Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5 God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6 God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7 Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (MSG)
231 I like the motto: “Let each wayfarer follow his way”, the road God has marked out for him, to be followed faithfully, lovingly, even though it is hard. (1)
It is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a pastor. It is one that is not often taught in Christian Universities or Seminaries, except maybe a short aspect of a pastoral care class.
It is simple and profound, it wears you our and leaves you in awe. Here is one of the greatest secrets to ministry:
You can’t minister to every person the same way, you can’t shepherd 100 people from 105 different places along the same exact path. They need to be drawn/dragged from where they are at to the foot of the cross, to the very mercy of God, poured out as His blood paid for all our sins.
Yet we are trained to use the same materials, the same processes in our discipleship of those in our churches. Those processes are based in some core thought that is essential ( for example, afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin. ) but how that is applied to the people in our churches should fit a particular process. it is a big job, but discipleship is both corporate and individual.
Is it any wonder that most churches stop discipleship once people have passed a new members class? Or if there is is a program, some drop out because it assumes a different starting path, and they are too frustrated to wait and see if it comes by where they are.
I know a great example of this, a lady who is a member of one of the churches I have pastored. She insists that she is a novice when it comes to faith, yet lives a life a devotion to God. A life I think is far more “along the path” that she realizes.
So how do you do this? Do you make everyone take the same path? Study the same scriptures? Do you not care if people get lost or bored? Or do you work with people individually?
It’s the same issue that Paul was talking to the Corinthians about. As they would serve in different ways, in different manners expressing the faith and growth in their trust of God. Not everyone will do the same things, have the same vocations, have the same exact path to spiritual maturity.
So how do we minister this way, effectively discipling people, shepherding them from the basics of trusting God, to actually walking with them?
Not sure yet, but it will be a lot of what I think through during advent.
Discussion very welcome on this one!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1161-1163). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
5 Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. 6 It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 7 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 (MSG)
592 Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can? (1)
For the last few days, I am seeing more and more of my friends pictures with filters over them.
Some filters are rainbow colored. Some are black and white. A lot I’ve seen are a translucent copy of the papal flag, Even seen a few confederate flags the week before the supreme court decision.
And I guess I don’t understand it. Either personally or pastorally.
First, personally. When I am relating to friends and people, is what your filter speaks of the most important thing about you? Is it what symbolizes you so much, that it must block who you are? Is that what you want to divide you from me, what must stand between us getting to know each other, getting to care for each other? Is that filter the primary lens through which you want to be viewed?
Or can I get to know all of you – not just the one aspect that filters the rest of you from me?
Secondly, as a pastor, I am concerned about the same issue. About people seeing you through just one lens, about it hiding who you are from others. Like I said, I have friends with just about every filter there is. And I have people I struggle with, who also “wear” those filters. They range all over the map, different personality types, different careers, talents, hobbies, Some are nice, some annoying. Yet the effect is dividing FB and other social media into groups, hiding the diversity, hiding who people really are. What is worse is that these groups divide people, not reconcile them. It isolates us from each other, or it causes us to put on masks, so we aren’t seen opposing others. I know not many are putting on these filters to divide themselves from others, but isn’t that the effect at the end of the day?
As a pastor, as I was thinking about these filters this morning, Paul’s image of us being a bunch of ordinary pots, unadorned, unpainted. It is what inside us then that makes the difference. Just like in St. Josemaria’s garbage can. You can have a pot filler with glorious flowers, or one filled with fertilizer. You can have a pot that is cracked that is filled with gold, and you can have a beautifully painted chamber pot. (those were the pots that were used prior to the invention of indoor plumbing) We can be garbage cans, filled with trash, or cleaned and repurposed for something.
it is scripture that tells us what it takes to take something common, ordinary (the original definition of profane btw) and make it something beautiful, something incredible. It’s not the filter that makes us special, it isn’t our pride, or that in which we take pride that makes us more valuable. In fact, it in our humility, where we reach out to other for help, when we realize we need to sit down and talk rather than force our views down the throats of those who have different filters, or are unfiltered folk.
Yes, that includes bluntly discussing some things, like morality. We need to approach each other, even in disagreement, peacefully, desiring the best for each other. Will we disagree on what is best? Perhaps! But unless we drop the filters, how will we ever know if someone has something we need to hear? How will we be able to offer them something that will help them?
And for my fellow believers, are those filters helping you do what God has called you to do?
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:14-18 (NLT)
“Obviously, he said, it is not always easy to walk the path of faith with other people. “Sometimes it’s tiring. It can happen that a brother or sister creates problems for us or scandalizes us, but the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to human beings, to us, to witnesses,” he said.
“It is through our brothers and sisters with their gifts and their limits,” the pope said, “that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means.” (1)
Back in college, I had a class in dramatic literature. (hey it was a better option than Shakespeare – or so I thought) One of the things we had to do was tell a story in mime, which meant we had to learn to mime. You know the pull the invisible rope, imitate some poor victim walking by the class, and of course the infamous idea of being locked in the invisible box.
I was thinking about that this morning, as I read the passage from Ephesians this morning in my devotional reading. It was probably Paul’s image of a wall, but somehow I pictured being back in the class, and my struggle to be a mime…..you see, I had trouble finding the invisible wall. Is it 2 feet away, 28 inches? Sometimes closer, sometimes farther, I just couldn’t find the perception to discern the wall.
It has been said, from everyone from Tony Campolo thirty years ago, to the latest church growth theorists that the church is the most segregated group in the USA, and Sunday mornign 9-12 is the most segregated time in the week. Not just because of ethnicity, but because of age, music preference, language barriers, culture, and too often – what my denom brotherhood called “non-essentials” and what my Lutheran brethren call “adiaphora. Where we fail to surrender our freedoms, not because someone opposes them, but because we want to protect what we prefer.
But for those of us in Christ, those walls are as much an illusion as the walls that box the mime in; that which restricts us is but our own perceptions, and not reality.
For those walls are based in the sins of idolatry, or hatred, of believing the worst about those that we think are unlike us. For those walls exist because we have been taught to be afraid of, for those that we have to extend pastor our comfort zone.. We’ve been told we don’t have to change our music, our vocabulary, just as the jews were told they didn’t have to change their diet, or which day they worshipped. But we can change those things, in view of Christ ministering to those, we can change them in love, We can be patient with each other, sacrificing, not the Jesus who brings us together, but those things we really can’t divide us, as we dwell in Christ. Walls that needed to be broken down and nailed to the cross in the first place.
Can’t we realize, if we have found our life in Christ, then we can abandon that which we thought defined our life? Can’t we treat those walls, like the mime does, at the end of his show, and simply ignore them? Can’t we simply look to Christ, and in our weakness, be transformed to where we realize we are One? That we are called to live in love, even when that love means we sacrifice for others? As Pope Francis points out – the church isn’t optional, and he isn’t talking about just belonging to a congregation, but the Church – all of it. Where God calls us together with our
Our hope is in Him, in a place where walls do not exist. Where sinners are gathered, granted repentance and love and mercy… and find themselves to be one in Christ.
May we realize this reality sooner than later, as we realize the Lord is with us all.
(1) Pope Francis, public Address, 6/25 http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1402635.htm
Devotional Thought of the Day:
29 “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace. 30 With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: 32 A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel.“ Luke 2:29-32 (TEV)
8 But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:8-9 (TEV)
43 Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. 44 All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45 They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46 Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (TEV)
186 People from different countries, different races, and very different backgrounds and professions… When you speak to them about God, you become aware of the human and supernatural value of your vocation as an apostle. It is as if you are reliving, in its total reality, the miracle of the first preaching of Our Lord’s disciples. Phrases spoken in a strange tongue, which open up new ways, have been heard by each one, in the depth of his heart in his own language. And in your mind you can see that scene taking on a new life, in which “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” have come joyfully to God. (1)
This summer, or perhaps in the early fall, our parish, our congregations that meet here, will start looking forward to the future. Most of this is extremely practical, our facility is getting older and will need more maintenance and renovation in the future. We need to think about whether we want to aim toward re-opening a school in the future. We are blessed to have two fields, but they take work. A lot of thinking goes into this, and we have some incredible people in the three congregations that call this place home. The congregation I work with, most of the time, also needs to consider how we will reach out to those in our community, how we will live as the people of God, sent to this place. I look forward to the discussions!
We are blessed in many ways here… one of them is with a somewhat diverse congregation. Most are a bit older – but we have some younger families as well. We have people from five continents, who were born in more than a dozen countries. We have two other congregations that meet here, that add greatly to that diversity. Not bad for a congregation of a little over 100 people,
It hasn’t been, “intentional” It has just happened. It is who God has deposited here, whom He brings here.
Given that I’ve heard our style of worship hampers outreach to certain demographics, or that you have to target your entire ministry to one group or another, I am not sure whether we are just the exception to the rule, or if the rule is not applicable – period. I look at the scripture passages above, and I know. Escriva’s words got me on the track of thought, but the scripture passages confirmed it.
The church was never meant to be mono-ethnic, or mono-cultural. I am not really sure why we believe it must be so, or why we accepted it as the status quo. It is not what was prophesied in scripture. It is a place where everyone should be made welcome, they should know they are part of the family.
But achieving this kind of thing cannot be planned either? We can’t intentionally create a multicultural or multi-ethnic community. What we can do, is simply reach out with Christ’s love to those we encounter, whereever we encounter them. For everyone needs Christ’s love, they need His embrace, they need Him to heal their brokenness. The kind of healing that takes place in community, the kind where we remind each other of Christ’s love, and the complete-ness of it for everyone, of every age, or every ethnicity, of every language.
A outreach that isn’t just a program, but comes as we become aware of those around us.
And the work of Christ in our lives becomes a beacon to those around us,
For we dwell in His peace.
Look around you – see who needs that peace.
What does a church look like? I don’t think it matters at all, but what does matter is we see the need for Christ… in everyone we know, in everyone we meet.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 991-996). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day…
9 After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They called out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (TEV)
You were amazed that I should approve of the lack of uniformity in the apostolate in which you work. And I said to you: Unity and variety. You have to be different from one another, as the saints in Heaven are different, each having his own personal and very special characteristics. But also, you have to be as identical as the saints, who would not be saints if each of them had not identified himself with Christ. (1)
Imagine the great diversity in heaven, people gathered, from everywhere, from everytime, from every language, their hearts crying out with “a” loud voice.
It’s one of the things I love about our combined services each year, as three congregations worship and hear God’s word in two languages – in English and Mandarin. Some things we do separately, with one language following the other, somethings we have found that we can do together, simultaneously, our voices blending into something that is phenomenal – incredible and glorious.
It’s more than our combined voices – it’s more than the physics and the soundwaves and all of that. It is the hearts that cry out as one, that just…. makes sense. It is a foretaste of heaven, not just because of the diversity, but because of the Lord that brings us together. That is our key, to our unity, to our salvation. The Lord who gathers us, who brings us together, who wondrous love for all of His people causes us to sing out… with one voice… His praises.
May we – as we minister in many languages, with many gifts, do so as one Body, for in that Body we find ourselves, each different and yet one…..
For as we cry out tomorrow in our combined service,
Lord, Have Mercy!
Signore, abbi pietà!
Senyor, tingueu pietat!
Herr, erbarme dich!
주님 자비를 베푸소서!
Chúa có lòng thương xót!
Senhor, tem piedade!
Seigneur, aie pitié!
We shall know, together, He has…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2196-2199). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Why I Love the Old Testament (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Do you want a “comfortable” life or ministry? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will we trust what God has revealed? Or must we explain (and know) more than that? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- You must be a Theophilus (Loved/r of God before being a Theologian (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion of the Day:
9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT)
“Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6.” — Augsberg Confession, The
I am in on ongoing discussion, that concerns me greatly. It is about the church and how it ministers in a community that is diverse. both in terms of ethnicity and in terms of generations. As I occasionally do, I challenged the unexplored presuppositions, and commented about whether the church has to focus ministry one way, or the other – why can’t the church just reach out to everyone, and what you end up with is a multi-cultural church, one that very well may resemble the church described in the red letters above.
I was surprised, because of the push-back I got.
It’s only experts who can pull that off, it can’t be done, the big churches have tried, etc, etc. etc. They talk about the nature of a church denomination or the, “it was tried once”, or “the people have to have that call” and a number of other things that I disagree with, simply because there is no scriptural basis. Indeed, the early church was multi-cultural – because their communities were. And the zeal to see people freed from the bondage of sin, the oppression of satan, and the anxiety of death is overwhelming, when we actually realize it ourselves.
The answer isn’t in planning to have a monoethnic church, nor is it to plan to be multi-cultural. Simply put, the plan is to be the church – the CHURCH described in the founding document of the Lutheran Church – the Augsburg Confession. Interesting that we usually think of the CHURCH as in denominations finally getting their act together, finally uniting in mission, in the apostolate given to us by God. But the CHURCH is a body that transcends everything that could describe us, as we are united in Christ. Our people have to realize that – the grace of God is communicated through the church, through its members/the priesthood of all who trust in Christ. It is heard as the scriptures are explained, as we witness people receive God’s grace through the sacraments God ordained.
It’s His church, His people, and the way to be the church is not to plan which group we are to reach out to, but to reach out to the people that are around us, realizing their need to know Christ. To get to know them, to show them the love of God.
George Wiegel, in a book on the changes in the Roman Catholic Church wrote this… which still sticks with me…
What is at stake in the demand for doctrinal clarity (and for the clarity of Catholic identity that follows from doctrinal clarity) is not a matter of winning an intellectual argument, which is how self-absorbed intellectuals often understand it. Rather, doctrinal clarity is a matter of equipping “the saints,” the men and women who have entered into friendship with the Lord Jesus, to become his witnesses in the world and the servants of those who most need to see the face of the Father of Mercies. (from Evangelical Catholic)
For a parish, for a congregation, it is essential that they grasp how incredible this message of God’s love is, that God will remember their sin no more, that He has freed them from guilt and shame… and as they do – as they begin to treasure that their sins will not be remembered anymore, as they begin to explore the breadth and depth, the width and hight of God’s love, revealed in Christ – they will reveal that – as those God sent into their neighborhoods, and their businesses, into the places they shop and eat….
And the church, if in a multi-cultural area, will become multi-cultural… it cannot help but to do so…
Lord may we see the mercy that you have for us, as you reconcile us to you, that we may plead with others to become reconciled as well….
Gung Ho! Serving All Together
1 Cor 12:12-31
† In Jesus Name †
May you know, intimately and deepy, the gifts of God, the mercy and love and peace that works within you as you love those whose lives you have a share in!
The USMC – and Gung Ho!
My father served in our military, in the exclusive branch known as the United States Marine Corps. He was a corpsman, which is basically a doctor’s assistant in the field of battle – but trained to do what he could to save men’s lives until they could be taken to the doctors, many miles behind the field of battle.
Growing up – and hearing the stories, not of battle – but of the spirit and teamwork of the USMC often, I heard two phrases that are the mottos, the slogans of the USMC. Neither is English, but they are phrases they have taken from the places they have served. They express things that take many words in English – and even then are vague. The first is in Latin, Semper Fi – it means always faithful, always dedicated, always willing to sacrifice, that others may be safe, and protected. The other my dad had no knowledge of the origin of. But it turns out to be from China, from the Marines who served hear before World War II. I would imagine it is very badly mispronounced – but it at the heart of this attitude of the Corps.
In Americanese – it is said this way – Gung Ho…
I don’t know if the USMC got the word right, or even the concept. But the concept they attached to this word is critical to them. From the way my father described it – it means to strive together – to work with everything everyone has, to achieve their goal. Each person using their skills where they are at – but also helping each other to do their best as well. It is the idea at the heart of the USMC – and it is the reason they are the most successful of the four parts of our military. It is not about who is strong, or who is weak – it is about the unit, the entire team.
It is a phrase I think – with our “meaning” ascribed to it, that would be most appropriate for a Christian community.
Our Independent Spirit
Not God’s plan! It is impossible/sin
That is a challenge in America today- where everyone is encouraged to do what is best – not for the community but for themselves. Independence is perceived as a virtue – and to lose that dependence and depend on others is seen as a weakness.
It is perhaps our greatest weakness, as those with more abilities are encouraged not to help – but to push on, ignoring those around them with different abilities. God’s call to love your neighbors – the people you interact with regularly, as you love yourself is pretty much ignored – in order that you might be successful – or achieve wealth or popularity or material things.
Perhaps that challenge is here in this society as well? The idea that one should focus on climbing the ladder of success – no matter who you have to step on to achieve that next step?
That is not the way God describes His people, His community functioning. As Paul says, that is like the foot hating that he isn’t a hand, or the ear not happy and leaving the body unless it can do the work of the ear! Surely God has chosen were each of us fit – yet no one is more important than the rest. Some of the most important – are the parts – like the heart and brain, that are never seen- but provide the very life for the rest of the body!
Indeed – such self-centeredness – what sociologists term narcissism, is the basic description of sin. To chose to love myself more than others, to choose to see myself as valuable, more valuable than the others… that is sin.
An example – I have the most visible role in my church – or perhaps I should say the most audible. I am the one up front all the time – it is my job to speak. But there are others, like Wanda and Kay, that keep everything moving in our church – especially Wanda! She is like the heart which beats – sending God’s love in every direction. Then there are the brains, Al and Jim and Bob, Manny and Tom and my other leaders – who help decide how best to meet the needs of all. However, each has their role – but what would happen if one decided to take all of the roles?
Such is sin, pure and simple.
And it is one – it should function as one, it should live as one.
We are the Body of Christ – joined to Him means joined together! Gung Ho – each with His different talents/abilities/charisms – charisms being the term for the special gifts – that define each part of the body.
To be united to him means that every barrier is broken down, that we understand every person is part – and not that parts aren’t important, but that they are at their most important, as they interact within the community.
When Christ reconciles us to God our Father, it is not just an individual thing, He reconciles humanity to Himself, all born of water and spirit. In reconciling us to Himself – we find ourselves reconciled to each other. We truly become one body – united in Christ. United in His love, which Paul will discuss in the next chapter- united in His, perfection.
That is the power of the cross – the place Paul described this way:
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14 (TEV)
Think this through – if God nailed sin – all of the debts owed because of it it, to the cross. If there Christ wiped the slate clean, and cancelled our debts…. Then what is left to divide us from each other?
That person that irritated you, even if it was intentional (as you are certain it was) – that sin is gone – the damage it did healed. That thing you did, that has been haunting you for years, that too is forgiven. All of those debts, all of those problems, all of that junk – was nailed to the cross with Christ….
Done away with….
You are free…you are a new creation, a part of the body of Jesus Christ.
As are those around you who have been freed, brought into His new life, cleansed, and loved….
We are free….together!
That is how the body of Christ, His people, can be one – with nothing dividing us. Each part moving on its own, yet in sympathy – like a great symphony – each person playing their part. No one focusing on which part is best – because all parts are necessary. We are the body, We are His body.
We can learn to love, to even love sacrificially, because we are part of the whole, and for one to love another… that is the blessing of our life in Christ.
It is no wonder that God calls us His masterpiece, His worksmanship, as He makes us all into one body, one life.
Living together, living in His mercy and love – knowing that we are forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness… that is the “secret” the mystery of all ages, which we get to reveal to others….
For knowing we are one with Christ, part of each other, His holy people, His body, realizing that means we live in a peace that goes beyond all understanding, as Christ protects and guards His body… in peace.