Devotional thought and Prayer of the Day;
2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT2)
It almost goes without saying that if we realize God’s love and live it, we will heal the divisions and brokenness within Christendom. Only if we realize God’s love is this possible, for no merely theological reconciliation is enough. The tragedy of denominationalism arose through a lack of love, not only a lack of knowledge or theological orthodoxy. Indeed, we cannot even understand what orthodoxy is without love, for orthodoxy means right belief about God. And God is love.
We split God’s visible Church (no one can split the invisible Church) because we were selfish. We decided to be our own conductors rather than all following the divine baton. That has to be the root cause of denominationalism, for God is peace and unity, so if we all loved and obeyed and followed His leading, we would necessarily sing in harmony. We are not singing in harmony, therefore we must have disobeyed Him, disobeyed love. The diagnosis is inescapable.
And so is the prescription. Though a thousand further details need to be addressed, here is the most important ingredient of all in the prescription for reunion. Here is the root of all true ecumenism. All churches and denominations must approach dialogue with purity and simplicity of heart. They must seek not triumph or power or self-justification or conversions but simply to follow God’s will. If that were done, a miracle would happen. Impossible healings of our divisions would become possible. Reunion without compromise would happen. And the world would once again sit up and say, astonished, “See how they love one another!”
The sacrament, Luther says, is not and should not be for those who come solely because they are commanded to do so, but for those who recognize their personal need and are inwardly driven to receive it. Recognition of his sinfulness and unworthiness should not prevent a man’s reception of the sacrament. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ intended his Supper precisely for sinners who trust and believe in the words of institution
In the midst of the present crisis, stress is taking its toll on leadership.
And we begin to see that stress move divide the church even more. Not at the congregational level, I continually hearing of how congregations are doing amazing things. But at denominational levels and in inter-denominational levels.
It is sad and disheartening, and Shakespeare’s words to the Houses of Capulet and Montagu are oddly prophetic, “a pox on both your houses!”
It is in this time that we need to stop the fighting, the backbiting, the games, and strategic sessions. of how we will deal with “them”.
The Apostle Paul is right, the only answer to this is the answer we all need to hear. It is not the best preaching or the best academic theology that will provide unity, that will create the bond we need to heal the brokenness in the Body of Christ. That has not accomplished it in the last 120 years. Kreef is right when he discusses that we cannot truly be orthodox without the experience of love.
I might be naive, but I think that Kreeft is absolutely correct about seeing miracles occur when we seek God together; when we confess our sins and are forgiven; when we share in the feast the is the purest of love, the sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus.
For that is why the altar is there, why the pastor/priest urges us to remember Jesus, brutally crucified, His Body broken, His blood being poured out. Not for the people who have it all together doctrinally, not for those who are without love claiming some form of Orthodoxy. His Body was broken, His blood poured out, and is there on the altar for those who need healing, who need reconciliation, who need a miracle.
That is where unity and revival find are generated, as we pray together, as we we seek His face together, as we experience His love and mercy. That is where the miracles happen.
As we prepare for Pentecost this year, as we look for the regathering of saints, perhaps it is time to allow God to bring us together, to let His love wash us clean, to invite the Holy Spirit to do the miracles that would truly bring us back together.
Lord, help us to love, as you love us!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 151–152.
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), 169.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 In grassy meadows he lets me lie. By tranquil streams he leads me 3 to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name. 4 Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. 5 You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup brims over. 6 Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life. I make my home in the house of Yahweh for all time to come. Psalm 23:1-6 (NJB)
520 Christian cheerfulness is not something physiological. Its foundation is supernatural, and it goes deeper than illness or difficulties. Cheerfulness does not mean the jingling of bells, or the gaiety of a dance at the local hall. True cheerfulness is something deeper, something within something that keeps us peaceful and brimming over with joy, though at times our face may be stern.
I sit here this morning, having survived ( I think ) another battle with influenza, only to have my soul troubled by what I read, as stories of the Church divided fill my browser. It is depressing more than the flu, which managed to keep me from celebrating the hope I have in Christ Jesus with my friends and family. For to watch people try to destroy what Christ came to save… is devastating. Especially when such rot comes from within, from people who should know we have the ministry of reconciliation.
Yet in my devotions this morning, St. Josemaria reminds me to be cheerful.
Not the cheerfulness that celebrates freedom from illness or difficulty, the kind of cheerfulness that is found at parties and dances.
Something far deeper, something that today I need as I look out on a broken world, on a broken church.
The cheerfulness, the peace that is found in times where brokenness should have dominated. The cheerfulness I have seen wash over a group of people, allowing them to cry and laugh as we remember someone who has passed. Pr when other tragedies occur, leaving us breathless, and for a moment hopeless…..
Then someone starts to read or recite Psalm 23…….
I used the old NJB edition, for that is how I learned it. Yahweh is my Shepherd.
God gave me not only the right to use His name but the assurance with it that He is guiding, that He is providing and caring for me. I hear the song I grew up singing, based on it, Yahweh is my shepherd now, I shall not want, I shall not want…
And on days like this – when the body and soul are wary when the spirit is weak, and hope for the church is dimmed by the Church itself, there are only the promises of God that sustain…. that bring peace, and eventually the ability to smile.
As St Josemaria notes, there is something within something within us at these moments, where we find peace, and hope, and God’s comforting presence, and His promise of eternity.
From here it is possible to write and speak with hope, to point out the presence of God, and to urge everyone to find comfort and peace and yes cheerfulness there.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1971-1976). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days….
After the vision of these things I looked, and there was a great number of people, so many that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They were shouting in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9-10 NCV
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (NLT)
The goal of the early Augustine, “God and the soul—nothing else”, is not realizable; it is also not Christian. In the last analysis, religion consists, not in the solitary way of the mystic, but in the community of proclaiming and hearing. Our conversation with God and our conversation with one another require and condition one another.
Every once in a while someone will tell me they don’t go to church because they don’t need it. They can worship God in a park, at the beach, in the mountains, by a lake. I almost believe them. After all, they will claim, didn’t Jesus often go away from the disciples to pray?
No, I do believe them. Some of the most intense moments, where I have realized the grace of God, have been those solitary moments when I am still, when I must know that He is God, that He is with me. And it is usually dealing with people that drives me to seek such solitude!
And of course, I am not alone in this. Augustine’s thoughts about this, referenced by Pope Benedict, show a similar desire. Just me and God, just God and my soul, nothing else needed! Benedict XVI sounds similar, if less harsh, to the critiques of Luther in regards to monasticism. Our relationship with God and with each other is the same relationship, it is the same package. Both Paul and Peter describe this in scripture as we are one body, many different parts perhaps, but we are one, and Jesus is our head. The creeds talk about one Church, noted because it is holy ( dedicated and separated to God ) Catholic (universal, across all 4 dimensions), apostolic ( it has a mission, it is sent by God) church ( those drawn together in Christ)
This is the way it was the early church, so in awe of the resurrection of Christ and what it means for us, they couldn’t help but meet together often, to talk about it, to show the love they had for each other. It wasn’t programmed, it wasn’t the result of marketing, it was the joy of being in Christ. Were there problems? Sure, but they worked themselves out as people realized they were reconciled to God.
Ultimately, in heaven, in the presence of God, face to face with Him, we are standing shoulder to shoulder, we are singing loudly together. It is not you, walking in the garden alone with God, We are all His! He walks with all of us, He talked with all of us, and He tells us all, we are His own. That is the way it is.
What does this mean for the church today?
That’s a big question. In a world with tens of thousands of different bodies, each claiming to be the church, yet each a broken fractured part of the one Church. But we can’t ignore the rest! Just as an individual can’t separate themselves from the church, neither should a congregation or even a denomination. There still needs to be a desire, a strong sense of this division is wrong and prayer that God would lead us to wholeness, real wholeness. Found in reconciliation in Christ, not in man made compromise. Still- that we would be one, even as Jesus and the Father are One.
May this be part of what we cry out for, when we cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!” AMEN!
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.
2 I want them to be strengthened and joined together with love so that they may be rich in their understanding. This leads to their knowing fully God’s secret, that is, Christ himself. 3 In him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are safely kept. Col. 2:2-3 NCV
- To attribute to God the good one sees in oneself.
- To recognize that the evil in oneself is attributable only to oneself.
- To make peace with an adversary before sundown.
- Never to despair of God’s mercy. (from the rule of St Benedict)
For at first Jerome, when objections were raised against him (e.g. for his statement, “If anyone says that God demands the impossible, let him be anathema”) simply replied in his Dialog. adv. Pel., Bk. 2 [MPL 23.577], “These things are impossible for our nature but possible for grace.” And he understood grace only in the sense of the aid and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Also Augustine in his first argument with the Pelagians said many things like this: “Grace restores the will so that the restored will fulfills the Law.”
The green words above are from the rule of St Benedict. They are critical for us to understand in these days where division is growing, where people are reacting not to what is said, not even to what they think they heard, but how they interpret it.
One friend recently said that he wouldn’t watch football because of the protests of players. He didn’t listen to what they said, he immediately interpreted it through his emotions, and admitted it, bringing into the equation his father, who was buried at Arlington Cemetery.
I wonder if he realized some of those players have relatives buried there as well?
I am not saying the football teams or those who support their actions are any better at listening to people.
In fact, the anger towards each other is simply reactionary. It is done with though, but not thought about the other people involved.
What originally started with one man, concerned with issues far deeper than a meme or slogan, has polarized many in this country, deepening the rifts. Rifts encouraged by some in the media, rifts that are unavoidable according to some.
Rifts that even divide those in the church, those who are united by something more powerful than anything else known, the power that raised Christ from the dead.
A power that we need to see now.
Chemnitz pointed out that what seems impossible for our nature is possible for grace, specifically the aid and renewal tht the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete/Comforter brings into our situation. The Spirit who is responsible for the good we see in ourselves, and overcomes the evil which we must recognize and take responsibility for, only to accept the grace that will redeem it.
It surprised me, as Dr. Webber quoted the Rule of St Benedict, to see #71 – to make peace with an adversary before sundown, But the context is amazing, for in thinking of that task – that discipline, we could easily despair. “I can’t do it”, “it’s impossible” “They will never…” I could easily despair, to which the Rule responds, “Never despair of God’s mercy”
There is our answer, there is our hope for reconciling the unreconcilable, the hope for healing relationships shattered by history, our present, and concern over our future.
It is the hope we see in Paul’s words in red above, the idea that we can be joined together in love, understanding God’s secret – the hope of being in Christ himself.
Heavenly Father, Lord bring peace to our fractured and divided society. Bring the hope and love that comes by Your Holy Spirit. Help those of us who claim to follow you to do so, to hear those who are our adversaries, and to be with them, that we all may be saved. AMEN!
 Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
4 Meisel and del Mastro, The Rule of St. Benedict, 52–54.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
12 There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13 Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14 Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (TEV)
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16 Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)
3 Although the people are supposed to be Christian, are baptized, and receive the holy sacrament, they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten commandments, 3 they live as if they were pigs and irrational beasts, and now that the Gospel has been restored they have mastered the fine art of abusing liberty.
4 How will you bishops answer for it before Christ that you have so shamefully neglected the people and paid no attention at all to the duties of your office? May you escape punishment for this!
5 You withhold the cup in the Lord’s Supper and insist on the observance of human laws, yet you do not take the slightest interest in teaching the people the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or a single part of the Word of God. Woe to you forever!
Next year is the 500th anniversary of the start fo the reformation, or at least one of the events that gave it some traction, the posting of an invitation to a discussion about practical theology.
What the host had thought to be a discourse that would make grace real, that would help people grow in faith; that would help them live in the peace which God had promised them. What he hoped would unify the church, shattered it.
Luther’s words in blue, from the introduction f the small catechism, a book for dad’s to teach their family about God, show the damage to the church then. Damage we see in the church at large now.
For our people are more focused on things of human invention than in the peace that comes from understanding the way of God, a way detailed in the Ten “Commandments” (the way we are described when we live in fellowship with the God who saved us) , the Creed, (the way God revealed Himself to us, that we may trust and depend upon Him) and the Lord’s prayer (the way we communicate and what we desire to know God is doing, that He promised).
Some of our people may know these from repetition, but how many know them. How many rejoice in this, and it drives them to know more? How many know these things so well that they are internalized, and affect their very lives?
We see the damage in the ways that people are blown about by every change of doctrine; we see it in the fact that they cannot teach why they trust in God to a neighbor over coffee. This problem isn’t new – the apostles dealt with it, (obviously) and so did Luther. They saw the imbalance between what was verbalized and what was confessed. What people said out of habit (or listened to) and what they knew.
In this day where the church, whether contemporary or traditional, missional or confession (terms used to distinguish the extremes in my movement) or however else the church can be divided is battered and broken, we need to return to the joy of our first love, to plunge into exploring the dimensions of God’s love, of how He reveals it, of how we live in it. For that changes everything, including how we look at one another. Including how we find ourselves reconciling rather than being divisive forces.
So let us pause, and think about how great this salvation is, how great it is that Jesus delivers us into the presence of the Father, who fills us with the spirit, and makes us His own. And let us rejoice in how he does that, even as it confronts us in our sin, brings us to faith, and to know He is with us.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 338). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 I am tired of living among people who hate peace. 7 I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war! Psalm 120:6-7 (NLT)
304 Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.
I am getting very tired.
Tired of those who yearn to fight, whether trying to tempt others into confrontations or verbal arguments, and especially those over spiritual things. I’m tired of watching those who would try and dominate over others, forcing their opinions, even opinions about inconsequential things, on others.
Tired of seeing people react without thought, assuming the worst, rather than letting things settle down and work out. I can think of international issues, issues in our cities, issues in the Church. People trying to take advantage of those emotions, encouraging division, encouraging the battles that can rob people of any comfort, of any peace.
So do we just walk away, do we fail to minister to those on embroiled in conflict? Do we hole up in a cave, like some in the early church did, creating our own monastic fortress, a place where heaven is on earth, and there is no conflict, no battles, no one trying to take over our world?
Or do we stand and minister to those in the fight? Do we enter the fray, with the intention, not of fighting, but simply giving aid and pointing out to those in turmoil the hope of peace that is always there in Christ?
It is not so much that we find peace; rather we need to know that we have it already. We have it because the Spirit dwells within us, because the Spirit brings that peace into our lives from the beginning. Therefore, our presence in the conflict can bring peace there.We become the point of peace, not only for ourselves, but all of those involved in the conflict – even the aggressors.
For us to have the ability to do so, we must take time to be with Him, in solitude, to pour our heart out, to let Him take our burdens. We need to let Him not only bear the weight fo the sins committed against us, but to deal with our sin as well. That’s what it means to be still, and know that He is God.
For being involved in conflict, even as the peacekeeper wears you down, and it isn’t your strength that will sustain you. Even more so, if you are the one involved in the conflict, if you are the one being engaged,
We need Christ; we need to know Him, depend on Him and trust Him, in every situation, in every moment.
For as we grow in our relationship with Him, even in the middle of a battle, or an argument, or as our frustrations grow, we ill depend on His presence, and that will give us the hope and peace needed to survive. That is the result of spending that time Saint Josemaria talks of, that time in solitude and silence,..with our Lord.
Lord, have mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 789-790). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT) 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)
319 My God, how easy it is to persevere when we know that You are the Good Shepherd, and that we—you and I…—are sheep belonging to your flock! For we know full well that the Good Shepherd gives his whole life for each one of his sheep. (1)
Interesting thought, speaking the truth in love requires that you love the one you are speaking to….Which means it costs you as much as it costs them when they don’t hear you. (a thought I etched on Facebook recently)
The church has been appointed to a task, chosen for a specific role and ministry in this world. All of the vocations that exist, exist to see this work of God, accomplished in and through us.
Paul calls it the ministry of reconciliation, and it requires great sacrifice and great love. It is one, when we do not see it fulfilled, should bring us to tears, even as Paul cried for his fellow Jews who turned their back on God, and refused God’s grace, refused God’s actions reconciling them to himself.
It’s odd, if anyone had the right to claim he was persecuted for righteousness sake, it was Paul. Yet he wept over his persecutors. he wept over the division between them and God. He even offered up his life, that God would reconcile them to Himself.
As Paul found out, there were times of division, both with those who abandoned God, and within the household of God. Peter knew this as well, yet he would write
15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
Again, the focus isn’t just about being right – but how that is communicated, how we go to those we consider lacking in that hope, in the trust in that grace, in that knowledge. Realizing that our goal isn’t to win an argument, or create more division, but to see all reconciled to Christ, and therefore to each other.
Such is the nature of our ministry, of our life in Christ.
That is where our joy is found… in seeing all united in Christ Jesus.
Lord have such mercy on us…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1276-1279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:14-21 (NLT)
236 A firm resolution: to abandon myself in Jesus Christ with all my wretchedness. Whatever he may want, at any moment, Fiat—let it be done! (2)
Four Hundred, ninety-seven years ago, a professor at a University posted the above as the introduction to discuss Ninety-Five thesis about Indulgences.
As far as I have read, his intent wasn’t to start a reformation, yet it is the anniversary of the publishing of this event that history notes as the start of the Protestant Reformation.
To quote one of the characters in a WEB Griffin novel, “i regret that it is was necessary”.
Indeed, I dread the celebration of the events that would follow, as the works of Luther went viral. As that viral nature exploded, as the conversation that he was intent on having didn’t occur. As the church began to splinter apart.
Please understand me, I fully acknowledge that the discussion was necessary, the truths that Luther re-discovered, especially that we cannot merit salvation on our own, that God comes to us in our wretchedness, Yet this was not Luther’s truth alone, and it needed to be understood, both head and heart.
What causes the regret is the division in the Body of Christ. The idea that one group can be kicked out, while another group can walk away. An idea that know has morphed into the idea that I can belong to a church, or denomination, and simply ignore that which it teaches that I don’t agree with completely.
Teachings on the sacraments? Who cares! Teaching about what is sin, and what isn’t? Don’t need to bother with that! Teaching about the gifts of the Spirit and the role of the church? Why bother, it doesn’t really affect me today, does it? Teaching about how to care for sinners, based on the love of Christ seen in His treating us who are sinners? Not necessary, just condemn them as an abomination. This is what the church has resulted in, because we choose to divide, rather than to reconcile.
Some treat the Protestant Reformation as if it was a spiritual “Independence Day”. As if it were a celebration a small portion of the church is now completely independent of the body of Christ. But the Body of Christ cannot be divided, the Invisible church is always that of one Lord, whom we trust in, One faith in Him, one Baptism where we are united with Christ. Given the ministry of reconciliation, not of further division, and definitely not of celebrating the division.
Celebrate what Luther discovered in regards to the gospel of Christ – AMEN! An awesome thing to celebrate. But not the division that occured then, in fact, maybe it is time to have those discussions, to pursue the truth that is found in Christ Jesus, to work to see the Church reconciled in Him, to abandon our wretchedness and find the glory of being united in Him.
Lord have mercy on us sinners….
(1) Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1004-1005). 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
A plea for the end of kind of idolatry – “congregational-ism/denominational-ism/nondenominational-ism”
Devotional thought of the Day:
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
427 What a sorry state someone is in when he has marvellous human virtues but a total lack of supernatural outlook, because he will apply those virtues quite easily to his own selfish ends. Meditate on this.(1)
Yesterday, I found myself wanting to respond to a post of a friend of mine. I actually had already my counter to her point, with a carefully laid out response and reasoning to why she was wrong and I was right. Just before I hit the button, I realized that my post was wrong, not because it countered hers, but that it countered what I well know. She claimed that her church was the best, and I wanted to counter that it was fifth in line, right behind the 4 I’ve pastored.
There is only “one church”. or if you please “One Church”.
It’s the one we confess in the creeds, the one church through which the Holy Spirit calls and gathers people, where the waters of baptism cleanses them from sin, where the Holy Spirit works through word and the sacraments.
One church. Not just Concordia Lutheran, or Shepherd of the Valley, or First Christian, or Saddleback or even the Roman Catholic Church, but one church, Made up of sin-shattered, broken people who find restoration as they are united to Christ. We must recognize the brokennes, we need to talk through the issues, we need to mourn the division. We can’t just hide them, or say to each other, “we just have to agree to disagree” Otherwise the unity isn’t real…
There is still only one church, united in the death of Christ, brought together by the Holy Spirit in peace that only comes from knowing we exist in the presence of God. In the loving presence of God. That is where unity begins, at the cross, in the death of Christ Jesus.
I put the quote from St Josemaria in this post for a reason, the reason that if unity is to occur in the church, it has to be supernatural, it has to be because we trust in Christ to create it, and we realize He has. We just do not see it, perhaps because we focus so much on what divides us, and we get defensive if we think we are going to be proven wrong. Perhaps I should say I get defensive…. or I get offensive when I know I am right – and think that everyone else’s journey must be the same sort of twisted journey that I’ve had. Again the temptation is to make me the norm, (or for you to make you the norm) rather than making it Christ.
You see, when we forget that there is one church, we begin to make idols of our congregations, of our denominations, or even of our “non-denominatiolism”. We can acknowledge our errors, and the struggles, and the division, but we cannot triumph over others, or treat them as if somehow God doesn’t love them as much, or that they are inferior. ( My own denominaiton does this, when they say, “we may not be perfect, but we ar the best thing going” When we do this, we begin to think territorally, we begin to think what is best for our little part of the church, rather than what is best for all the churches around us. We horde talent, rather than seeking where God would use each of us. Let me give and example – Our church has a number of skilled keyboardists, and they all love playing with my music director. We had sent out one of our deacons, who is now a seminary student while serving as a student pastor. He needed a keyboard player… we had several… so it worked out that one of ours helped out. But what if churches with great sunday school staffs, or great youth programs or great senior programs actually invested their people in other churches? What would happen then?
What would happen if we treated the church as a whole, even if just within our own denominations to start? If we shared and worked together, and struggled with those who aren’t like us?
What if we heard Jesus’ prayer that we may be one, even as the Trinity is one? What if we heard Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus, and the church in Rome and the church in Corinth?
Can we stop the idolatry? Can we celebrate together in Christ?
Can we pray and strive together… working through that which divides us, realizing that what unites us is more important?
BTW – for people in my own beloved LCMS – this isn’t something new or odd. read the words below…
Though God desires that all congregations be orthodox, and though all heterodox communions exist only by God’s sufferance and contrary to God’s gracious will, still it is a fact that also in the heterodox communions there are believing children of God. The term “Christians” covers a wider field than the term “orthodox Christians.” Though Christ denies to the Samaritan Church the right of existence as a separate church organization (John 4:22), still He repeatedly acknowledged individual Samaritans as true children of God (Luke 17:16 ff; 10:33). Luther, too, never thought of making the orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, coextensive with the Una Sancta. Vigorously as he fights against the Papacy and expressly declares it an institution of Satan, he nevertheless does not doubt that God has at all times under the Papacy preserved for Himself a Church, yes, the elite of the Christians.31 Again, earnestly as Luther fights against Carlstadt, Zwingli, and their collaborators for their deviation from God’s Word, he nevertheless grants that there were also true children of God who, ignorant of the evil they were thus supporting, made common cause with these pseudo reformers (St. L. IX:44). Likewise our older Lutheran dogmaticians, “zealots for orthodoxy” though they were, nevertheless decidedly rejected identification of the Una Sancta Ecclesia with the orthodox Lutheran Church.32 The Fathers of the Missouri Synod declare it a calumny when the Lutheran Church is accused of identifying the Church of God with the Lutheran Church.33 They taught: If a person sincerely clings to the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith, if he believes that God is gracious to him because of Christ’s satisfactio vicaria, he is a member of the Christian Church, no matter in which ecclesiastical camp he may be. By denying this truth one would overthrow the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith, the article of justification. Walther: According to Rom. 3:28 and Acts 4:12 “the unconditional and sole requirement for salvation is fellowship with Christ through faith. The maxim, ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation,’ ‘He who has not the Church on earth for his mother has not God in heaven for his Father,’ is true only in this sense, that outside the invisible Church there is no salvation and no state of grace. It has only this meaning that ‘there is no salvation outside Christ’; for whoever is not in inward fellowship with the believers and saints is not in fellowship with Christ either. On the other hand, whoever is in fellowship with Christ is in fellowship also with all those in whom Christ dwells, that is, with the invisible Church. Accordingly, he who restricts salvation to fellowship with any visible Church therewith overthrows the article of the justification of a poor sinner in the sight of God by faith alone in Jesus Christ.” (Walther and the Church, p. 70.) Pieper, F. (1953). Christian Dogmatics (electronic ed., Vol. 3, pp. 423–425). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
(1) Escriva,Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1908-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Reformation Day, A Day I Pray Would Become… Obsolete. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Holy Spirit gives gifts… but not to individuals… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Holy Spirit in the Church (thepassionists.org)
- Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Needing a Sanctuary… because we know He is there… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- To prepare servant leaders… (justifiedandsinner.com)