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The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2  I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.

WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?

I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.

I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.

As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.

My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!

We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.

It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.

It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.

Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.

God is with us!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.

The Journey to Holiness: Will You Go on THIS pilgrimage?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success. Chron. 26:4-5 CSB

18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passoverb contrary to what was written.c But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God,d the LORD, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people 2 Chron 30:18-20 CSB

Many Christians submit to great fatigue, and expose themselves to many dangers, to visit the places in the Holy Land where our most loving Saviour was born, suffered, and died. We need not undertake so long a journey, or expose ourselves to so many dangers; the same Lord is near us, and dwells in the church, only a few steps distant from our houses. If pilgrims, says St. Paulinus, consider it a great thing to bring back a little dust from the crib, or from the holy sepulchre in which Jesus was buried, with what ardor should not we visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, where the same Jesus is in person, and where we can go without encountering so much fatigue and so many dangers!

God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.

I have been blessed to visit Rome, and pray in many of the churches there. Some I found irresistable, such as the church in the Villa Tevere, and the church that was made our of the home of St. Francis of Assissi. I have preached in China as well, and found in a little church along a small canal the same sense of being in a refuge, being in a sanctuary. There was something special about those places.

De Ligouri’s words therefore resonate with me, although his visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament and mine differ – for his is the Eucharist in a monstrance, to contemplate upon in prayer. Mine preference is to find that same thing as the people of God receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under the bread and wine.

In either situation, seeking the Lord is not about encountering physical torment. That may be needed, and it may not be. The challenge is what Is mentioned in Chronicles, being taught the fear/awe of the Lord. Be able to know that we should be terrified, as we are sinners gathering in the presnce of the Holy. At the same time, realizing in awe that God still accepts us anyway. He will deal with our sin… and still welcome us.

And welcoming that teaching is part of our journey. To allow God to inspect our lives, the deepest parts, to let Him find what lurks within, and carefully cut it away. To admit, as Hezekiah and His crew did, that we aren’t ready to enter into the feast, and to cling to a God who is merciful.

That is our journey… that is our hope.

This God of ours… and make no mistake, He is ours, for the Holy Spirit walks with us on this journey. Note the healing that was done to Hezekiah’s crew? That is being done in our lives today… making us right and whole, so that we would be welcomed in the presence of God.

It is a hard journey to make, for we don’t know what lurks within us. We just recognize the Spirit’s work, especially as we bow and kneel with others at the rail… and receive Christ again,

It doesn’t matter where… the Holy Land, Rome, Jiangmen, Macao, Cerritos or Lawrence, Mass.

He is our God, and we find refuge, sanctuary, and serenity as we feast with Him, and His people.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 181.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

What Draws Me To Jesus…

The Intimate Feast

Devotional Thought of the Day:

29 The king said to him, “Why keep on speaking about these matters of yours? I hereby declare: you and Ziba are to divide the land.”s
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Instead, since my lord the king has come to his palace safely, let Ziba take it all!”
2 Samuel 19:29-30 CSB

Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently that they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee, Sela.” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.

Come then, O Lord! come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee. Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being; and if ever I do not obey Thee perfectly, chastise me with rigor, that thenceforward I may be more watchful to please Thee as Thou willest. Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar; to entertain myself with Thee, and to receive Thee in Holy Communion.

The young, crippled man, Mephibosheth, who was King Saul’s son, meets King David after he was restored to his throne. Even though David would restore to him all that he had, the young man would have none of it. So glad was he that David was restored to the throne.

Grace didn’t matter; restoration of things of the world didn’t matter.

Being in the presence of his lord, the one who saved him from death, did.

This is a lesson for us! We should be like the young man, desiring just to be in the presence of Jesus.

William Loehe, a trainer and sender of Lutheran pastors and missionaries in the 19th century, saw this need and its answer in the Lord’s Supper. He implored a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The words in purple show why – “it prepares us for the celebration of the great Supper on high!” It helps us see that the only meaningful thing in our life is the presence of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the most significant way to celebrate and meditate on that presence!

Likewise, 100 years before Loehe, a Catholic Bishop, wrote the words in blue. The words come from his treatise on the Lord’s Supper. And they describe something I have found more trustworthy and more comforting in these challenging days than ever. The presence of the Lord that we encounter in the Lord’s supper, as we receive Christ, helps us find the rest that restores us from the brokenness we encounter, from the brokenness we know in our own lives.

Like Mephibosheth, we find that all that matters is the presence of our Lord. The Lord who is pictured in the parts of David’s life, where he became known as a man after God’s own heart. When we know His presence, our riches fade in importance. Our troubles lose their ability to overwhelm us. In the same moment, we want to collapse in awe and yet be hugged, embraced by the Lord, who makes our crippled souls whole, as we are invited, as special guests, to His feast.

This is the glory of God; this is why He deserves our praise. He comes to us, and He cares for us… This is the place where Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus to be when he wrote,

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 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 3:16-19 NLT

I pray that for us all, this experience of the love of Jesus Christ. I prayer that we encounter it frequently, as we take and eat the Body of Christ, and we take and drink His precious Blood… and we look to the day when with all the saints from all times, all places, all nations, and all languages, we celebrate the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. AMEN!

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 55–56.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 128.


Why The Church WILL Gather Again…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

53  Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55  For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)

The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.

Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.

Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.

There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.

I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.

I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is. 

You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.

That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.

This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.

 

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.

Determination, at its absolute best.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. 22 The LORD will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people. 1 Sam 12:20-22 CSB

These theologians have wished to apprehend God through speculations and have paid no attention to the Word. I recommend that speculation be laid aside, and I should like to have this rule adhered to after my death.”

“The Confessio has an excellent signification; by means of the elevation the minister in a powerful manner calls attention to the words: “This is my body, etc.” as much as to say: “See, dear friends, this is the body which was broken for you.” The elevation is not a symbol of sacrifice, as the Papists foolishly affirm, but an exhortation to move the people to a hearty acceptance of the doctrine of the Real Presence. In this there is not a syllable concerning sacrifice.”

The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it and receive instead the divine nature. God does not improve man. He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus.

There is some brutality in these quotes this morning, Especially the words of Luther (in blue) and Tozer ( in green) I have seen far to often where the word of God is bypassed, if not dismissed, as the answers to life’s problems are sought. I have seen us desire to live the way we want, rather than accept that we have died and risen in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Some will say this situation isn’t addressed in scripture, that what we need to good God has given us common sense to do. The speculation insists that Christ would do something like what they want to do, justifying it with this action, (clearing the temple is a common one) or giving part of the answer (“neither do I condemn you”- omitting “go and sin no more!”

Such speculation needs to be laid aside. Sin is sin, evil is still evil.

It still needs to be dealt with, not the symptom – the sin itself, but the nature of the sin. That requires the killing off of the “old Adam”. A complete change of our heart and mind, replacing our broken, sinful selkf with Jesus’s heart, His mind and soul.

Samuel encourages us in these moments, where our sinful nature and the Spirit of God wage war in us. We are told God isn’t going to abandon us becauese we did evil . Instead focus on Jesus, worship the God who loved you enough to die, that you might live.

We have to take this seriously, you and I. We can’t, as Hebrews notes, “neglect this great salvation.” We have to realize the love of God which calls us to Him. He is determined to make you His child, to remake you in His image.

That is why Loehe would back the lifting of the Bread and Wine, the Body and blood of Christ. To help us see the presence of God in our midst, under the bread and wine… to realize His presence in us, as we commune with Him. As deLigouri would write, “OUR holy faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the consecrated Host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of bread.

And therefore present in us…

For even as we need to realize we must die, and rise united in Jesus, so to we have to realize that unity, and God’s desire to see it happen.

Heavenly Father, help us to drop everything else in life, even for a few moments, and hear Your voice. May we hear of Your great desire and determination…. to see us as Yours. We ask this in Jesus’ name, who died for us, and even more lives with us. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 35.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 45.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 113.

An Odd and Meaningful Thing to Kiss?

A special place where God and people meet…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
 But there will be a Sabbath of complete resta for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the LORD: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It is to be a year of complete rest for the land. 6 Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired worker or alien who resides with you. 7 All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Leviticus 25:4-7 CSB

Then our Lord rose from the dead and we have what we call the period of the preparation.… They had stopped their activity at the specific command of the Lord. He said, “Tarry! You are about to receive that which has been promised.…” Sometimes you are going farther when you are not going anywhere; you are moving faster when you are not moving at all. HTB024–025 O, my heart, be still before Him!

And here the Church has introduced the custom that the faithful should give one another the kiss of peace, to remind them that their hearts should be united in charity. Before giving the kiss of peace, the priest kisses the altar, to show that he cannot give the peace unless he has first received it from Jesus Christ, who is represented by the altar.

In these days of COVID, we no longer shake hands or hug each other during the passing of the peace. ( I am not one for giving others a kiss – but other acts suffice!) It was a very meaningful time in my church. One which I struggle with in every service…

Given all that, I was struck by the instructions given to my brothers who are Catholic priests, to first kiss the altar. The reason makes sense; we can only pass on the peace we are given, we cannot create that peace within our own lives, never mind between us and those we’ve squabbled with during the week.

So the priest pauses, and kisses the altar… on behalf of all of us. I like the imagery, and the slight pause, the realization that God is here… and from Him come all the blessings that create a life of peace!

It resonates with Tozer’s words, about a period of preparation, a moment to remember the role of God. Even as we look upon the Body and Blood of Jesus, we realize the peace that comes, as we realize our need for it, we are doing what Tozer says, progressing in our faith; while letting our heart before Him find stillness and find peace.

When we take a moment, or a day, or a year to realize that when we rest before God (the idea of a sabbatical – not to write a book or do a different job) we find ourselves resting in Christ, and we find ourselves at peace.

The side effect of that peace is being able to share it with others, It is not the primary result, but it is there. The same is true for being able to minister to people. All of these activities, all of these things we are gifted and called to do are side effects of our time with Jesus. We need to realize that, and we need to spend that time, paused, adoring the Lord.

Even it is just taking a moment, and kissing the altar.

Heavenly Father, help us to always realize Your presence, to acknowledge it, to embrace You. Help us to take the time to know we dwell in Your presence, in Your peace. And then, secure in Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, show us how to live. AMEN!


A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 54.

Who has a right to commune?

church at communion 2

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.  Matthew 5:6  The Message

Twelfth, you see, that is what happens when one tries to make people pious and lead them to the right by means of commandments and laws. It only makes them worse. Thanks to such tactics, they do unwillingly and drearily whatever they do. This becomes a hindrance to God’s grace and sacrament. God neither wants to nor will he grant this grace to those who were forced, pressed, and driven to the sacrament by commandment and law, but only to hearts that long and pine and thirst for it, to hearts that come voluntarily……
(a little further Luther writes) Therefore, these words of his must be understood to refer to the labor and the burden of the conscience, which is nothing else than a bad conscience oppressed by sins committed, by daily transgressions, and by a leaning toward sin. The Lord does not drive all such people from him, as do those who teach that we must come to the sacrament with purity and worthiness. Nor does he issue a command or compel anyone to go to the sacrament, but rather he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help. The sublime sacrament must be regarded by us not as a poison, but as a medicine for the soul.10 Christ himself declares in Matthew 9 [:12], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament.

1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity

In some denominations, including mine, there is a concern about who should commune, and who should not.  Arguments abound in regards to what it means to have a close communion policy, Argmenets and division have blossomed over this idea, of who we can allow to commune.

There is something important in this, there is a Biblical basis for denying someone the Lord’s Supper, and it is found in several places – notable 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks of the consequences of approaching the Lord’s Supper without examining yourself first.

But that examination isn’t about whether we are good enough, or getting at least a B- on doctrine test, or having our membership in the right facility. (Remember – we confess that there is only one, holy catholic and apostolic church!) Yet we always seem to make it about such self-centered things.

One of my weight loss groups talks about the idea of eating when you are at the appropriate hunger level.  Not to eat just because of stress, or pattern, (aka tradition) or because it seems like time too.  Eat too soon, gain weight. Eat too late, and find that you overeat – and gain weight.

I think it is the same with God – we need to learn to hunger for Him and feed on Him regularly.  For some, that does mean daily reception, for others weekly. But it is based on need – not on qualification.  It is for those whose souls are tormented by sin and brokenness, who realize their need for Jesus because there is no other hope.

That is why I do not understand why there are people that say there is no emergency need for the Lord’s Supper. As long as there are sinners who need to know God’s grace, who are oppressed and haunted by their pasts, there is a need for this blessing for which Jesus gave thanks, even as He offered it. Luther makes this case clear.  It is worth repeating the words, “he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help.”  Yearn does not indicate they would like to have it, it means they desire it, they hunger for God, they hunger for the work He does, as He draws us into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

This is where we find hope, there is where we meet God in a very unique and powerful way, and it is where we know we are welcome.

Look at the Catholic Catechism – and see the beauty we need in this! The incredible unity that is found in the Lord’s Supper, as united in Christ, we find ourselves in the presence of God the Father! (see Colossian 3:1-3)

Caught in sin? Struggling with the burden of guilt and shame?  Need to know God’s love and forgiveness?

Come… and find peace at the altar of grace.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 176–177.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 342–343.

Communion of a Different Sort

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
36  Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)

Therefore, when I suffer, I do not suffer alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer with me, for Christ says, “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye” [Zech. 2:8]. Thus others bear my burden, and their strength is my strength. The faith of the church comes to the aid of my fearfulness; the chastity of others endures the temptation of my flesh; the fastings of others are my gain; the prayer of another pleads for me. In brief, such care do the members show one another that the more honorable members cover, serve, and honor the less respected members, as is so beautifully set forth in 1 Corinthians 12 [:22–26]

When I was 8 years old, a family friend who was a priest asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and specifically why.

I’ve been doing that now for over twenty years,

Well, sort of.

I told him I wanted to be a priest, and I am a pastor. Most people would say that is close enough, others might argue differently. But I specifically said, even though I didn’t understand why, that what I wanted to do was commune them, to give them Jesus,

And this evening, on the night of the feast where we would normally celebrate the first Lord’s Supper, it cannot be done for most of “my” people.

I know that some of them will cry because they cannot be here. I know it will wipe me out. I know other pastors who are struggling with this, too, as some simply will go without, and others will try to be innovative. I cannot and will not blame or crucify any of them. Simply put, a pastor is put into the life of people to reveal to them Jesus in their life by explaining the word of God and providing for them the sacraments they need.

Yes, I said, need!

People who are dealing with brokenness, sin, health issues, doubts, anxieties, and fears all need to know God is with them, loves them, will sustain them.

And just as our people need them, pastors have ot find a way to care for their people.

Even in these unmet needs, we find another kind of communion, a sharing in the suffering. For when one hurts, we all hurt.  When one weeps, all do. And there will be a day when we all laugh, and dance and sing, and shout amen.

Until that time, when joy runs amuck, we share, we have a communion based in suffering, but a communion where Jesus still gives us Himself, His body broken and His blood shed, for us. This is the hardest communion, it is the sharing in the dark night of the soul, Yet, it is a journey we never take alone. Jesus is with us, even as He endured his dark night alone, He assures us we will never be alone in these times.

As we share in it, may we know the promise of life, the promise of everything being made new…

And may e know He is with us…

AMEN!

( P.S., please pray for all pastors and priests – this weekend may be one the hardest in our ministries, as we try to do…what we really cannot.)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 161–162.

Pastors and Priests are not Holy Pez Dispensers!

Combined 1
Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

In the sacrament Christ is received. However, this would not happen if Christ were not, at the same time, prepared and distributed through the Word. For the Word brings Christ to the people and acquaints their hearts with him. The sacrament in itself does not transmit this knowledge.

And even if there is some preaching, the mass may be of Christ but the sermon on Theodoric of Bern or some other story. God punishes us in this way because we do not pray for our daily bread. The venerable sacrament finally becomes not only a vain and empty custom but also an object of contempt. After all, what does it profit us if Christ is present and has prepared bread for us, if this bread is not given to us and we do not delight in it? That is just as if a delicious meal were prepared and no one was there to pass the bread, bring the food, or pour the drink, and all were expected to have their hunger appeased by the odor or the sight of the meal.

You might think that this post is going to laud the preaching of the word over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  I mean, after all, Luther’s words could be interpreted that way.  Luther makes it sound like the sacrament is completely dependent on the word, that without it, it, it is vain and worthless.  It would be of no profit to our bodies and even less to our souls.

Theologically, that may sound right, but I do not agree with that interpretation.

I think it is that we can’t separate what God put together, the gift of hearing the word and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood.  We need both, and we need them together.  They need to understand the experience they have, as they take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

As I said in the title, pastors and priests (Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other sacramental groups) are more than spiritual Pez dispensers.  Our role is to reveal to you Christ, to ensure you understand the grace that you are being given in the sacraments, to make sure you understand that grace is Christ’s presence in your life, and how that transforms who you are, it results in a change to your very identity.

That is why we see this Communion Feast so important, and the words that prepare us for it critical.  This time, not just about our sins being forgiven, but the time we know we dwell in Christ, and He dwells in us.

We need this, and we need to remember, to understand, to savor this moment.  So to preach on something else, to not focus on Christ crucified for us, to make sure you understand this and treasure it, and to give you the time to think and work through it, this is our calling.

For your benefit.

So let both people and their clergy, work together, and rejoice together, as God provides for us.  Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 57–58.

“we”

 

Combined 4

Devotional Thought of the Day:

22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.  Heb 10:25

544    The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.

There is a challenge today that the church needs to embrace.

One that describes us as the author of Hebrews does, in the third person plural.  “Our,” “We”, “You” (the plural kind not singular.) these are words we need to restore to practice in the church.

Our faith is not an individualistic faith, it is always a corporate sharing of pain and sorrow, a sharing of joy and wonder at the grace of God.

That is why St Josemaria pictures it as an infusion of life as the Blood that is shared covers our sins as it brings life to us as a community, as a body, as the Body of Christ. For when a person is weak in their faith, the faith of the community lifts them up, comforting them and reminding them of the presence of God.

Without that infusion, life takes its toll, draining us of energy and the ability to depend on God. Without hearing others say the Lord is with you, without knowing that they are praying for you, we battle with the idea that the battle is ours, that we are alone. We need that input, we need the comfort and the encouragement we receive through the church, broken as she may appear.

“We” are the church, the people of God whom He ministers to through His word and the Sacraments. We need to be her…together.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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