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Do We Still Beg Jesus To Go Away? Why?

Featured imageDevotional/ Discussion  thought of the day

28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes,* two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area. 29 They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us befoe God’s appointed time?” 30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” 32 “All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
33 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.  New Living Translation (Mt 8:28–34).

But when theological discussion ceases to be a striving for truth and becomes, instead, a struggle for power in the Church, then the nature of theology has been radically falsified; it introduces party politics into the Church and becomes the medium of party power; it divides the Church. Wherever theology generates theological parties and these parties become Church parties, it has become a false wisdom. It creates enmities and embitters people. I must admit that what shocks me most deeply in many letters and publications is the rank hatred of the Church and her members that speaks through them. The role of true wisdom and hence of the authentic teacher of theology in the Church is to create peace, not strife, to create goodness and inner openness, not embitterment.

As I’ve read verse 33 above, I have always wondered what was in the people’s minds.  They saw Jesus deal with the person in their village who was most in need, and he completely rescued and healed the man. Because of his actions, the villagers were safe.

And they drove Jesus away… they pleaded with Him to leave them, to leave them alone!

I wonder if the church today is more sophisticated than that, but to the same effect.  Within our theological discussions, the last thing we look for is the presence of Christ, or His desire, reconciliation, health and wholeness.  You can see it in the refusal to meet at the altar and start theological dialogues there, in His presence, together as His body.  You see it in the nature of forming political parties in a church, or in a denomination. (we won’t call it that, but we have planks and litmus tests, and budgets and political machines )

We relegate the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Redeemer, Reconciler to the back room, to some closet or chapel, while tempers flare, and sides square off, and everyone battles for power. We would rather talk about purity of doctrine and purging ourselves from anything false (like we could!) or faithfulness to our mission. (as if we are ready to go out on our own, with a bunch of web articles and expert consultants)

In the meantime, we are so busy arguing what often boils down to semantics, that we forget the Lord can deliver us from all that crap. We forget that this is work based in His will, in His desire.  We forget that we are led by the Holy Spirit, not some negotiated consensus.

That is how these reconciliation happens.  True reconciliation that isn’t based in compromise, but in Jesus,

May we stop running from the one who will rid us of our demons, bring healing to our souls, bind us together as one body as we celebrate being in His presence,

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 242). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Given for YOU (plural!)

Featured imageDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

2  How I want to be there! I long to be in the LORD’S Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God. 3  Even the sparrows have built a nest, and the swallows have their own home; they keep their young near your altars, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4  How happy are those who live in your Temple, always singing praise to you. Psalm 84:2-4 (TEV)

22. Whenever the Sacrament of Baptism is duly administered as Our Lord instituted it, and is received with the right dispositions, a person is truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the Apostle says: “You were buried together with Him in Baptism, and in Him also rose again-through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”.40
Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion. (1)

“…for, thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd,” etc.”

I am sitting in my office, the first day “back” from a short vacation with my mother.

I am filled with anticipation for tomorrow, even as I thumb through my mail and lose some of that joy.  For some would try and use their “authority” to convince me what i know about my congregation isn’t true with the church at large. That somehow there is a “us and them” in the Church.

You see, there is something special, something sacred, as the people of God are gathered to the altar, and as baptized believers, share in the body and blood of Christ. As I communed at another congregation on the other side of the United States last week, my heart looked forward to being “home”.

That is how I look at the divisions that exist in the Church. There are some that won’t be healed until we are all home, before the Father. He will settle the squabbles that exist between various siblings in the church.  But being “home” means celebrating the feast with all who are believe and are baptised.  For from God’s perspective, we cannot deny our brothers and our sisters, united in Christ at baptism, are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Some discuss this in arrogance and pride, rather than sorrow and regret  They put in roadblocks to the unity that is the Church in Christ by focusing ont he division, not the hope.  They weep, not over the brokenness of the church, but over those who would look to that brokenness being healed in Christ.   ( By the way, I am not talking of just one incident, or from just my own denomination)
I love the way Vatican II puts it in the quote above – we are linked together, all who are reborn in Christ.  It’s a beginning, a start to seeing us all linked at the altar, the foretaste of the feast to come.  Our baptism gives the vision of what should be, what will be in Heaven, and yes, something that should be worked towards here.  Not dismissed with a – well that is them, and this is us mentality.

I also love the way the Lutheran confessions, in a section that deals with those (the Roman Catholic hierarchy at that time – but equally applicable to divisive types of today) describe the church as a child would,the believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.”

I read those words and hear the voice of Jesus, “take and eat, this is my Body, given for you”  and “take, drink of this all of you, it is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin

There is our goal, to hear the voice of the Shepherd, to grow in unity until we realize that we are one in Christ.  Just as He and the Father are One. What begins in baptism is our goal, our desire, just as it is His. Complete unity, because He has lovingly healed the brokenness, giving us new life.

It is that unity in Christ, the miraculous unity of baptism in Christ, that gives me joy.  I look forward to sharing in that unity tomorrow, as people gather here, as they hear of the peace promised and given by the Lamb of God, as they commune together with God.  As we deal with division, as we deal with brokenness and separation, may we never forget that His feast is what we were re-born to share.

His love, His unity, trusting in Him and His work.

Lord, Have mercy on us all.

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 614). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Black Saturday: Where His ENTIRE church finds Unity… His Grave

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. John 17:20-21 (TEV)

4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 (TEV)

2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? 3  For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. 4  By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. Romans 6:2-4 (TEV)

I spent much of last night in turmoil, not fully asleep, but hounded by grief.

Grief caused by the brokenness of the church.  A Church that is not just divided, but shattered, and continually reacts to the brokenness with fear instead of faith, loathing each other, rather than loving each other, harassing each other, rather than praying for healing.   I see other Christians, including pastors and priests, leading people away from trusting in God, to rail at politicians instead of respecting them and praying for them.  I see the self-righteousness that brings all this division, the condescension of Christians claiming to be holier than the world, and groups of Christians holier than another. (and catch myself at it too… none are immune to this sin)

I wonder what happened to the church described in the Creeds Where is the church that is one, that is holy (set apart to God), catholic (united in our trust of God) and apostolic (sent, even as Christ was sent)

I grieve over what I saw yesterday, and today.  I wonder what those who are being martyred in other parts of the world would think, if they see what divides us.  I long to see the church be one, and yet, am so driven away by pathos, the outpouring of negative emotion, that I desire to no longer be a part of it.

It is black saturday.  The day without the Lord, the day He found rest in the tomb.

The day we should find our unity.

Not because we are without Him, by no mean, we weren’t on the day after he was betrayed, beaten, mocked, abandoned, crucified.

We aren’t without Him on Black Satruday, when He lies entombed, crushed by sin.

We are there with Him, drawn into Him during His crucifixion, drawn into Him by the love poured out like a flood, united to His death in our Baptism – as Paul says.

Drawn into Him, called, gathered, united to Him in His death.

That is where we find unity, that is where we become one church, where we find the one faith, where God is our God, working through all who have been granted repentance, who have come to trust in Him, who know His mercy and love.   You can’t be divided from Him, and as we die to ourselves as we are united with Him, our pride, our anger, our angst, our hurt dies as well.

If we are to be a resurrected people, a transformed people, a converted people, a delivered people, we each have to realise we are there with and that others are as well.

Unity as a church, no THE CHURCH, starts in the tomb.

Does that mean we will all get along, that sin won’t creep into the church, that we will all agree on every article of our faith?  No, we won’t.  That’s not what is promised, yet. But the healing that will be found will overwhelm that sin, the sin already paid for, and allow our hearts to embrace those whom Christ has embraced.

There is hope, even when we are in the grave, a hope we will realize tomorrow, as we exclaim, He is risen!

We are united in that as well, for if we die with Him, if we are united to Him in His death, we will be united to Him as we are raised to a new life with Him.

I am depressed today, mourning for a broken church.  Yet, in the grace with Christ, I know there is Hope for tomorrow.  I know there is hope for His Church.

For we will be one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.  His death, burial and resurrection guarantee it.

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