 …the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)
The way it is done is described in those four offices, which we’ll talk more about in Sunday School. Yet how is relatively simple – we speak the greatest truth in love, when we reveal our need for Christ to heal us of our sin, and reveal the promise of that healing as well.
Another way the way the church is equipped is described in our confessions – the teaching and administering the sacraments, being in a sense, the conduit of grace that is poured out upon the church. Pipes aren’t special – what they carry is – and that is the basic role of pastor-teachers – to pour out on you grace as we preach and teach, and to feed you the nourishment needed to have the strength to love, to be the people of God, entrusted with building up each other in love.
And there, as we live in His love, we find His strength, His wisdom, in His presence we find that which allows us to heal, and be knit together, to see that happen, as we live in peace.
The peace of God which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And may you always know, and be reminded, that that peace is yours.