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If You Are Part of the Church, It’s Time to Get to Work: A Call to Love and Service


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The church is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:
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)

1         There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.

The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]

In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”   But how often do we look at what those words mean?

One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind.  Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)

Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred.  To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation.  We are to walk (together) with God.

Catholic,  the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history.  When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time.  We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other.  We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.

Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther.  Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field)  Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.

Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them.  As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them.  This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.

We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers,  enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.

No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood.  This is our identiy as the people of God.

Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.

But remember – God goes with you through it all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.

[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 40. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

The Heresy of “my Faith Alone Saves”


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!

AMEN!

Fiiled with Joy – A sermon based on Isaiah 29 (manuscript)


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Filled with Joy!

Is. 29:11-29

 In Jesus Name!

May you be so filled with fresh joy from seeing and hearing the love of Christ at work in your life, that you humbly welcome His molding you into His image!

The fear of the unknown

It is that sense you have, the night before you take on a new job.

Or maybe as you sleep for the first night in a new place and have to struggle to remember where the bathroom is, and where the light switches are.  You hear strange groans and creaks and noises, and your heart it trying to decide to dive under the covers or find a weapon, or both!

Or maybe it is that call from the doctor’s office, you know the one where the doctor himself calls you and asks that you come in, right now…

I don’t know what the official phobia is called, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear that most of us will ever face. It doesn’t matter what the unknown is, a matter of fact; that is why it is so scary!  We just don’t know!

As we look at the lesson in Isaiah today, we see that problem, the unknown future, the kind of future God prophecies about, but are we willing to hear, to see what He has in mind?

The message of God’s love

At the beginning of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, the future is compared to a sealed book.  The future is explained in a message from God that reveals all that is needed to know.  A message that would calm the fears, that would bring the heart peace, and give assurance that all will be good to those souls who are stressed and anxious.

But those who the message are given too, perhaps scared of the unknown, don’t bother to read the message.  They say, “we can’t read it because it is sealed”, even though it was given to them to read.

It’s like getting that certified letter from the IRS, or from the Superior Court.  You stand there looking at it, unable to open it, as if not reading it somehow makes things less terrifying!  Every morning you see it on the table, and you don’t want to even touch it!

And the message from God goes unheard, unread, unseen.

Others will claim that they are unable to read it, that the words are beyond their comprehension, so they too leave the message unead, unseen, unheard.  It’s like those people who haven’t read the book of Revelation, for they fear what they will read will scare them.

The future becomes even more concering, it terrifies us even more.

We tried to fill the gap

Which is where our hypocrisy comes in, according to this passage from Isaiah.  You see, rather than face our fears, rather than dealing with God directly.  The world does this by creating other gods.  Gods who will give them what they want, who will allow them to chase after what is worthless.

Unwilling to hear what God says, we make up our own rules, our own traditions, and then judge others by whether they follows what we say.  We will say that we are God’s, we will say and sing the right things, but do we really understand the heart of God?  Do our hearts beat in time with His?  Is what He desires what we desire more than anything else?

Or is our worship, and the things we do that “prove our righteousness” simply empty, going through motions without realizing that they don’t please God?  The prophets called Israel out on this over and over, telling them their sacrifices meant nothing, that their gatherings were worthless.  The Pharisees were accused of this as well, as they tithed everything, even down to the seeds for their gardens.  But they overlooked mercy, and helping those in need.

Our attempts to fill in the gaps, to prove we are good are worthless, and when we think about it, they don’t rid us of the fear of dealing with a God who seems to perfect, so righteous, that we don’t, we can’t stand being in His presence.

If only we saw His words, if only we could read them!

We’ll even go farther, we will tell God, our creator, that He doesn’t know what he is doing.  That His laws don’t make sense, that we understand and know better.  That his idea of life, or right and wrong, is wrong.  We are like Isaiah’s jars – telling the potter who made them that he is intellectually challenged.

Or as Chris will soon hear from some student, that he just doesn’t understand, because the sophomore knows what he is talking about!  And compared to God, we often act like sophmores, a term from the greek meaning “wise fools”!

We didn’t have to, He knows what He is doing

The idea that Isaiah is trying to get across is that we don’t have to play God, we don’t have to step in and fill in the gap when we don’t see God doing what He wants to!  He is far smarter, and if we try to take control, our lives will be full of sorrow.

Yet even then, God will not abandon us!  He has promised to amaze us with amazing things!

For what God had planned for us causes us to disguard our own wisdom, to drop the plans, to come out from the darkness, to be able to see and hear His words,

or we are in the days of verse 18,

In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19  The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel..

Foe we, like Israel of old, like the believers who followed Jesus and struggled, have been told what the future holds, a future that has hope, that has peace, that has glory beyond our imagination.

Paul revealed that when he wrote,

9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

It is seeing this plan come together, as we beging to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection, that this was the plan, this was the gospel even back in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Paul and Peter is amazing.

To realize that as He hangs from the cross and says Father, forgive them, Jesus is thinking of Dustin, Chris, Tom, Jim, Chuck, and Al and all of Concordia,

To know that when He said said, take and eat, this is my body, given for you, He was revealing our future.  And when He said this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, He was making our eternity possible.

This is why we can see, it is what we heard, even though we were once dead to the words of God.

So hear, see and rejoice in God’s presence

It is as we see this, we lay aside our wisdom, our plans, our self defensiveness and know the presence and love of God.

We, those who are humbled by the love of God, are filled, as Isaiah promises, with the fresh joy of the Lord, and we, who were poor, rejoice in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God of Israel!

And our hearts and minds, finally enjoying His peace, relax and praise Him.  AMEN!

A Horrific Response by Pastors…


Featured imageDevotional Thought of a New Day

4  “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Matthew 27:4 (NLT)

805    Listen, where you are … mightn’t there be one … or two, who could understand us well?  (1)

Some point to the man and claim he was the most evil man that has ever lived.

Some say his sin was one that could never be forgiven, that he was so sold out to the demons that possessed him, that there was no hope.

He would hear the words from those who were supposed to be his shepherds, those who were spiritually responsible for him, who were to call him to repentance, to nurture him back to spiritual health.

Their words, without mercy, without hope, left him no other option.

He went out and hung himself.

And until reading this today, I never wondered if anyone ever cried for him, if anyone did anything but respond with “he got what he deserved.” Or, “Good riddance.”

Judas Iscariot, another man, another sinner, another man who cried out, looking for mercy, confessing his sin, and the answer of the ages has not told him there was mercy.

The mercy Peter would know, and Paul would encounter, after killing a servant of God. David knew it though he too thought he had lost any chance of knowing it. So did Jacob/Israel, and even the people of Nineveh.

But not Judas.

When he turned to the shepherds of Israel, looking for absolution, looking for mercy, looking for some peace to alleviate the pain of guilt and shame he found none.  It’s no our business, Your sin, your problem.  You don’t belong to our denomination, you certainly are guilty, live with it. You are a sinner. (even though they were his PARTNERS in the sin!)

Hours later, the answer Judas needed wold be provided, as the sun darkened at noon, and that which separated people from the glory of God was torn apart. The Answer that every prophet, ever priest, every king, had pointed to, the love and mercy of God.

I know pastors today, me included, may have seemed as heartless at times. Or we dismissed the pain you felt   Churches too have failed to call people to dare to draw near to Jesus, to see Him on the cross.  Forgive us, call us to hear the sweet words of forgiveness as well.

For no one, no matter their ethnicity, their political party, their age, should ever go without hearing that God has forgiven their sins.  Indeed, that He commanded the church to forgive them. Look around you, they are there… even those you would never expect to repent.  For know this, God doesn’t want any of them to perish. God doesn’t rejoice in the death of any wicked person. Even Judas, ever us.

We cry out, “Lord have mercy!”

We find peace in hearing His voice, “I have!”

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 1856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?


Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Can We Love Those Trapped in Darkness?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

 19  So I gave orders for the city gates to be shut at the beginning of every Sabbath, as soon as evening began to fall, and not to be opened again until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my men at the gates to make sure that nothing was brought into the city on the Sabbath. 20  Once or twice merchants who sold all kinds of goods spent Friday night outside the city walls. 21  I warned them, “It’s no use waiting out there for morning to come. If you try this again, I’ll use force on you.” From then on they did not come back on the Sabbath. 22  I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to go and guard the gates to make sure that the Sabbath was kept holy. Remember me, O God, for this also, and spare me because of your great love.Nehemiah 13:19-22 (TEV)

Every single day, do what you can to know God better, to get acquainted with him, to fall more in love with him each moment, and to think of nothing but of his Love and his glory. You will carry out this plan, my child, if you never, for any reason whatever, give up your times of prayer, your presence of God, with the aspirations and spiritual communions that set you on fire, your unhurried Holy Mass, and your work, finished off well for him. (1)

Through the darkness of sin, Your love reached out to me! The cost of it all, You bore there on that tree! For nothing could stop You declaring us Clean!  Conquered sin, Rose again, now eternail You reign, and so we praise you!   (2)

Yesterday I wrote about the church Militant, that Christian soldiers aren’t marching off to war with sinners, but to liberate those who are oppressed and in bondage to sin.  That are so caught in darkness, that they sturggle to hold on to it, for that is all they know. We mistake that struggle, far too often, as an attack on us.  It is so like the classic lifeguard interaction with a drowning person.  The drowning person strikes out in desperation, and if the lifeguard isn’t careful, the drowning person will take them both under. It takes skill and patience and wisdom to save someone who is drowning.  To know when and where to move, but also to know that these hits are not an attack – but even more a sign of their desperation.

As the lifeguard is sent to save the drowning preson, so too we are sent by Christ to bring His love, His mercy, His peace to those who need to be freed from sin.  To those whose darkness needs to be shattered.by the light of Christ.  They to thrash and strike out – and far too often, we respond, not with the patience and care to save them, but as if they are spoiling for a fight – and we are ready.  We take their struggle to survive – which they cannot on their own – as an attack on Jesus, or the church or us.

In the meantime, they are dying… the people we’ve been sent to bring salvation to, the people we’ve been sent to reflect Christ’s glory and love to…..

You might be wondering what this all has to do with the reading from scripture, from the book of Nehemiah.  And with St. Josemaria’s words.

Call it a lesson in Life-guarding, a lesson in how to deal with those who we think are attacking us, but are really floundering in life. For if we “go to battle” them, what will happen is that we will founder as well.  We will take our eyes off of salvation if we go to battle.

When what we need to see instead, is these people the way the God does – the way oen who would save them and bring them life abundant does, the way the One who died because He loved them does.

That my friends, can only happen, the more time we speand rejoicing in His presence, the more time we realize we live in Him, and He is us. The more we are transformed into His image (see 2 Cor. 3:16)  Then we see His heart – the depth of His love for us – and we will begin to realize that “us” is more than just ourselves – and our friends at church – but us is all people – all ethnicities, all languages, and.. eventually – even those that are out there – itting away at those who would try to bring them back to life, back to standing on solid ground, back into the presence of God.

Where they belong.

Where we would stand against that which would keep people from God, that which would rob them of their time, resting in His presence.  That’s one of the roles of the Levites – the servant priests of God.  To try to guard the precious time people have with God.  That they can know Him more and more – that they can just enjoy His presence, His love, that they can celebrate His mercy, His healing.  The more we, those who minister, those who serve and shepherd, see what happens as our people do this, the more we treasure its impact on them, and the more we realize how this opens their hearts up to seek and save the lost – by brining Christ’s love to them.

How can we love those struggling in darkness, thrashing about, even appearing to attack us?  By realizing how much God loves and desires to cleanse us all, and make us His children.  That’s how we learn to love sinners, trapped in darkness… by learning how Jesus loves us… even there and then as well.

Lord, Have mercy on us, and teach us to show that mercy to all….

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2667-2671). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Lyrics by Rev. Mike Rayson and Dt Parker…

Can Pastors and all Christians Speak a Non-Christian’s Language?


Devotional THought of the Day:

 20  While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. 21  In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law. 22  Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 (TEV)

After all, in my parish, I would reach about a hundred and fifty people in church on Sunday, but thanks to the Internet and a shared passion for something beyond Latin and liturgy, I was able to reach out to many thousands of Star Wars fans. Most of them probably would have never been in contact with a priest otherwise. In a way, just like the people back home in Holland, these Stormtroopers, Jedi, rebel pilots, bounty hunters, and Twi’leks had become my parishioners— very unusual parishioners indeed.   How to Speak Wookiee When I have to prepare a homily, I always try to place myself in the position of those I’ll be talking to. What are the issues they deal with, and how can the Gospel help them in their daily lives? For communication to work, you need to speak the same language. If you want to communicate with a Wookiee, you need to learn how to speak Wookiee. (1)

One of the challenges in training lay people to serve in ministry, and in working with students who are preparing for ministry is the helping them learn to connect to those who speak a different language. No I am not talking about Mandarin or German or Tagolog, I am talking about the fact that Christians have their own language, much of which is, if known, defined differently.

Fr. Roderick – the author of the quote in purple above – gets this.  I highly recommend his book- though protestants might need to “translate” it themselves!  THe section describing a Christian’s conversation to a Wookie is alone worth the price of the book.  There is a whole lot of of good material for helping us understand the people with whom we interact, with whom we live our lives.  The very people to whom God has sent us, that we reflect Christ’s life and His love.  Here is a priest that has learned to communicate with people who speak a different language!  ( and has a great line about not arguing with a wookie!)

It’s not a matter of plotting every conversation, we are talking about our lives with them.  But it is necessary to realize we don’t always speak the same language, and that some of our terms mean different things to them.  Another example helps us understand this.  Robert Schuller was once invited to give a message in a Mid-East Muslim Mosque.  In talking to its leadership – they asked him not to talk about Christianity.  He asked if he could talk about knowing God’s love, as reavealed in Christ, talk about walking and following Christ, and talk about the relationship which brings such hope, a relationship with God the Father.  The answer was affirmative – for they didn’t know that was Christianity.  They defined Chrsitianity as a religion hostile to them, the very word caused great anxiety.  But in describing what Christianity really is from a Christians perspective – there was no issue. From that point on, Robert Schuller talked of following Christ, or the relationship, rather than just “being” a Christian.

This isn’t about dumbing down the Faith, and more than Paul’s words, written in Koine Greek, dumbed down the faith because it was a common language.  It rathers invests the time (which is an act of love) in those people, assuring they can understand what we talk about, because the topic, their relationship with God, is more precious than anything else we could do.  THat we understand this helps us be more patient with them, helps us to understand that the objections they have to what they perceive our faith to be, is not our perception.  It helps us cut through their frustration and often anger, and prevent our desire to become defensive. It helps us realize that we are taling to the very people Christ died for, even though can’t even begn to comprehend that love, that desire of God.

Bottom line – do we want to want to see people join us, being freed from guilt and shame, from the sin they commit and the burdens of sins committed against them?  Do we want them to understand the grace and peace that is beyond our ability to comprehend – or describe, but that we know its from God?  Will we love these brothers and sisters that we can see, on behalf of the God we cannot “see” but whom we perceive?

Then we need to communicate to them.. in their language.

Lord have mercy on us, and empower us to do that which is in accord with Your will, that no one should perish – but all are transformed in Christ.

AMEN.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

(1)  Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 295-303). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

Augustine, St. Francis, Martin Luther, John Wesley walk into a bar…


English: OFM General Curia : Francis of Assisi...

English: OFM General Curia : Francis of Assisi and Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DEvotional thought of the Day:

 33  Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. 34  So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:33-34 (NJB)

537         You take everything so lightly that I am reminded of the old story. The cry went up: “There is a lion coming!” And the naturalist answered: “Why tell me? I catch butterflies.”  (1)

A few days ago, I asked what the four shepherds of God I named above and the reader would talk about, were they found together.

An atheirst and pastors were the first to respond, A joke about them calling Francis A sissi, a quesiton about why two of them would be there, a couple other comments, no one taking the matter all that seriously. Until the final comment – that these incredible men would talk about God, and His gifts of mercy and love and peace.

I thought of it again, coming across the quote from St Josemaria this morning.  We as people will think about everything but the Kingdom of God.  We will be anxious over the state of our nation, ticked off at the government, worried about our health, we’ll struggle over finances, we will concern ourselves about the morality of others, but how often does our heart find itself in awe of God’s presence.  How often do we contemplate the depth of His love?  How often are we willing to place ourselves comepltely in His care, and then live a life that imitates those as they imitated Christ Jesus?

How often are we willing to see God at the center of our lives?  Or are we unwilling to give up that throne?

As I tweeted this mornign, “We trust God with the infinite eternity, but will we trust Him with the finite now?”

Our Faith must not be confused  with our faithfulness, for if we depend on our being faithful, we’ve made ourselves into idols.  Faith is trusting in His faithfulness, to lean upon His goodness, to strive to find rest in Him, to prayt hat the Holy Spirit would help us to do so.  For we don’t enter His presence by our faithfulness, He draws us there… and there we learn to trust Him. .. more and more.  To be in awe that HE would love us, that He would be merciful.

So pray that I, and that you, would relaize where we dwell more often, that we would be open to God revealing to us His grace, That we would learn to be as excited as children on Christmas, as we contemplate His grace, both for what it means eternally, and what it means today.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2325-2326). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edi

Finally,… Pray


Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

today at Concordia, just minutes before this sermon, a little girl was baptised, claimed by God to be His daughter.  Read about what happens in baptism in Ezekiel 36:25 and follwoing and in 1 Tim 3:2-8.  This is truly a miracle, one of the greatest we experience!

Finally… Pray!

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

In Jesus Name

As we receive the grace, that mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may Jesus lead our hearts into the full understanding and expression of the love of God, and may we, in Christ patiently endure!

How much will life change in Her life?

I want you for a moment to dream of the future.

A time 60-80 years from now, as Cayleen is sitting in the front row of this church, watching her granddaughter or even great-granddaughter being baptized.  The church might have different music then, our new music becoming the old, archaic stuff that her generation longs to hear occasionally.

Maybe there will not be cars in the parking lot, but those little family jets that we saw on the Jetson’s.. Cell phones?  Texting?  Tablets? I can’t even begin to imagine what life will be like for them. I just think about how much it has changed since my son was baptized 6 years ago.

Except for one thing.

She will still need to know God’s love. There will still be the challenges of life that we will have to endure, for while many things in life changes, life itself will not change as much for her as it did this morning.

Which is why Paul not only asks us to pray, but then offers a blessing for the church in Thessalonica, as He asks God to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God, and the patient endurance that is found in Christ.

Come to think of it, if you can’t remember what to pray for her and indeed for all the baptized, that’s a pretty good prayer to remember!

You promised to pray…
Full understanding and expression of God’s love

                   That means His mercy, and His granting repentance

         
I pray that you remember to keep the commitment you made this morning to God, as you keep Cayleen in your prayers.  Do not just make this something you said, as you were caught up in the moment.  Pray for her, and for those around you, for we all need prayer. Even apostles, even pastors, even grandparents.

Sometimes we do not know how to pray, or what to pray, and I think that is where a passage like this comes in so handy.  Two simple things to pray for, to know and express God’s love, and to endure.  There will probably be some points where you need to pray for Dan and Kristen for that as well – like when Cayleen is 2, or when she’s that sweet age that starts just after the 12th year and 364th day of her life.

Seriously, pray for her, and for all believers in Christ, and for everyone you know.

Pray that they would follow Jesus, as He leads their hearts into a fuller understanding of the depth of God’s love for them.  A love that does not just write us off the first time we sin but he continues to call to us, to urge us to repent, and to sin no more.  The love of God that desires to fix the parts of our lives that are broken, to heal the wounds that our hearts and souls have encountered.

For to fully understand God’s love is to realize we do not have to hide our sins, we do not have to pretend they aren’t sins. Rather, we are to go to God and confess those sins, to ask Him to fix them. That takes faith, and confidence, and knowing God’s love and faithfulness so well, that we run to Him whenever we are struggling, whenever we are broken, whenever we break life.

 

Patient endurance?

Christ must lead us there!
That is how we endure as well, realizing that Jesus has united us to His death, and to His resurrection.  That iss the promise of baptism, that unity to Christ.  It is the hope He’s given us of sharing in His glory (col. 1:26-29 talks of that)

When we realize that our destiny is secure, that this life, as long as it may seem some days is going to become eternity in God’s presence, it helps us incredibly to endure.  We can stand firm, knowing God’s promise that all things will work for good for us, because we love the God who called us and made us His.

It’s in knowing what Christ endured for us, that leads us to endure in His presence.  For that too is a blessing given to Cayleen and all who believe and are baptized.  God promises in Matthew 28 that He will never leave us, even until the end of the ages.
That’s why Paul says Jesus must lead us in knowing and expressing God’s love and into that ability to endure.  It isn’t based in our own inner strength, even as Christians.  Maturity for a believer doesn’t happen after we go through puberty and our voices change.

It happens when we know God’s love, when we know the promises of love given this day.  When we realize how Jesus is always faithful, how He is always guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls. How He leads us as the 23rd Psalm says besides still waters and restores our soul.  (which means it needed restoration)

That’s what Jesus does, that is what our Lord is tasked with, saving us from sin and the power of satan and death, and restoring us to life, quickening it us.  That’s why a believer doesn’t live in terror of God, but in awe of Him, knowing His love, and being able to express that knowing (not knowledge of but knowing) through their voices in praise and through their lives.
But pray also for the mission and for those needing rescue
So pray for Cayleen, pray for those people around you! Make this your prayer for them; that they would be lead by Christ into the full understanding and expression of His love, and that they would, in Christ, endure!

Paul asks us also to pray for the mission, that this message of God’s love be honored, that it is heard and responded to with praise, wherever it goes.  And to pray for those who have to deal with what the translation says are wicked and evil people – those who can’t comprehend God’s love, who don’t feel comfortable dealing with His mercy and those who are guilty, and need to deal with it.  God dealt with them by the way, as we hear all of Paul’s guards in jail came to know God’s love and were granted repentance.

So finally my friends, pray, give into God’s care those you love – and those you struggle with.  Let Him take the anxieties, the worries and challenges from you, freeing you to love them without distraction, to care for them as He would, to point them to Him when you don’t know what to do.

Having does so, knowing God’s love more fully, you will find yourself expressing it, in a place of peace beyond all comprehension. It is there where you are kept, guarded, your heart and mind protected by Jesus himself.  AMEN?

 

Pastor? Preacher? Spritual Director? Life Coach? which do I NEED to minister to me?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

 11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12  Their responsibility is 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 4:11-13 (NLT)

 1  Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)

 1  Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2  I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4  And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5  The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6  He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.Philippians 2:1-8 (TEV)

It seems more and more advertising dollars are spent trying to convince me that I either should become a life coach, or that I need one.  A lot of master’s programs at Catholic and Protestant universities have M.A. and M. DIv programs in becoming a spiritual director.  Heck, one group is willing to provide me coaching, via videos and taped phone calls where I have no imput at all, but I can listen to them anytime I want.  I also have been inundated with books by preachers about ministry, and how to take my church from a failure to a success, and books about how to preach to my people so their lives turn completely around and they can live a good and proper life.

Lots of advice….

Now, don’t compelte read me out of context, there are those that are wise, and experienced coaches, some of whom I talk to and bounce ideas with on occaison.    But I’ve also talked to a coach in revitalization who was trying to get me to hire him as a coach, whose experience in churches under 1000 members was non-existent.  They developed their theories and their plan based on statistics and the works of others.

As I look at all these programs, and talk to some who director them, I am reminded of a ministry opportunity I once had, to teach and shepherd a group of young married couples. Only one problem, I was 23 years old and had just broken up with my fiance a few months before!. But hey, I could have purchased the latest book by Dobson, or Trent and Smalley and taught the material.

As I think about the ministry, and how we train our ministers (deacons) and pastors, I wonder what sort of message this sends them about how they should serve their people.  Do we want ministers who stand back and observe people and give advice that they haven’t quite experienced themselves?  Do we want them to turn to studies and books and “journeys” that are not unlike an old diagram with yes/no questions with tracks to take?  Or do we want someone who will be there, who may not have the answers but will continually point us to Christ’s presence in our lives, to His promises revealed in scripture, who assumes that God’s presence in our lives, is the final answer… and how that applies is something we work through together.

I think we need to get away from the cookie cutter approach, whether it is more traditional, or more contemporary, more cutting edge or more based in cautious stewardship of yesterday’s concepts.  We have to stop de-humanizing the relationship between pastor and people, and and humble ourselves and get down in the mud together, and see what God is doing. That’s not the way Chirst worked among those with whom He lived.  He got involved, He knew their pain, He took their burdens.. and He calls us to love each other in the same way.  Including being patient with those whom we serve.. He didn’t meet them in an office, he met them at tax tables, and by the waiting room at the ppol, on the road and where the boats gather… He met them in their life, and endured with them

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe that’s the point about all this, that it isn’t just a title, but finding someone to work with who is willing to do what Christ did – to come to us in our brokenness, and minister healing to us.  Not just advice, not just a sermon series, not just rubrics and guidelines and 6 steps to that.  But someone who comes and serves, and cares, and brings healing and trains us to do the same to others.

May we train ministers and pastors and bishops and our laity – all who minister in Christ’s name.. to do so as Christ did..

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