Devotional Thought for the Day
5 Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)
This passage reminds us that during the offering the Eucharistic liturgy all of us are to taste, to experience fully—not something less—of this paschal mystery. Indeed, this renewal of the Lord’s covenant in Mass draws the faithful into a compelling love “and sets them afire”. This burning love reminds us of Psalm 34:8 where we read of tasting and drinking deeply of the goodness of the Lord. When a person reaches this depth he is close to the pinnacle of holiness.
True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
The “pinnacle of Holiness!’ I love the images that come to mind from such an idea. A tangible sense of the sacred, of standing on holy ground, of being so aware of the presence of God that you collapse on your knees and cry out of the purest joy.
How I wish everyone could simply ascend to that pinnacle. To know that you are that blessed. To be able to resonate with Mary as she is told she will be the mother of God incarnate, to know that undeniable experience that we are God’s, that He has brought us into His presence.
Such is what Dubray is describing, the at the moment experience of communing with God, of encountering Jesus in the sacrament. But he also indicates it is a moment of renewal, or restoring the promises of the covenant. The quote from the Lutheran Confessions, (Specifically the Formula of Concord) gives us the context, and why that renewal is necessary.
The Lord’s supper isn’t the kind of feast that is given to the victorious. It is the feast given to the broken, to the homeless, to those who are hungry for something that they cannot satisfy. That is when it makes the difference, that is when this meal brings the most joy. It takes self examination to realize we are at that point, where without God breaking into our world, we are doomed.
And there He is, renewing us. Healing us, comforting us, empowering us.
There, in an under the bread and the wine..
A foretaste of the feast….
and yes, a holy moment beyond compare, until we stand before the throne.
Lord, as we approach Your Altar, to share in Your feast, help us to understand that we so need it, help to experience our unity in You, that was delivered in our baptism, and is renewed as we share in Your Body and Blood. AMEN!
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 44.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 582.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Matthew 5:6 The Message
Twelfth, you see, that is what happens when one tries to make people pious and lead them to the right by means of commandments and laws. It only makes them worse. Thanks to such tactics, they do unwillingly and drearily whatever they do. This becomes a hindrance to God’s grace and sacrament. God neither wants to nor will he grant this grace to those who were forced, pressed, and driven to the sacrament by commandment and law, but only to hearts that long and pine and thirst for it, to hearts that come voluntarily……
(a little further Luther writes) Therefore, these words of his must be understood to refer to the labor and the burden of the conscience, which is nothing else than a bad conscience oppressed by sins committed, by daily transgressions, and by a leaning toward sin. The Lord does not drive all such people from him, as do those who teach that we must come to the sacrament with purity and worthiness. Nor does he issue a command or compel anyone to go to the sacrament, but rather he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help. The sublime sacrament must be regarded by us not as a poison, but as a medicine for the soul.10 Christ himself declares in Matthew 9 [:12], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament.
1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity
In some denominations, including mine, there is a concern about who should commune, and who should not. Arguments abound in regards to what it means to have a close communion policy, Argmenets and division have blossomed over this idea, of who we can allow to commune.
There is something important in this, there is a Biblical basis for denying someone the Lord’s Supper, and it is found in several places – notable 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks of the consequences of approaching the Lord’s Supper without examining yourself first.
But that examination isn’t about whether we are good enough, or getting at least a B- on doctrine test, or having our membership in the right facility. (Remember – we confess that there is only one, holy catholic and apostolic church!) Yet we always seem to make it about such self-centered things.
One of my weight loss groups talks about the idea of eating when you are at the appropriate hunger level. Not to eat just because of stress, or pattern, (aka tradition) or because it seems like time too. Eat too soon, gain weight. Eat too late, and find that you overeat – and gain weight.
I think it is the same with God – we need to learn to hunger for Him and feed on Him regularly. For some, that does mean daily reception, for others weekly. But it is based on need – not on qualification. It is for those whose souls are tormented by sin and brokenness, who realize their need for Jesus because there is no other hope.
That is why I do not understand why there are people that say there is no emergency need for the Lord’s Supper. As long as there are sinners who need to know God’s grace, who are oppressed and haunted by their pasts, there is a need for this blessing for which Jesus gave thanks, even as He offered it. Luther makes this case clear. It is worth repeating the words, “he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help.” Yearn does not indicate they would like to have it, it means they desire it, they hunger for God, they hunger for the work He does, as He draws us into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
This is where we find hope, there is where we meet God in a very unique and powerful way, and it is where we know we are welcome.
Look at the Catholic Catechism – and see the beauty we need in this! The incredible unity that is found in the Lord’s Supper, as united in Christ, we find ourselves in the presence of God the Father! (see Colossian 3:1-3)
Caught in sin? Struggling with the burden of guilt and shame? Need to know God’s love and forgiveness?
Come… and find peace at the altar of grace.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 176–177.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 342–343.
Encounter God and Commune
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the feasts to come, and that you will dwell in peace until those days are here.
74 out of 2.4 Million
It struck me, as I was starting to write this sermon tonight, that while 74 of the leaders of Israel communed with God that night, it was 74 out of 2.4 million people camped there at Mount Sinai.
Those their share in the covenant meal, on behalf of those who were below.
I have to wonder if those gathered in the presence of God, eating and drinking, were aware of those who were not there with them? Did it affect their mood?
What about for the apostles in the upper that night, some 1990 years ago. Did some think of who they wished were there?
This is getting me to think of all those I wish could be here, when things are normal, and who are not.
Some of those people are far away, in places like New Hampshire, or Sicily, or Michigan.
Others are in heaven, friends, and family who rest in God’s peace.
Some have moved on to other places, other churches.
Some, sadly to say, are struggling with sin, and are losing. Or they don’t know God loves them, and are not ready to listen to that news… quite yet.
There are a lot of people that I wish could be here… and yet, there is just a handful.
Let’s look back to the feast in Exodus, for there, we will find peace, and hope – that is a vision for the future.
But look at the feast – and what didn’t happen.
I want to read one verse again, listen to it well,
1`11 And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!
I love this picture!
There they are – in a room blazing with brilliance, the glory of God reflecting off of everything. A light that only God’s holiness could create! Looking at God – gazing at him! They mouths dropped open, then eyes bugged out wide,
Despite the fact they were sinners, they were welcomed into God’s presence, so welcome they were fed a meal guaranteeing the relationship with God – for that is what a covenant meal is – that is what communion is, a meal to celebrate the relationship. It is given as a guarantee of it.
Eating and drinking in the presence of God.
With no fear of His wrath, with no hint of wrath or even disappointment on the part of God.
This is a little picture of a more substantial feast to come.
As is this covenant feast at this altar tonight.
This isn’t the feast we long for, it just helps our desire for that feast.
Just as that feast in Exodus, pointed to this- yet, even more, pointed to the feast when we all arrive before the throne.
Knowing that we can share in the suffering…
While we cannot share in the feast together this evening, there is another way we can commune, something else that we are sharing in….
When Jesus asks the apostles to wait and pray with Him when he faced suffering.
We need to realize He was doing that for those disciples and for you and me.
It is the tears that Romans describes us sharing in together; as one cries, we all dry, and when we laugh, we share in that as well. This is what He invited the apostles to
We surely share in this, and as we do, as we find a bittersweet communion. Bitter because what we are going through is hard, it requires us to forgo one of the usual ways God strengthens and nourishes our faith, and reminds us we are His family, that we are one.
And yet to realize how much we miss it, has an oddly similar effect, as we long to share in the feast that will eventually take place.
Desire the Feast – and yes, the feasts to come.
The feast that is yet to come, the feast of the bread and wine, the feast of being welcome home into not only Jesus’ presence but the presence of the Father.
Not just a small percentage, but the entire people of God, Old Testament and New, Jesus and Gentile, the entire one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, united in Jesus Christ.
This is our hope, our expectation, and nothing can separate us from it, for we cannot be separated from our God. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)
Therefore, when I suffer, I do not suffer alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer with me, for Christ says, “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye” [Zech. 2:8]. Thus others bear my burden, and their strength is my strength. The faith of the church comes to the aid of my fearfulness; the chastity of others endures the temptation of my flesh; the fastings of others are my gain; the prayer of another pleads for me. In brief, such care do the members show one another that the more honorable members cover, serve, and honor the less respected members, as is so beautifully set forth in 1 Corinthians 12 [:22–26]
When I was 8 years old, a family friend who was a priest asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and specifically why.
I’ve been doing that now for over twenty years,
Well, sort of.
I told him I wanted to be a priest, and I am a pastor. Most people would say that is close enough, others might argue differently. But I specifically said, even though I didn’t understand why, that what I wanted to do was commune them, to give them Jesus,
And this evening, on the night of the feast where we would normally celebrate the first Lord’s Supper, it cannot be done for most of “my” people.
I know that some of them will cry because they cannot be here. I know it will wipe me out. I know other pastors who are struggling with this, too, as some simply will go without, and others will try to be innovative. I cannot and will not blame or crucify any of them. Simply put, a pastor is put into the life of people to reveal to them Jesus in their life by explaining the word of God and providing for them the sacraments they need.
Yes, I said, need!
People who are dealing with brokenness, sin, health issues, doubts, anxieties, and fears all need to know God is with them, loves them, will sustain them.
And just as our people need them, pastors have ot find a way to care for their people.
Even in these unmet needs, we find another kind of communion, a sharing in the suffering. For when one hurts, we all hurt. When one weeps, all do. And there will be a day when we all laugh, and dance and sing, and shout amen.
Until that time, when joy runs amuck, we share, we have a communion based in suffering, but a communion where Jesus still gives us Himself, His body broken and His blood shed, for us. This is the hardest communion, it is the sharing in the dark night of the soul, Yet, it is a journey we never take alone. Jesus is with us, even as He endured his dark night alone, He assures us we will never be alone in these times.
As we share in it, may we know the promise of life, the promise of everything being made new…
And may e know He is with us…
( P.S., please pray for all pastors and priests – this weekend may be one the hardest in our ministries, as we try to do…what we really cannot.)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 161–162.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
In the sacrament Christ is received. However, this would not happen if Christ were not, at the same time, prepared and distributed through the Word. For the Word brings Christ to the people and acquaints their hearts with him. The sacrament in itself does not transmit this knowledge.
And even if there is some preaching, the mass may be of Christ but the sermon on Theodoric of Bern or some other story. God punishes us in this way because we do not pray for our daily bread. The venerable sacrament finally becomes not only a vain and empty custom but also an object of contempt. After all, what does it profit us if Christ is present and has prepared bread for us, if this bread is not given to us and we do not delight in it? That is just as if a delicious meal were prepared and no one was there to pass the bread, bring the food, or pour the drink, and all were expected to have their hunger appeased by the odor or the sight of the meal.
You might think that this post is going to laud the preaching of the word over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I mean, after all, Luther’s words could be interpreted that way. Luther makes it sound like the sacrament is completely dependent on the word, that without it, it, it is vain and worthless. It would be of no profit to our bodies and even less to our souls.
Theologically, that may sound right, but I do not agree with that interpretation.
I think it is that we can’t separate what God put together, the gift of hearing the word and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. We need both, and we need them together. They need to understand the experience they have, as they take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
As I said in the title, pastors and priests (Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other sacramental groups) are more than spiritual Pez dispensers. Our role is to reveal to you Christ, to ensure you understand the grace that you are being given in the sacraments, to make sure you understand that grace is Christ’s presence in your life, and how that transforms who you are, it results in a change to your very identity.
That is why we see this Communion Feast so important, and the words that prepare us for it critical. This time, not just about our sins being forgiven, but the time we know we dwell in Christ, and He dwells in us.
We need this, and we need to remember, to understand, to savor this moment. So to preach on something else, to not focus on Christ crucified for us, to make sure you understand this and treasure it, and to give you the time to think and work through it, this is our calling.
For your benefit.
So let both people and their clergy, work together, and rejoice together, as God provides for us. Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 57–58.
24 As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. 1 Tim 4:24-26 GNT
Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Sacred Host, recognize Him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.
Our educational work should have a purpose: to elicit a change in our students, to make them grow in wisdom, to help them undergo a transformation, to provide them with knowledge, with new feelings and, at the same time, achievable ideals. Many institutions promote the formation of wolves more than of brothers and sisters by educating their students to compete and succeed at the expense of others, with only a few weak ethical standards.
For most of my life, I have loved a good argument. I loved getting into it with someone, whether over politics, sports (an easy one NOW, since Boston teams have been great for a couple of decades), philosophy, even, I am embarrassed to say, religion.
I still occasionally still enjoy a good debate, and with a highly intellectual 12 year old in the house, I have a ready made opponent. Yet I would dread to see him observe me arguing about religion. For what I would be teaching him is that our belief is God is not as important as winning an argument.
Our relationship with God, our ability to trust in Him is too precious, to important to argue about. Correction needs to me more loving, more patient, and this is something every single one of us needs to grow in and mentor others, helping them develop an attitude like Jesus.
This is something we need to model, to teach, whether as pastors, elders teachers, parents, our purpose is to help those entrusted to our care to mature in faith. What Pope Francis noted about our educational system is true in our lives as well – we need to stop pushing competitiveness in a way that humiliates and demonizes the competition. It has invaded to many relationships, wrecked to many friendships and divided too many communities, and sad to say, to many churches.
I think the quote from Benedict XVI shows us where the hope of the answer is found. I have long thought the answer to division is not found in an office or conference room, but at the altar. To realize that the Body broken and the blood spilt for me was also broken and spilt for my nemesis, to realize my being drawn to the table to communion is matched by the same Holy Spirit drawing them there, puts ou relationship into a different form. It helps us recognize Jesus in them, or the work the Spirit is doing to draw them to Jesus, a work that is either advanced or hindered by my actions, words and attitudes.
This is one of the myriad of blessings found in the Lord’s Supper, and it is one of the reasons I run to it, or spend time contemplating the gift it is, especially when I am in conflict. To realize what God is doing, bringing us all to completion, bringing us all into the holy relationship with Him that He has created and set us apart for, is amazing. At my church, we still have an altar rail, where everyone kneels together, and receives this blessing together. The choir and praise team especially, but many others have begun to hold hands after they receive, another sigh of unity. This isn’t forced, and it started during a time when one member was struggling. It is a sign of this unity that transcends anything we could argue about.
We can still strive to do our best, we can still try to correct what we see is in error, we can still hold strong opinions, but when we see Christ in the other person, it calms our spirits, it helps us still do our best, but to do so in a way that glorifies God, and encourages them to trust Him.
Lord, help us not only be good examples of Your love and care, help us to encourage that in others, including those we struggle with…AMEN
Benedict XVI, “Homily for the Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 221.
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), 286.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
So the LORD said to me, 5 “I, the LORD, the God of Israel, consider that the people who were taken away to Babylonia are like these good figs, and I will treat them with kindness. 6 I will watch over them and bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not pull them up. 7 I will give them the desire to know that I am the LORD. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:4-7 GNT
40 I want to obey your commands; give me new life, for you are righteous. Psalm 119:40 (TEV)
The parish of St Louis-St Blaise has been experiencing graces of charity which are drawn from Eucharistic adoration: links are forged or tightened, the parishioners are more attentive to each other, more supportive. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament overwhelms the heart of the parish and opens it gradually to the mission that we are trying to put in place.
In the title, it says “the Church”, and by that I do not mean any one congregation, or denomination. I don’t mean just the Lutherans, or the Romans Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Conservative or the Liberal/Progressive groups in the church.
I mean the One Church, the people set apart for God (Holy), Church that includes every time period, every culture, every demographic (catholic) and the Church that is on a mission from God (apostolic) whether she lies it or not.
What the Church needs is to have the desire the psalmist describes, a desire to treasure what God has called into being, what He has commanded. (Not just the do this/don’t do that – but every command God has uttered ) We need to hear the voice of God, and revel in the fact that He comes to us, and creates in us life.
We need the desire to know He is the Lord, to know that He is drawing us toward Him!
Please look at Jeremiah’s passage carefully, and see this. “Then they will be my people and I will be their God because they will return.” The words of God recognize His people, even when they are struggling in bondage, when they are in captivity, either to Babylon, or Egypt or sin! This is the God who hears the psalmists plea to give him (and us!) new life, and does so.
This is why parishes and congregations who dedicate time in the presence of God find themselves more attentive to each others’ needs, more supportive of those in their community that aren’t part of the church, yet! It is why churches that have dedicated times to adore Jesus, and/or spend time in prayer find themselves renewed and revived, responding to the needs of those around them.
it doesn’t come because we force it, it comes as a result of being drawn into intimacy with God. It is not a programmatic response, it is one from the depths of our souls, as the Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, and united to Him, we serve as He served.
This is our hope, this is who we are.
The people of God, who are being drawn back, who are returning to Him.
Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 208.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. 3 You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. 4 For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders. . Isaiah 9:2-4 (TEV)
3† You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:1-3 GNT
Temptation has its own “style” in the Church: it grows, spreads and justifies itself. It grows inside the person, rising in tone. It grows in the community, spreading the disease. It always has a word at hand to justify its stance.
When [Luther] was asked whether it was enough for a person to confess sin and believe in absolution and not use the sacrament [of the altar], he replied, “No! It is stated in the words of institution, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ [1 Cor 11:25]. Everything that is required of a Christian must be in the sacrament: acknowledgement of sin (which we call contrition), faith, giving of thanks, confession. These things must not be separated from one another.”
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being, so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me, that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me. But only Jesus! Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus will be all from you, none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me. Let me thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around me. Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force,the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you. Amen. (the radiating prayer of St Theresa of Calcutta )
One of the problems with theology is semantics, for there are not enough terms to enable everything to be put in nice orderly thoughts. For that matter there are too many thoughts to keep them straight, even for the brightest and largest minds.
If I talk to a Lutheran about two Kingdoms, they often think of a divide between the secular and the sacred, and though God operates and reigns in each Kingdom, the theory is that there are different rules, different concerns, and for some, a different sense of ethics and morality.
Others would think of two kingdoms as the Kingdom of Darkness where sin reigns (or perhaps Satan) and God’s Kingdom, where righteousness and holiness are predominant.
A slight difference, for in Lutheran thought, God still reigns in the secular, in other systems, it represents a warzone, good against evil, Satan against God. Lutherans miss this often, and often the awareness of how different a life lived in sin is different, or should be different, than one lived in grace.
As a pastor, I see people struggling with this all the time, this idea of living a life affected by grace, a life of holiness, a life separated to God. The life Paul describes to the church in Colossae, where he urges them to set their minds and fix their hearts on things that are above, for the reality they truly dwell in is found there, in the presence of God. It is that transition that Isaiah prophetically described, as people were awakened from the darkness, and would learn to live in the light, with the work of the Child who would be given.
Even so, we have to live in this world between the two kingdoms, this world of shadows. This place where we can be dragged back into the darkness by temptation. A temptation that can affect those in the church, just as powerfully, just as dramatically, as it does the world which it dominates over. This is the great challenge, to live in this Kingdom, but not be of it. To minister to those broken by it, and yet not let it dominate us.
Luther sees the answer in the sacrament of the Eucharist, (which is why we should commune often!) because of all it includes. To spend that time with our heart set and minds fixed upon Christ Jesus. To feel the relief of being forgiven, to celebrate the blessing of being freed from darkness,
It is from that point that an amazing thing happens, the prayer of St Theresa becomes visibly answered. Not by our own will, not even by our effort, but simply from having God work in our lives, not being as aware of it as His presence. Not understanding it, but simply reveling in this world of glory that we dwell in, with Him.
That glory of God radiates from Him through us, even as it did through Moses. As we spend time, focused heart and mind on God, experiencing the love, our life changes… and ministry happens without our knowing. In this place the secular and the sacred overlap.
It is a glorious thing…it is holiness, a life set apart to God. It is who we, who have seen God’s glory invade our darkness, were reborn to live in.
So let’s do it, living in both Kingdoms, reflecting the light that others might fight the freedom of being loved by God. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 238). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 183). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT
To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)
The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.
For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.
There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!
But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”
It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.
The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.
It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.
For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.
Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.
This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.
And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….
Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thoughts for the day:
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NLT2)
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.
And if our life means anything, if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and does some good, it is that somehow, by being here, at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand. William Brodrick
The Eucharist will restore to us our original dignity: to that of rational beings: not rationalists but rational ones, perfected by the grace of faith, hope and charity. This is a healing from a deviant emotionalism that is wrought by an authentic theological life, which puts the emotions and feelings in their rightful place. Otherwise, one is faced with two temptations: either lose oneself in emotion, or reject it categorically, which in both cases is a tragedy for the humanity of the person. Only an authentically theological life restores to human affectivity its legitimate and rightful place, including in our devotional lives.
As I sit in my home office, I am looking back on a week that I could never have imagined happening to me as a pastor. I am not talking about never imagining it when I was 8 and felt the “call” to be the pastor. Or when I was 18-22 and studying to be one.
I am talking about never imagining it as far back in time as last Wednesday.
And I have seen a thing or two as a pastor, and helped people pick up the pieces of hundreds if not a thousand or more traumatic experiences.
And so when I cam across the words of Mr. Broderick above, they resonnated incredibly well. there is where I stand, in the midst of the extremes of life (and along with me the staff of my church and school.) It is not the queit place it normally has been, and while the sense of peace is being revealed again, there are the challenges we have endured that have marked us.
But we are that candle, and by being here, in this moment, we help those around us cope with what they cannot understand, what we cannot understand. What was beyond our imagination, and yet became a reality.
So in the midst of that, we learn to focus on what is dependable, what brings about peace, what cannot be seen or perceived completely, yet has been promised to us.
We look to the Eucharist, the Body broken, the Blood poured out to restore us, to renew us, to help us believe and depend on God, even in the times we struggle to believe, because our minds cannot understand. This is what renews us, what calms our fears, that strengthens our dependence on Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And then in the midst of a peace that is beyond our understanding, we find our hearts and souls healing, and we realize the healing that we have been able to help others find.
Lord, bless us as we pray! You promised the Holy Spirit would interpret those prayers, even with groaning deeper than our own. Help us to look to You, to see Your love revealed, to strengthen our faith, our trust in Your love. Lord we need to know You are here, so make it evident that You, Lord, are with us! AMEN!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 121). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ 5/31/2019