Blog Archives

Will Skepticism Rob Us of the Incredible Gift?

this Body, give for you. This blood of the New Covenant, shed for the forgiveness of your sins.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18 They deliberately put God to the test by demanding the food they wanted. 19 They spoke against God and said, “Can God supply food in the desert? 20  It is true that he struck the rock, and water flowed out in a torrent; but can he also provide us with bread and give his people meat?” 21 And so the LORD was angry when he heard them; he attacked his people with fire, and his anger against them grew, 22  because they had no faith in him and did not believe that he would save them. 23 But he spoke to the sky above and commanded its doors to open; 24 he gave them grain from heaven, by sending down manna for them to eat. 25 So they ate the food of angels, and God gave them all they wanted. 26 He also caused the east wind to blow, and by his power, he stirred up the south wind; 27 and to his people he sent down birds, as many as the grains of sand on the shore; 28 they fell in the middle of the camp all around the tents. 29 So the people ate and were satisfied; God gave them what they wanted.
Psalm 78:18-29 (TEV)

But the Eucharist is more than just a ceremony, more than a liturgy. It is a form of life.

HUME: What do you fault about my method?
SOCRATES: As I said, it seems highly rationalistic.
HUME: And as I said, I am the enemy of the Rationalists!
SOCRATES: As an epistemological theory, yes, but not as a method. Your method, like theirs, is to reduce the data to the explanation, the complex to the simple, the rich variety of experience to simple universal formulas.

Israel was given manna, and they could not get past the idea of food to truly appreciate it. They did what Socrates accused Hume of doing in the fictional account of their meeting before the judgment. They explained manna simply as food, and they neglected the greater nature of it being a fellowship meal, with the “bread” supplied by the hand of God.

They simply reduced it to what they could see, which is why they hungered for more.

I wonder if we do the same with the Eucharist, with the Lord’s Supper. We reduce it to being simply part of the liturgy, simply part of the process by which we receive the gospel. We reduce it to being the approved conduit of the grace we need.

And so we reduce it from a fellowship meal with God to just a “means of grace” Our skepticism quietly sneaks in, and while we still claim it is a sacrament, our focus on the substance causes us to lose focus on the intimacy of the life we have with and in Christ, and His life in and with us.

The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is truly something incredible, a moment of we, a miraculous moment if we can only be in that moment, to have revealed and to revel in the presence of God who in a very specific, very intimate way comes to be with us. WITH US! YOU AND ME!

(This is why Paul finds it so dangerous to not perceive the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament in 1 Cor. 11:27 )

That’s why Pope Benedict XVI, writing when he was still a cardinal speaks of it so powerfully. For surely in those moments, when our skeptical, cynical nature is pushed aside by the presence of Jesus, w find the life as God means for us to live. In His presence, sharing in His glory, understanding that we are truly His.

This is why theologians can never perfectly define the sacraments. It is Paul describes knowing the love of God.

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

It is not something we can minimize, reduce and completely explain,It has to be something we experience, it is something beyond measure, yet which completes us as we intimately experience it.

For what we are experiencing, this incredible communion is what Pope Benedict XVI calls it, it is life. Life with a God who loves us beyond measure, and desires that we dwell with Him.

Lord Jesus, help us to not limit religion to the doctrines that correctly describe our relationship with You. Help us realize how they point us to You, and explain the promise of Your love and presence. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 141). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Kreeft, P. (2010). Socrates Meets Hume: The Father of Philosophy Meets the Father of Modern Skepticism (p. 38). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

An Interesting Look at the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic.

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:

15  I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (NAB)

4  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 5  For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. Romans 6:4-5 (NAB)

The Lord could say that his Body was “given” only because he had in fact given it; he could present his Blood in the new chalice as shed for many only because he really had shed it. This Body is not the ever-dead corpse of a dead man, nor is the Blood the life-element rendered lifeless. No, sacrifice has become gift, for the Body given in love and the Blood given in love have entered, through the Resurrection, into the eternity of love, which is stronger than death. Without the Cross and Resurrection, Christian worship is null and void, and a theology of liturgy that omitted any reference to them would really just be talking about an empty game.

As much as I appreciate the Lord’s Supper, as much as I’ve meditated on it and studied it, I’ve never thought about it as I read the blue quote above. I have read the great book by Pope Benedict, (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) several times, in fact, I’ve used it as a supplemental text when I teach on the liturgy. And yet, I’ve never considered the point that is offered above.

That not only do we share, participate, fellowship, become partners with Christ’s body during the celebration of the Eucharist (Communion/Lord’s Supper) we are also because He is risen, a partner in the resurrection, drawn into His resurrected life, and into the “eternity of love.”

This is a mind-blowing thing to me, and be patient with me while I process it.

As someone formally trained in non-denominational theology, and then in Lutheran theology, I tend to think of the Lord’s Supper given His death, His offering of His body as the hilasterion, the sacrifice of blood that covers and cleanses us from our sin.   I know well the implications of that and am in awe to think of it. 

When I lead people to the altar, with the cross overhanging it, when we commune together in front of the New Testament version of the mercy seat  (Lev. 6:14) my thoughts are almost always on the love of God poured out on the cross.  There we meditate on the Body was broken, and the Blood was shed.  By no means am I saying that this is still not true!

There is something there, in these words of Pope Benedict, that I have witnessed so many times at the altar, the incredible, glorious mystery that happens as people come and are joined again to the death of Jesus, and that is that they come alive in that moment.  You can see their bodies change, as they enter into this blessed moment, this feast, ( I want to use the old word “repast” ) as the brokenness is shorn away from them, as the wait is lifted. As they are revived in their spirit, it shows physically. 

This is the missing key, the idea that not only are we given the gift of His death for us, but the gift of His resurrection, the gift of life in the resurrected Christ!  

This is something that we don’t understand, if we only think of the Lord’s Supper as in sharing in His death (though it does certainly proclaim it so strongly )  We don’t see it if we only see our sharing in the dead, lifeless corpse.  But our souls get it, as this feast is one of incredible joy, one of peace that shatters the chaos of life. 

This feast, which is a foretaste of the feast to come is just like baptism, a joining with Christ’s death, and with the hope, the promise, the reality of our resurrection, because He is risen.  

You have been united with His death, and sin has been dealt with, but in His giving you His body and blood, He also gives you life!

Hear again the blessing that is given, as people stand and kneel form the altar…and know it is for you.  ( It might make even more sense now!)

Now, may the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, your confidence in the God’s work in your life; and until we are all before God throne, dwelling in His glory, may you know you dwell, kept secure in His peace!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Theology that Truly Matters Meets Us….

Devotional THoguht fo the Day:
14  Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15  Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)

290      Joy, and supernatural and human optimism, can go hand in hand with physical tiredness, with sorrow, with tears (because we have a heart), and with difficulties in our interior life or our apostolic work. He who is perfectus Deus, perfectus Homo—perfect God and perfect Man—and who enjoyed every happiness in Heaven, chose to experience fatigue and tiredness, tears and suffering… so that we might understand that if we are to be supernatural we must also be very human.  (1)

Tomorrow in church we will use the Athanasian Creed, an incredible wonderful set of words that describe the nature of God who is so much more than we can understand or conceive.  It first describes Father Son and Holy Spirit (or for us older folk Holy Ghost).  Mindblowing in both its simplicity and complexity.  Very appropriate as we dedicate the day to thinking about the Trinity, this majestic and glorious God, who has revealed Himself to us.

The second aspect I want to deal with here, well sort of…

It describes, as best as one can, the divine and human nature of Christ.  That he is 100% man, 100% divine.  Theologians will talk about this ad nauseum, with fancy Latin phrases and epic tomes which make us sound far more brilliant than we are.  Where it matters is where the saint who wrote Hebrews mentions above.

Christ has sympathy for us.  Not just a sympathetic ear, but true sympathy for us.  Or perhaps more accurately, empathy.   He’s been here, done this, and instead of having a t-shirt to wear, He has stripes on His back, a gaping hole in His side, and in his wrists and feet.  As the scriptures tell us, he endured the temptations we face, (and then some extras!)  He experienced the fatigue and suffering, the tears and emotional exhaustion.  his sacrifice was on the cross, but it was also His very life.  A life that was an offering for us, and to us, to show us the depth of God’s love.

Which is why, broken and weary, tired and drained, even doubting and in despair, we can turn to Him.  Or more precisely drawn to Him.  We don’t have to avoid the pain, and the sorrow, the tears and the grief.  For there, in the midst of the brokenness, we find Jesus, who was broken for us. We find in our Humanity, the Lord and Savior, who loved us enough to become human, and there, at that moment, we find the joy of His making us holy, and supernatural, as we share in His glory.

So if you are preaching tomorrow, remember to link the Trinity to their beloved, remember to mention the Birde of Christ.  If you are hearing a sermon, worship with great joy, knowing that God is with you… that He has chosen to share your life, and at that moment, know the peace and joy that is beyond all understanding.  For Jesus the Christ is with you, guarding you heart and mind.  AMEN!




 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1181-1185). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven; V. Where Are We Going?

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:Concordia Lutheran Church

Where are We Going?
Matthew 22:1-14

 IHS

 

As we journey through this life, may we keep in sight the destination, the place where we realize completely the love and mercy of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Other Destination Options:

Have you ever been tempted to play hookey from a family gathering?  You’re on your way to your grandparent’s house, and you see how beautiful a day it is, and you think, we could just spend a little while at the park, or maybe the beach?

Or maybe you are working on a project, sewing that new whatever it is people sew and just another twenty minutes and you will finish it!  Or the ball game is on, and you will leave a little later…and make up for it by driving a little faster?

Back when we were kids, and we were about to be stuffed in the back seat together, I bet many of us had a way to stall.  Maybe we didn’t want to get dressed up, Or we blamed our sister for taking too much time in the bathroom.  For me, it usually was – just let me finish the book I am reading!

It’s not that we didn’t know about the feast that awaited us, Grampy’s sausage, or Uncle Wally’s fireworks, or the French Onion Dip and carved turkey?   There were just other things….that seemed important for that moment.

If you did this, and arrived two hours late, were you upset when they didn’t keep everyone waiting for dinner?

Do we play the same game with God?

Do we miss His invitations to spend time with Him, to share the feasts He has prepared, because we have other things to do before we continue on our journey to heaven?

Why Didn’t God wait for Us?

Patient, we hear God is patient.

Abraham and Moses count on it for their people.  Joseph comforts his brothers with the thought of God’s patience.  David praises God for God’s patience with him.  Job depends on it, even when he doesn’t have the answers.  Peter tells us why God is so patient, because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to be transformed and made holy.  Set apart to a relationship with God.

An interesting thought, this patience of God.

Curious, has anyone here ever had someone take advantage of their patience?

How did it feel?

Ever plan and cook a dinner, like the king in the parable, only to have the people choose to do something else?

What if their excuse, like the excuses in the parable, is somewhat weak?  I heard one yesterday, for example, that was that we miss church sometimes because we know church and Bible studies will be here next week, but that other thing, that game, is today.  I need to make this abundantly clear: this parable isn’t just about our church life.

How often do we fail to talk to God, to put our trust in Him for the things we are struggling with? How often do we think we have to find another solution for our problems, a different road to take?  How often will we pass by the opportunity to think and meditate on His love.   Do we find something else, rather than being still, and knowing He is God?

Does being patient cost you something?  Does it ever tear at you, frustrate you, even sadden you?

Have we ever wondered what God’s patience costs Him?

We know being patient costs us, we know the levels of frustration, even pain, as we see people we love do the wrong things.

Things that would so concern God, that He sent Jesus, to live life, to suffer and die on the cross, to make it right…

To bring all who would come, to His feast, to be His family.

The good and bad alike…..all are welcome, all are offered the opportunity to be made ready. Matter of fact, we are sent out to bring them here; to celebrate, to enjoy, to know His peace.

But what are we missing?

If I can go back to the original illustration, we know that there are some things that we miss, when we divert from the original journey, we realize we are going to miss some things.
if we were diverted on our way to Grampy DeLuca’s house, it would mean we would miss Grampy’s incredible Italian sausages.  Even some 34 years later, I can remember walking down the stairs into his basement, where they would be in the oven.  We’d miss Grampy and Uncle Bill, Uncle Butchie and my dad singing. (I’ll actually get to play the piano that I played for them this week. )  we’d miss everyone at peace, the one day when all family fights were given a reprieve, a truce.

I would have us ask what we miss, when we forgo our times with God, whether here at church, or whether it is the time we could set aside for prayer, for spending time meditating on His word, and on the gifts He gives us?  What do we give up?

You see my friends, this is about doing things because we have to do them or we won’t be good.  It’s about doing them for the same reason we go to our family gatherings, a friend’s birthday party, or make time to go to a wedding.  No, Don, it’s not because of the food, its’ because of the love of family, and there is no family closer to us than God.

What we are missing is our time with Him, our time realizing the depth of His love.  Our time where He assures us that it will all be okay, that He has forgiven us and made everything right.  We’d miss the people He surrounds us with to bless us, to help us grow, to give us a hug because they are glad to see us, or to bring us comfort.

When we forgo our time with Him, we miss Him, and all He brings to our life.

These things Paul called the fruit of the Spirit,

22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

These things aren’t the reason to feast with God, but they are what happens when we do.  The reason is simple… to be in the presence of the One who loves us, who gives us life, who gives us Himself, who makes our lives right…..who feeds and nourishes our Spirit, who lifts us up like no other.

Enough so our souls shout His praises, our hearts trust and depend on His healing and restoration, our minds are transformed, and we begin to see reality differently, His way.  And we hear his voice calling to us, encouraging more people to come to the feast, for it is ready!

Amen!

God’s Not Dead… but He did die on a Cross…

Devotional Thought of the DayThe Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

22  Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (TEV)

16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)

I venture to assure you, my dear reader, that if you and I enter into this forge of the Love of God, our souls will become better, being cleansed of some of the dross that clings to them.  (1)

I watched a couple of interesting movies yesterday.  The first was Good Will Hunting, and then I watched the movie that has become quite popular among Christians, God’s Not Dead.

I wrote last night on FB that both were about redemption, and that both fell short.  They both dealt with brokenness, they both had characters, several of them, that needed to be healed of the darkness they dwelt in, and they both seemed to find healing for their brokenness.  And both fell short. Both were incomplete.

But what surprised me is that I found that God’s not Dead seems to have fallen shorter in some ways.

Good Will Hunting isn’t a movie trying to serve as an apologetic.  It is simply a John Hughes movie, done in the context of Boston. Quite realistic, even to the language.  it got it when the character that is redeemed can’t be helped by the wisdom and knowledge of the world, of the professors and clinicians.  It takes a broken, battered man (Robin Williams) and the unlikely average joe to bring about the promise of redemption, of meaning.  And it is found, not in the career, not in the perfection of life, but in the need for real love, and the chase of the one who loves.  Replace Minnie Driver with Christ, the sexual scenes with times of intimate prayer – and you have something.

But the brokenness and pain can’t be healed by anything but love.

Now to God’s not dead

Did you notice anything really conspicuous missing from the movie?

Think.

Think again.

The ontological arguments were well done.  The brokenness of relationships with God and between Dean Cain and his family, and Kevin Sorbo and his girlfriend, students and life in general are well done, if a bit over the stop in stereotypes.  The dealing with cancer, and the band ministering to the girl with a cancerous death sentence, nice done as well.

But there is something missing.

Figure it out yet?

I’ll help.

Where was the cross?

You can prove the existence of the Divine, of a Creator, logically and completely, and still have someone who is bound by satan, enslaved by sin, in anxiety over death.

Luther noted that this was true, as he explained the work of the Holy Spirit in the Large Catechism

For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. (2)

We  can know all about the existence of God, but without the cross, you cannot know God’s attitude is towards you.  All we can realize is that you don’t deserve love, but punishment.  Like the mathematicians and fancy psychologists, we cannot find a way out of our brokenness.  We are so broken, so torn up, so enslaved by sin. Even forensic, scientific apologetics becomes, not a hope, but a hindrance.  The victory of young Wheaton in the movie is something we can triumph in, we defended God successfully!  We won the battle, even as they don’t see the victory in the back room, or out on the street, or even behind him, as the girl who lost her family but found Christ was there.

We have to have the cross, for it is there we find God’s attitude toward us, we see the incredible dimensions of His love in those rough beams, in the blood soaked body of Christ.  We proclaim His death until He comes again, as Paul says we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the incredible love of the Eucharist.  We are joined to that cross in our baptism (see Colossians 2, Romans 6, Titus 3)

it is impossible to know the love of God without seeing His work, without seeing the cross.

And it was missing.

The relationship?  It was a minor secondary thing compared to the victory.  Compared to the people who came to “know” about God by deciding God’s case.

As if we could comprehend His ways, understand His actions simply by deducing there is a God.

We have to know there is a God who loves us……who loves us enough to die for us.

Yes, God’s not dead, but He did die….

for you.

Get to know Him, walk with Him, it is why He died.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 203-204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.Part II  Of the Creed: Article III

 

Time to Go Home…& the Eucharist…

Devotional/discussion thought of the Day:

It’s been too many days away…. even though the men I am with on this retreat are fun loving guys, and there is a great sense of camaraderie among them, it is not the same as being home with my wife and son, and my congregation.  I have confidence in the vicar preaching there this morning, ( as I do in the other vicar and deacon extending the ministry this morning) but there is something about being there.

I can’t wait to get home.  I can’t wait to get back to my people.  (and out of the range of the country western stuff I was subjected to all week)

As i long for that, I think about the Lord’s Supper, the Communion feast of God and His people, the Eucharist.

It is, more than anything, the place I know I am home. It is where we belong, very consciously aware of the presence of God, the awe found in His presence, which rips our sin, our idols, our anxieties away.

I have to admit a bit of jealousy of my Catholic brothers in ministry, who don’t wait a week in between celebrating this feast, this homecoming, this little glimpse of the joy of heaven, this peace which crushes all else.

It’s time for going home… it’s time for the family to dine, the host to bless us, even as He thanks the Father for the cross that made this feast possible.

I love how St. Josemarie Escriva put it,  “As he was giving out Holy Communion that priest felt like shouting out: this is Happiness I am giving to you!”  (1)

This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to His Supper,

Lord, we are not worthy to receive, but only say the words……and we are healed….

For we are home, with God.

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1105-1106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: