Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 The LORD says, “I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! 22 When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. 23 Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. 24 Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry. Amos 5:21-24 (TEV)
314 “Who said that to reach sanctity, you need to seek refuge in a cell or on a solitary mountain?” That was what a good family man asked himself in amazement, and he added: “If that were so, it would not be the people who would be holy, but the cell, or the mountain. It seems they have forgotten that Our Lord expressly told each and every one of us: be holy as my heavenly Father is holy.” My only comment was: “Our Lord, besides wanting us to be saints, grants each one of us the relevant graces.” (Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1490-1494). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. )
Sunday,we will do something in my church, that we only do once a year. We will pull out of the closet a statement of faith, a creed that is 50 verses long. It’s one of those kind of ancient writings that demands you stop and think through a verse before going to the next. It describes the relationship of the persons of the Trinity, and the complete unity at the same time. It describes as well how Jesus is 100% God, and yet simultaneously man. It is complext, and glorious and needs not 10 minutes to recite it in church, but hours to talk through and realize how incredible this God that it describes is.
Personally, I love it, as I will love the conversation during Bible Study that follows, as we take some time and dissect it.
But I fear that many who will say the words, will walk away, not understanding this complex creed, or why we do it. That is a pastoral concern, and one we should have. It’s one we must have.
But for many of us, tradition has become what the “monastery” of our age. We hide in it, find peace and joy in it, and mistake that peace for the peace that accompanies holiness. We find comfort in the old ways, and romanticize and idolize them, thinking they are the keys to our spiritual health, to our orthodoxy, to our faith. As St Josemaria points out so clearly, it is not the mountain top, or the tradition that is called to be holy. We are.
That’s why in throughout the Old Testament prophets, there is a condemnation of people’s sacrifices. Sacrifices that God called for, things that were the closest thing to the sacraments we treasure today. They were supposed to be a means, a conduit of God’s mercy,yet they had turned into something else, a meaningless time, spent in trying to attain a perfection that ignored their very reason for existence. They didn’t communicate that God was their for the broken, there to heal, to forgive, to pour our righteousness, to let the justice that comes from the cross to lift people up. A purpose to help people realize they walk, their life journey is done with God.
Such is the nature of a baptized, Pentecostal life. A life lived in communion, in fellowship, in a relationship with the God who created the heavens, and comes to us.
Traditions? Practices? Creeds? Do they give people what they need to know about Christ?
They can, they cannot. It is not the traditional practice, whether 1500 years in practice or 15 minutes that makes people holy. It is the presence of Christ, revealed, known, that the Holy Spirit uses to transform us. May all we do bring us to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and therefore ours.
Discussion thought of the day:
I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: 2 give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. 3 Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 4 When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory. 5 In the same way, younger people, be subject to the elders. Humility towards one another must be the garment you all wear constantly, because God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble. 1 Peter 5:1-5 (NJB)
“There is, obviously, an issue of theology here. How a man understands his priesthood will have a lot to do with whether he succumbs to the worst aspects of clericalism: pretentiousness, ambition, jealousy of others who are advancing faster in their “careers,” and an inability to relate as both leader and brother to the people who have been given into his pastoral care. Thus, the way the theology of the priesthood is taught in seminaries will be a crucial factor in building the right kind of priestly fraternity, in which the priests of a diocese think of themselves as fellow members of a presbyteral college, with and under the local bishop, for the service of all the People of God. Clericalism, understood as the identification of a priestly caste with “the Church,” is an impediment to the full flowering of Evangelical Catholicism, and an antidote may be found to it in the example of Blessed John Paul II. Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, was a priest’s priest and an inspiration to countless numbers of priests and seminarians. He nevertheless found many of his friends among laypeople— men and women whom he had first known as a university chaplain, and who remained among his closest friends throughout his life. There was no confusion of identities or roles in this network of friends; he was a priest, and they were not. But even more fundamentally, all were disciples who understood that the gifts they had been freely given, be they gifts of intellect, athletic or artistic skill, or personality, were to be shared freely with others. And in that mutual exchange of gifts between a priest and his lay friends, there was a continual growth in discipleship. 9 It is a pattern that might well be emulated throughout the world Church.” (1)
It’s been a while since I “picked” Wiegel’s book, between our national convention, and trying to prepare for vacation, and taking a class, I haven’t had time to contemplate and sift through what he writes to apply it within my own framework. He’s writing about what is necessary in the Catholic Church, I have to translate it into my own form of Lutheranism. But I again find the principals one’s I would strive for – even if others label that goal naive.
The same temptations, the same drives. the same attitudes can caustically erupt, no matter the brand of the man wearing the collar. (or polo shirt with church logo!) The challenge instead is to be a servant, to be a man who recognizes that God has surrounded him with gifted people who compliment him, whose gifts are there to overcome his weaknesses, to serve alongside each other. It is a symbiotic relationship – it is not that they are dependent on me.
The same goes for leadership in the church, Bishops (or District Presidents) and in my denomination, circuit counselors, aren’t to treat others as if they are dependent on us, or even as if we are their “bosses”. We exist to minister together, as Weigel says, as a presbyterial college. It’s not just me and my church, my territory and your territory. It’s our work together, in Christ, Our being there for each other. Yes, there are those whose wisdom we seek out – both officially, as sadly in circumvention of official offices. There are those who we can assist as well. The idea is one church, on baptism – and one Lord of all (see Eph. 4) It is in Him we live, the greatest example of servitude, the greatest example of pastoral care, and yes, the one in whom we are united.
May we serve, may we work alongside the people God has entrusted them, teaching them the necessity and the blessing of crying out:
“Lord, have mercy!”
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 148-149). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- A Challenge to Pastors and Priests: Evangelical Catholic “review” part XIII (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Being in Ministry: a Profession or a Vocational Life? (Review of Evangelical Catholic pt. XV) (justifiedandsinner.com)