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When It All Seems…. Too, Too Much!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. 
The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away.
Praise the name of Yahweh.   Job 1:21 HCSB

10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. Job:210  HCSB

535 Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.

As I read through the Old Testament, I hate it when I come to the book of Job.

For one thing, all the wisdom of his friends. which in the end is declared useless – why bother with it?

The more scary thought, is my life going to resemble this soon (or I could make the argument it does it now!)  If so, how will I survive?  If so, why does God allow these times of adversity? 

How will I survive?  Will the darkness overwhelm me?

And then I get mad at God, I would even say I get pissed off at Him. I don’t have the patience or righteousness or wisdom of Job!  

That is perhaps, why I need to read of his travail.

I need to know that kind of confidence, that accepts God’s providence, even when it is adversity, even when it will stretch us, even when we think we are at the end and can’t take one more thing.  When we realize there is no strength in us.

It is then we realize that there is only one option.

Communion.

Intimacy with God.

It is there we can be assured of His love.  It is there, in His presence, we know His mercy so completely that we cannot doubt that even the adversity is somehow a blessing.  It is there, as we receive Him, as He comes to us, that His peace overwhelms everything.

That is the communion that led to Job’s faith.  That is the communion that sustains the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, and saints throughout time.  It is that communion that enables us to go on.  It is that communion that has sustained me through dark times in my life.

It is that communion, that presence of God that lifts me up, comforts me, guides me…

My only wish is that I could have it more often…

No, my wish is we could have it together more often.

Lord have mercy on us!  

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1295-1296). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Has the Church forgotten this critial direction?

Altar with communion

Devotional Thought for the day:
28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)

235    Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping—never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.

We don’t allow enough time for it in our church services.

Perhaps because the silent time of reflection is awkward.

Perhaps it is because of the shuffling of papers that occurs, or the sound of people shifting (squirming) in their seats, fifteen or so seconds into the silence.

Perhaps it is because we mistakenly think the things we have to say or sing are more important,

The time of reflection, when we consider that we’ve sinned against God, and against others.  When we think back and take inventory of the time since we last confessed our sin since we are brought face to face with those moments where we failed to love, where we failed to care, where we made ourselves and our desires the most important thing in life.

It shouldn’t be just on Sunday morning that we do an examination our of lives or our consciences. But we need to do it before we commune, not out of a sense of duty, but because we need to realize why we commune, why we need Jesus to come to us, why we need to know He loves us.

Because we realize we are broken because we need to realize that it was our sin that Jesus responded to, laying down His life to erase it from our books with the grace found in the body broken and sacrificed, and love found as He offered His blood to cleanse us.

We need to do this, not to dwell in the guilt and shame, not to recount how horrible we are, but to realize how precious God’s forgiveness is, and how much He truly loves us, and how much we need to know He does love us.

That is why Paul warns us to examine ourselves. because as we do, we understand the blessing of God’s forgiveness.  If we don’t if we neglect this, look at the warning, God will, and rather than pour out His grace, it will result in HIs judgment, and His punishment or worse, His wrath.

Not because we didn’t cover every sin (who has that big of a memory) but because we didn’t trust Him enough to deal with our failures, and we continued in life not dealing with our sin. Because we neglected the freedom God offered to us, and chose to stay in the dark.

So take your time, let God bring to your heart and mind the sins you need to know are forgiven. Ask Him to help you, so that you are convinced of this, you are clean, hole, healed,

Because He was broken, and His blood was shed, for you….

And knowing that, it is a time for a feast!…

AMEN!

How much time do you need, would you like, to examine your conscience in regards to the last week…?

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 640-642). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

The Limit of a Pastor’s (or Priest’s) Authority…

 

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29  for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)

14  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15  the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16  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 3:14-19 (NLT)

Confession has two parts:
First, a person admits his sin
Second, a person receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as if from God Himself, without doubting it, but believing firmly that his sins are forgiven by God in Heaven through it.

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

The other day a lady from our community called me and asked if we helped people other than Christians. I replied that we do, and then she proceeded to describe needs that couldn’t be met by a church 50 times larger than the one I pastor.  But she demanded that I demand my people to meet the need she had. 

She said I had the authority to do so… and was disappointed and angry that I couldn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the church and the authority it invests in those that it calls pastors, or ministers, or priests. 

I think the perfect portrayal of a pastor is found, not in theology books, but in the priest/bishop described in blue above.  The quote is from Les Miserables, and the Bishop is the one who forgives the sins of Jean Valjean, giving him the silver he stole.  He talked directly, and with authority, the authority that is proper for one in ministry, the authority to be merciful, the authority to reconcile, the authority that is persuasive, because the pastor is convinced himself.

Not of his authority, for that is simply delegated.  

We are (or we should be) convinced of God’s mercy toward us.  We need to be convinced that though we can never fully understand His love, we can experience it, and lead people to experience His love. The authority is seen most clearly when we realize that we are the ones who have been forgiven, we are the ones who God has saved from the brokenness we chose. 

It is that conviction that leads us to wield the authority we are delegated, the authority to pour out the grace of God upon broken people, assuring them of the healing of God found as He cleanses them of their sin.   We can speak for God about this, in fact, we must speak for God in this way.  For He commands it.  

This is our vocation, this is our call.  Somewhere along the line, we picked up other hats, other roles, especially administrative ones, but our only God-given role is that we are overseers and caretakers of souls.  Mercy is what we’ve been authorized to distribute.  Love as well, for in reality, they are the same thing.  Or to use the word that combines them, charity.   The more we can delegate the other stuff, the more time we spend doing what we are called to do, the more the church will come alive, as is it freed from the sin which so ensnares us.

If you are a pastor/priest, find ways to preach and teach God’s word, revealing to people God’s love, and administer the sacraments as often and faithfully as you can.   If you are not, turn to your pastor/priest for such care often, and do what you can to free him up to use this special gift to bless others.

And at all times, praise God for providing this minsitry of reconciliaiton ot us all! 

 


Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language) (Kindle Locations 438-439). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Is Prayer What You Think it is?

Kids phoneDevotional Thought of the Day:
42  They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (TEV)

89    “Mary has chosen the better part,” we read in the holy Gospel. There she is, drinking in the words of the Master. Apparently idle, she is praying and loving. Afterward, she accompanies Jesus in his preaching through towns and villages. Without prayer, how difficult it is to accompany him!

 Truly, God gives daily bread to evil people, even without our prayer. But we pray in this request that He will help us realize this and receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

We don’t need to pray as much as to see our situations change, as we need to pray to see ourselves changed. (Note the past tense here )

I don’t think we understand the nature of prayer all that well.

We can analyze it, we can teach people the elements, we lead retreats on it, and if we are daring, we might actually ask people how their prayer life is. ( I am not sure that is the right question btw)  That doesn’t mean we understand it, it just means that we know about it.  We can even say it’s having a chat with God, but even then, we fall short.

But what prayer is?  It is living life in Christ, in dialogue with the Father, dependent on the Holy Spirit.  We come up with words like fellowship, communion/community, or my preference we live in the most intimate of relationships with him.

That’s why Luther will consistently teach that prayer isn’t about making God do something but realizing He is actively doing that which is for our best, whether it is protecting us from evil, or helping us forgive, or seeing His will be done.

This dynamic of prayer is what St. Josemaria is talking about when he says that without prayer, we cannot follow Jesus, that we don’t recognize that He is guiding our paths, and helping us journey, in peace.

THat’s why the early church made prayer, daily prayer, together, such a critical part of their life.  Not out of duty, but it is the natural life when you are in a relationship, an intimate relationship with God. It is simply what we do, like Mary abandoning the housework to just be still and adore the God who came to her, who comes to us.

This time of prayer, this time of hearing from God, and learning to simply entrust everything to Him, not because we have to, but because that is what you do when you are sure you are loved.  It is far more than a quick check-in chat, a 5 or 30 or 60-minute briefing on our day.  It is lifelong dance, a

This is God at work, this is the God whose love we need to experience, to explore, to have revealed to us.  This is the God who we need to be with, listen to, depend upon, And all that happens when we pray…

please, consider sharing a moment or two when you were praying and knew the presence of God was there, comforting you, guiding you, even correcting you…

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 361-363). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

We Need to Make the Time for the Miracle…

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our Day:
“No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace,  and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.”   1 Samuel 1:15-18

Does our daily anxiety about life seem so important to us that we can find no time to look above it? There is the daily anxiety about food and lodging for ourselves and for those who are dear to us; our profession, our work; there is our responsibility for society in general, for its improvement, and that injustice may cease to exist in it so that all of us can eat our bread in peace and freedom. Does not all that seem so urgent that everything else seems of no consequence? And is that the whole problem? Today more and more individuals are of the opinion that religion is a waste of time, that only social action can make a significant contribution to man’s well-being. As a result, it will require a kind of miracle to make us let ourselves be lifted up to what is higher. But God be praised, such miracles do occur even today.

Christ as a light illumine and guide me.  Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me, on my left and on my right. 
This day Lord, be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each that speaks to me.  This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, and yet all-powerful.  Christ as a light, Christ as a shield, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.

Joseph Ratzinger’s words this morning, written perhaps 20 years ago or more, ring so true today.  We see so many things that need to be done, so many things that need to be corrected, so many things that cause anxiety, so many things that have to be addressed, otherwise, we cannot find the time to eat our bread in peace, truly free. 

These things are so urgent that everything else seems. not to matter, not to be of importance.  Including our religion, our walking with God, our taking the time in prayer, to pour out our hearts like Hannah did.

Last night in our church service, I saw something I have long dreamed of and encouraged.  People staying at the communion rail, emptying themselves, even through the tears, finding the freedom that comes as we, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, find that we cannot leave until we have emptied ourselves until we are confident that God has heard us.

Do I like the fact that these people’s lives are so challenged, so anxious that they must look for comfort, for peace there at the rail?  No, but I do love that they have come to recognize that it is the place where miracles begin. Where they can unburden, where they can drop the stuff that oppresses them and find hope, where they can find the peace they need. 

We need to pray, we need to know what the ancient Celtic Christians reveled in, the presence of God in every moment of our lives.  God so intimately involved, so compassionate that He will bear our burdens, that He will help us cope with anxieties, (whether we know what we are anxious about or not) 

Prayer isn’t about duty, it isn’t just another task in our calendar, it is where we find the miracle of peace, where we are reminded He is there, where we can pour out our heart, and ask for the faith to leave the burdens behind. 

God is with you… prayer makes that truth come alive!!!!  

So take the time, see the miracle begin and lead in freedom and peace!  AMEN!

(and anytime you want to come and prayer… you are welcome too!)

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

from the daily office: morning prayer of Celtic Daily Prayer:  Book 2

Slogans, Sermons, and The Celebration

A devotional thought for our days…

Jesus went with them, and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Him, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. d I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Luke 7:6-8  HCSB

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

Yesterday, my birthday presents were delivered a bit early.  Actually, they came just in time for the Superbowl ( my second favorite part of tomorrow!) 

The present included two items, a hat and a sign for my office. 

The first is a new cap, with what I thought was my favorite slogan for sports and ministry.  “Do Your Job” and that is a critical aspect in football, in the military (as the centurion noted) or in our relationship with God and the ministry that is created by God in our lives.  

We simply need to walk with Him and do as He leads.  Which takes faith, the dependence on God that provides the will and ability (Eph 2:13) to do what pleases Him!   Do Your Job, do it trusting in God.  Do Your Job, loving God

The second slogan now hands on my office door, a few feet from me.  No Days Off!  Oddly enough, this slogan was not revealed during the march to last year’s Superbowl victory, but afterward, during the victory parade.  What was the secret to the victory?  The coaches and players lived football, they lived the game, in season and out of season.  They lived according to the standard of their slogans… and did their job, whatever it required.

Can you imagine if the church did this?  If it made the sacrifices to walk with God each day?  If it dwelt in His presence, depended on His mercy, realized His love and peace fills our lives?  If we stopped treated being Christian was a part-time gig, and desired to live in His love, not just part-time (as if to hit the minimum requirements to gain heaven) nor even full-time ( meeting what we think is our duty) but every day treasured our time with Him, and rejoiced in the love that is our, in and through Jesus?  That is really what our “job” is, everything else, worship, loving for others, caring for others, these things are just the impact of walking with Him. 

Then there is the motto I don’t have anything on, one that I couldn’t find applicable in the Kingdon of God.  The most recent slogan, ‘Not Done Yet”

Then I realized where that slogan comes into play in the church.  It happens as the sermon finishes, and for some people, that is the high point of our church time together.

It isn’t even close.

Altar with communionFor the sermon is simply revealing God’s plan in our lives.   But we aren’t close to being done at that point.  The greatest time in the church comes when we approach the rail together, as we bow together, recognizing the presence and invitation of God, and those who can kneel, and as a community of His people, share in the Eucharist as one.

As I preach, my hunger for the sacrament grows, and I pray it grows in my people.  To be welcome at the table, fully righteous in the eyes of God, fully cleansed by Him and made ready to celebrate.  Even as we realize we are not done yet, as we take a knee, the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the celebration of Jesus completing His work in us,  For He has done all it takes to make us His own.  And the Eucharist is His thanks to the Father, and our thanks to Him, for it is finished.

He Has done and is doing, His job.  
He takes no days off…
And He is not done yet but will be, when He brings the last prodigal home.

Until then, let us walk with, work with and celebrate the love of God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Blessed to Be in His Presence: Free from Blame and made Partners: An Advent Sermon on 1 Cor 1

church at communion 2We Are Blessed to Be in His Presence

Free from Blame and Made His Partners!

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

  I.H.S

 As the Apostle Paul desired for the Corinthians, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace!

 Thank God you belong to Jesus!

An observation I heard more times than I could count yesterday is one familiar.

“How do people get through this without Jesus?”

“How does the secular world deal with this?

And to be honest, I don’t know, but I have an answer to their problem, at the end of this message.

So when I got back to church yesterday, and I looked again at the passage, what caught my eye more than it did before was Paul giving thanks to God for his people and the grace He’s given, for they belong to Jesus.

And so memories of after the service came back, so many of your faces, resonating with these words of Paul.

I have to thank God that it the grace He has given so evident, as is that you belong to Jesus, you are His!  All of the words of comfort you offer each other confirms it, as we seemingly do it month after month, year after year.  The gospel I share with you from up here, or in the MPR, I get to see them lived out far more clearly, as the riches of God’s gifts is seen in you.
I don’t have to prove His presence is true, you know that, even if you are little hazy about all the details, we cannot deny that God carries us in times like these.

Look at what we do, this isn’t possibly without God’s work being true

I don’t know how often you think about Jesus coming back, never mind are eagerly waiting for His return.  Most of the time for me, it is a prayer of desperation, a prayer because I don’t know how we are going to cope any longer, or dare I say, how much more of a challenging life we can endure. 

That’s the same kind of feeling Isaiah had in the Old Testament, when he cried, Lord, just burst open the heavens and come down!!!!

We’re waiting Lord!  Just rip open those skies and get down here!

I mean what are you waiting for Lord?

We’re not the first people to struggle, and we aren’t the only people who think the struggle’s gone on long enough.  According to the Book of Revelation, even those in heaven, those who testified to God’s love cry out, “How long, O Holy and true Lord, how long until the suffering is dealt with?”  (Rev. 6:10)

God’s answer to them is rest a little longer, the number of your brothers and sisters aren’t complete.  Remember that please.  That the number isn’t complete….

The church is like Maxwell house….

So how do we endure all the suffering?  All the pain that sin causes in our lives?  If God won’t come and take us all home right now, how will we get past tomorrow?

How can we endure to the end?  How will we be strong and faithful from this moment until Christ returns?

While Jesus isn’t coming back for the final judgment yet, He promised that God would never abandon us, that He would never leave us alone.  Here he promises it again,

“He will keep you strong to the end,”

But it doesn’t end there, there is more , “so you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus returns”

Hear that guys?  All blame!  By guys I was talking to the men who are to blame for everything!  You know who you are!

Seriously, that promise is twofold.  The first is that God will personally sustain us, and keep us strong until Jesus returns.  The second is that we will be blameless – completely righteous, innocent of all sin, completely cleansed by God, our soul completely healed.

What we can’t do, He did already.  For our strength comes from our being untied to Jesus’ death and resurrection in our baptism, in God claiming us as His, for it is when we were united to Jesus that we became His, new creatures, that He fully cares for and sustains.

Because of Him we were sinners, and now we are forgiven, righteous, holy, and this is how Jesus will find us, the very work He did on the cross made it possible, and made it happen

Partnership with Christ – from His death till He comes again

So let me bring back up the idea of how people get through this life without knowing God.

It’s not supposed to be that way, and in fact, even as God planned for us to be blameless and holy, and strong to the last drop, he planned for those people who didn’t know His comfort.

Just as the Father sent Jesus to us, Jesus sends us to them.

You heard me right, that’s what the idea the Apostle is getting to, when he says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what He says, and he has invited you into partnership with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Our partnership, our communion, our fellowship with Jesus is so complete, we share in His vocation of Savior.  Not that we are crucified for their sins, but they hear about that incredible act of love, and the resurrection through us.  They hear of the love of God that will sustain us through this seemingly broken, shattered life.

And our words will confirm the work of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Him, as we share the hope we have.

They don’t have to go through this life without Christ, and certainly, we know that God doesn’t desire that they go through life without hope, and for that reason, He isn’t come back yet…

You and I are Jesus partners, have been since our baptism, and through us, through the gospel, we share with family and friends, they will know that God is with them as well…

And then on the days when they like us are broken and exhausted, or tire of crying, and dealing with the guilt and shame of sin, they will know the power and beauty and strength and peace found in these words,

The Lord, who loves you, is with you!

AMEN!

The Real Spiritual War We Must Fight…

Life is painDevotional Thought for our days…
24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TEV)

13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.

60      Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.

Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders.  Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy.  Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.

Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation.  And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection.  (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_

The struggle is real.

The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives.  Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,

But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it?  Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it?  Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle?  A different sort of discipline?

There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing.  I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.

So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it?  Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries?  Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?

I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us.  Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God.  These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.

That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple.  Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.

In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it!  We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us.  FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far… 

And still, He is here…

 


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Your Primary Calling in Life… have you neglected it?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for our days

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to you who have been made holy in Christ Jesus. You were called to be God’s holy people with all people everywhere who pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 1:2-3  NCV

 

This illustration is applicable in every detail to participation in God. The ancient fathers write that baptism is likened to a marriage. Marriage includes a renunciation, a turning away from the single life, a ritual of union, a united vision, a transformation of life as two lives are made one. Marriage implies living together. It is not an experience that, when ritualized between two people, makes no difference in their lives. When two people, united in marriage, return to their old lives, the marriage will at worst die and at best lack any kind of growing relationship according to the I-Thou dynamic.

We talk often about our faith, about the doctrines of our faith, about defending our faith, about the keeping the faith of our fathers pure and undefiled.  We define our Christian faith, and then those who aren’t quite up to speed with our doctrine or practices.

But how often do we talk of our faithfulness, or encourage each other to be faithful to God?

It is time.

We have to talk of our calling, our vocation, not primarily in regards to how we worship corporately, or how often we share our faith in this broken world, or how much we give to missionaries or to care for those who have less.

Those acts of faith are good, but they are meaningless if we are not faithful to God, if we don’t realize our primary calling is to be His people, His children, the bride of Jesus Christ. 

Our first calling is not to be pastors, evangelists, elders, worship leaders, defenders of the faith.  Our primary vocation is not to be parents, employees, however, we define our lives. 

Our primary vocation is our deep, abiding, intimate relationship with God. To dwell with Him, as He loves us in ways that only can be described as glorious, praise-worthy, mind-blowing.  (Even when we struggle!_  

Paul describes that calling as being part of God’s holy people who pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Hebrews 4:16 he describes us being able to confidently approach God’s throne, for there we will receive His mercy and grace, for we belong there.

It is as Dr. Webber talks of, where a married couple lives together, lives as one.  That is our relationship with God ( see Eph. 5:21 and following)  This relationship we have with God is the most precious thing we have in this life, and without it, nothing we have is worth anything, in fact, if we cling to them, they are liabilities, serious liabilities.

You and I need our time with God, our time where we are reminded of His glory, his value, and the power He exerts in our lives, the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. (Eph.120 )  Just as a couple needs quiet intimate time together (I am not just talking about sex) so we need that time with God, deep, powerful, intimate time where God floods us with His peace, and causes us to rest, free from the crap of this world.  

Our time with Him restores us, even reconciles us back to Him when we need to know His mercy and forgiveness.  

This is the power behind sacramental times, like communion, where we break from our lives and kneel before Him, not just humbly, but expectantly, to receive the blessing of Christ’s body and blood.  Or in the sacramental time where we hear that we can go, our sin is forgiven, or in the sacramental time of prayer, when we live in the promise of our baptism. 

We need this rest, this time of Sabbath peace, this moment where we know we know we are loved… and we learn to love back.

Lord Jesus, help us to cry out to you, in need, or in joy.  Help us to treasure our time where we confidently enter Your presence and share in Your glorious love and peace.  Lord, reconcile us and restore, and help us to seek You first, and always.  AMEN!

 

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Time Management and the Church

St Francis Catholic Church

This was the church of my parochial school… a place where relationships were formed… with our students and with God

A devotional thought for the Day:

42 They spent their time learning the apostles’ teaching, sharing, breaking bread, n and praying together.  Acts 2:42 NCV

Chapter 7 Baptism into union with Jesus is the sign of our new spiritual identity with the Triune God and with each other in the church. In baptism Christians embrace the new life that is the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
Chapter 8 The spiritual life is a living into our baptism—dying to all that is sin and death, rising through the new birth into the new life modeled by Jesus, the one who images humanity completely united to God’s original purposes for creation. The spiritual life contemplates the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ and participates in the purposes of God for humanity.
Chapter 9 The spiritual life is disciplined by the rule of steadfastness, fidelity, and obedience; it attends to prayer, study, and work; it meets God in daily life, in material things, and in people.
Chapter 10 The spiritual life is nourished by the church, which is the continued presence of the incarnate Jesus in and to the world. The spiritual life is nurtured by worship that sings, prays, preaches, and enacts the divine embrace in its daily prayer, weekly celebration, and yearly attention to God’s saving embrace in the services of the Christian Year. (1) 

Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.

A friend put up a meme the other day, that testified to the power of a good hug, one of those so powerful that you can feel the other person’s heart beat, and the ability it has to calm you down and assure you that everything will be all right. I experienced those kinds of hugs on vacation, as some of my friends from junior high got together 38 years after we had last seen each other. It was remarkable and refreshing.  (thanks, Ana, Dina, Christos, Danny, Glenn, and Brian!)

It is the kind of life the church had in its infancy, one we call koinonia or living in communion with each other.  We become a community that is incredibly close, and there for each other.  It is hard to explain, the level of such a relationship, where even years melt away as…. I can think of no other word… the intimacy of the communion is restored. ( Not physical intimacy as in sexual intimacy, but a connection of souls)

Webber would note that such an embrace is possible because of God, of His drawing us into His story, of Him invading ours, not just to purge us of our sin, but to embrace us, to heal us, to bring us into the depth of His peace. The outline of his chapters above shows how this happens in baptism and the spiritual life that is created as we learn to walk with God. This is what Pope Francis was talking about when he mentions our service and ministry of tenderness that begins with a personal (intimate) encounter with God.   If not a part of our lives we will (and still do when we forget to return there) burnt out, we will be overwhelmed.  But with God’s embrace, and with those around us who likewise are locked in His embrace, we are safe… and can find the rest we need, even as we hurt.

Webber went on from the start of the Divine Embrace to note that this spiritual life, this divine embrace is nourished in the gathering of people known as the church.  It is there we find the presence of the incarnate Christ in the world (this is why some call the church our mother and say salvation is not found apart from her! )  As we pray and worship, as we continue in the apostles teaching of the Word of God (Jesus) as revealed in the word of God (scripture)  as we take and eat the body of Christ, and take and drink His blood, poured out to remove all of our sin and restore our relationship with God, this divine embrace, this intimate relationship with God is restored, and it envelops all of us.  

This early description of the church in Acts talks of this – look at what they did! It doesn’t say they held endless meetings or held strategy meetings for growth.  It says that they did the things which reminded us and strengthened our awareness of God’s embrace.  

Maybe it is the time we got back to being the church, rather than doing church.  Our people need it, we need it. and oddly enough God treasures it far more than we can realize.  For He sent Jesus to minister to us, even to the point of offering His life as a sacrifice, that we could be held in God’s hands…

Time management in the church?  Where is our time of understanding God’s word, praying together, sharing our lives and meals together, and sharing in the Eucharist?  It may seem too simple, but the joy we will find being those God called together will be far more contagious than anything we can plan.  

The Lord is with you! It is time to manage our time so that we spend most of it Celebrating that Divine Embrace!

 

 

 

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

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