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Missional/Evangelism Training is far more than Apologetics…

Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to the cross…

This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  1 Corinthians 11:26 GNT

I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2 GNT

With the Lord’s Supper God has bound up his own honor, for in Christ alone he desires to be acknowledged and worshiped as our God. So far as the Holy Supper is a confession before men, the communicant proclaims Christ and teaches faith in him. He helps to spread and preserve the kingdom of Christ, strengthens the influence of gospel and sacrament, aids in the conversion of sinners and in storming the devil’s kingdom.

Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be “given.” And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.

More seriously, the question is not only whether the discipline is doing good but whether it might actually be doing some harm. Could it be that systematic theology as usually practiced actually frustrates the proclamation of the gospel?

I have been in many missional seminars, and read many books about making the church more evangelistic. Read a ton of books about apologetics, and church growth, and personal, lifestyle evangelism; while beneficial to my faith, they haven’t really been as effective as I would have hoped in helping me share Jesus with others.

No where near as effective as experiencing Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians notes the missional value (the benefit to sharing our faith) found in the Lord’s Supper. When we are partaking, when we are in communion with God, we are naturally proclaiming His death. Specifically, that His death was “for us”.

I always thought we were preaching to the choir, to the other men and women that are with us there at the altar. But Luther noted that proclamation is more than that. When we realize this is God is in this moment, giving Himself under the bread and wine, the moment can and should become life transforming. We come to the altar tired, broken, plagued by the things of the world, tormented by guilt and we leave, our spirits lifted, our hearts set free, and our outlook on life changed.

This is the gospel that systematic theology should drive pastors and professors to talk about in Bible studies, sermons, books. This is the outside factor that Merton talked about, the revelation giving definition to our lives. it is what Abraham learned from God, that he was blessed, and part of that blessing, a major part is that God’s work through him to bless us, and all who depended on God throughout history.

The blessings come, as Abraham learned, because God is present with us. He is not just the topic of conversation as we ponder the mysteries of our faith. He is present, joining in the conversation, present in the bread and the wine, present as we realize we share in His death and resurrection.

And then we leave church, and see people experiencing the brokenness, and realizing how He is healing ours, and we share with them that His death was for them as well.

Missional thought, being evangelistic comes from hearts and souls touched by God and responding to it.

Consider what God is giving you in the Lord’s supper… and then.. in awe, ask Him to show you others that need it.

Godspeed!

 

 

 

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 392–393.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 6–7.

Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), viii.

The Cure for the Confusion You Experience

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matt 11:28-30 NLT

Man’s moral fall has clouded his vision, confused his thinking and rendered him subject to delusion. One evidence of this is his all but incurable proneness to confuse values and put size before quality in his appraisal of things. The Christian faith reverses this order, but even Christians tend to judge things by the old Adamic rule. How big? How much? and How many? are the questions oftenest asked by religious persons when trying to evaluate Christian things.…
The Church is dedicated to things that matter. Quality matters. Let’s not be led astray by the size of things.

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. If you believe, the sacrament gives you everything you need. At present, however, most people come to the sacrament without this understanding of it. They come with a hungry stomach and a full soul; they pray much beforehand and yet do not believe. They receive the sacrament and yet do not really avail themselves of it. They have no other reason for receiving the sacrament than a fearful and unwilling obedience to the church’s precept, thus becoming utterly unfit for it.

Come to the table and see in His eyes
The love that the Father has spoken
And know you are welcome, whatever your crime
For every commandment you’ve broken
For He’s come to love you and not to condemn
And He offers a pardon of peace
If you’ll come to the table, you’ll feel in your heart
The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release  (Come to the Table: Michael Card)

There is too much going on in our days. We deal with one crisis, only to find two more coming. Many of those lead to compromise, to a moral faiure which leaves us even more confused as lines of morality blur into oblivion. And lacking the knowledge of what quality is, the church resorts to systems that have failed for two or three generations–dressing the solution up with new names, and a re-cast vision for the same target.

And the burdened soul finds more burden, the weight of despair grows more desperate.

I’ve been watching these cycles in churches, and in the church for 4 generations in the United States.

We don’t spend time, as Michael Card urges, spending time at the Table of the Lord. We don’t take the time to look in His eyes, to be pardoned, to find the release that comes from the burdens we bear. We may be so confused we don’t even know why we feel mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. If we don’t realize the burden is what it is, then how could we know the solution is to be still, and experience the love of God. ( This is what it means to know He is God) Our hunger is not fulfilled by what we think it should be fulfilled by–the offerings of the world.

We need to help others hear Jesus invite to be with Him, to let Him relieve our burdens, to let him bear the weight of all that is crushing us. To take all that and give us in replacement His Body and Blood as we take and eat, and take and drink. Look into His eyes, and see the love the Father has for you. And as you do, you won’t worry about dropping the burdens, they will simply fall away…

So come to the table this weekend.. come share in God’s passion and His glory…and find everything has changed.

 

 

 

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

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), 177.

The Power of the Lord’s Supper – pure Word and Sacrament

Thoughts which cause me to draw closer to Jesus… and the cross.

23  At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites (trans. “those who wrestle with God and win – see Gen 32))  and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’” Hosea 2:23 (NLT2)

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,* 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.  Jude 20-21 NLT

If you do not want to come to the sacrament until you are perfectly clean and whole, it would be better for you to remain away entirely. The sacrament is to purify you and help you.

Any serious-minded Christian may at some time find himself wondering whether the service he is giving to God is the best it could be. He may even have times of doubting, and fear that his toil is fruitless and his life empty.…

A moment of confession here…

As I read Tozer’s words in teal – the resonated deeply with me. There are days I wonder if what I am doing is the best I can do. The ministry seems overwhelming more often than not, and while I will never doubt God’s ability to use my weakest and most minimal offerings, I truly don’t see it.

Until I see people to the altar, or I hear the shut-ins voice that says – “Pastor can your bring me communion.” (to be honest, I am usually packing up and getting ready to go by the word ‘bring’!) I will gladly leave all the paperwork and other stuff behind for those moments of pure bliss, as people are being helped and purified, not by me, but by the God in whose presence we are gathered.

That is where God confirms the promise Hosea saw in the future, where the love of God is revealed in Christ’s Body and Blood. It is where we are still – and we experientially know that He is our God, and we are His people. It is the mercy we are waiting for, in these simple moments, where the people of God share in the gifts of God. It is there, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, where we find ourselves safe in God’s love.

You don’t have to be perfect – if you were, you wouldn’t need it. So know it is the answer to the brokenness, to the wounded heart and soul, to the stress…

He loves you! He is with you! Here in the sacrament, so you can realize He is always there..

 

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), 175–176.

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

The Myth of Self-Control (and the life hack we need!)

Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus:

Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT

The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.

The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.

Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.

If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now.  There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.

Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.

The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.

Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.

Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.

Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists.  He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life!  Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.

This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.

Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. AMEN!

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 195.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 473.

God is Making You… His People. A sermon for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper

God is Making you… His People
Jeremiah 31:31-33

† In Jesus’ Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you are the people of God!

  • Missing at the Feast…

It was a card table, probably purchased back in the 1950s. It came out for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, with 4 folding chairs that were far sturdier than they looked.

At 18 to 19, just starting to date Kay, I understood that I would be sitting there with her 5 and 7-year-old nephews, Kay’s 14-year-old niece, and Kay.

It was the kiddie table, and we were the younger folk there.

I did think that there would be a time when I could move to the adult table; I just didn’t think it would take until I was in my fifties.

As we share in the Lord’s Supper, we are in the present moment, and yet we are also part of that great feast when Jesus returns. It is what we are looking towards, yet we are a part of it as well, as with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we praise God, our heavenly Father.

There is no kiddie table at that feast, for we all have matured and become complete in Christ.

And we see that promise in the passage read earlier from Jeremiah. 

  • The Difference Between the Covenants

Jeremiah describes how people related to God in the reading. “I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them…

It sounds more like Israel acted like a toddler rather than a partner of God’s. I picture Israel as a toddler having to be brought to the table, seated, then getting up to see what’s happening everywhere else. What’s on their plate? Is their chair better than mine? And, of course, causing all sorts of spills and breakage, left behind as something else catches their eye.

The world is not different today, and neither are many of us in the church. We want what we want when we want it! We often “unintentionally” redesign Christianity to be more consistent with what we wish… rather than allowing God to conform us to the image of Jesus.

It’s easy to throw a tantrum against God, demand what we want…that we cry and howl and tell Him to get lost. Heck, even at the last supper, the disciples fought over who was better…

And Jesus bows down… and takes a towel and washes their feet….

  • Preparing them for the new covenant…

And in doing so, shows them a new way…

We often talk about foot-washing as an example – this is how we should serve others. But Peter had to learn something first – to let Jesus wash his feet, for boy, they needed to be cleaned….

We need to be drawn into this relationship, this covenant with God. We need God to do what He’s promised to do, the promises we’ve been looking at – God’s work.

And that is seen easily this night. Everything about the Passover points to his sacrifice in the morning – a sacrifice he looked forward to – because of the joy of Jeremiahs’s promise being fulfilled.

  • How God puts His instructions inside us…

Here it again…

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

That is why Jesus says this is His blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. The Body and Blood shed for you that all your sins, including those tantrums, are forgiven.

This is why we are here… this is what it is all about… God with us.

A new relationship that goes beyond anything we can think or imagine.

A relationship where God comes to us feeds us, and makes us know we are home… for we are His people. 

So let’s celebrate – with the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…

What Did You Put In Your Mouth?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
53  So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54  But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57  I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58  I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” John 6:53-58 (NLT2)

But when Christ says “My flesh,” I take notice of the identity of the speaker. I ask: To whom does the little word “My” pertain? Then these words will denote more than mere flesh; it will not be a flesh that has the strength of mere flesh and blood. By virtue of the word “My” it is invested with greater strength than plain flesh and blood. It is “My flesh.” You must take note of Him who speaks these words. Then it will not be the sort of flesh from which red sausages are made.

He could not satisfy his love by giving himself to the human race by his Incarnation and by his Passion, dying for all men upon the cross; but he desired to find out a way whereby he might give himself entirely to each one of us in particular; and for this end he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to unite himself wholly to each: He that cateth My flesh, he said, abideth in me and I in him. In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: “In no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful.”

Reading the title of this post, the question might sound like a mother talking to her toddler, or a man talking to his dog. But it is one of the most important questions that can be asked, and answered in the church today.

Not because of the theological doctrines that have been debated since Zwingli, (and to the gnostics whose thoughts convinced him that the sacred cannot inhabit the physical, that is the profane) THose arguements can go on in classrooms, coffee shops and bars from now until eternity. THis is more than theology.

It is about faith – about trusting Jesus at His word. To realize that He promises to come to us in the bread and wine, so that we might have Him, that we might have life! THat is why Luther points out the power of the word my, this little pronoun that changes everything.

This is His body, given for you. This is His blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Not mere flesh and blood, Far ore than the greatest steak and noblest wine. De Ligouri points out what a tremendous communion this is, as Christ again unites us to Himself, and unites Himself to us. This is not just some simple rite that we do every week, this is God with us, that we can behold His glory.

He says, this is my body… this is my blood…

Rejoice in that moment, treasure that moment….. find your peace and sanctuary there…



Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 23 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 119.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 279–280.

The Journey to Holiness: Will You Go on THIS pilgrimage?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success. Chron. 26:4-5 CSB

18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passoverb contrary to what was written.c But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God,d the LORD, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people 2 Chron 30:18-20 CSB

Many Christians submit to great fatigue, and expose themselves to many dangers, to visit the places in the Holy Land where our most loving Saviour was born, suffered, and died. We need not undertake so long a journey, or expose ourselves to so many dangers; the same Lord is near us, and dwells in the church, only a few steps distant from our houses. If pilgrims, says St. Paulinus, consider it a great thing to bring back a little dust from the crib, or from the holy sepulchre in which Jesus was buried, with what ardor should not we visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, where the same Jesus is in person, and where we can go without encountering so much fatigue and so many dangers!

God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.

I have been blessed to visit Rome, and pray in many of the churches there. Some I found irresistable, such as the church in the Villa Tevere, and the church that was made our of the home of St. Francis of Assissi. I have preached in China as well, and found in a little church along a small canal the same sense of being in a refuge, being in a sanctuary. There was something special about those places.

De Ligouri’s words therefore resonate with me, although his visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament and mine differ – for his is the Eucharist in a monstrance, to contemplate upon in prayer. Mine preference is to find that same thing as the people of God receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under the bread and wine.

In either situation, seeking the Lord is not about encountering physical torment. That may be needed, and it may not be. The challenge is what Is mentioned in Chronicles, being taught the fear/awe of the Lord. Be able to know that we should be terrified, as we are sinners gathering in the presnce of the Holy. At the same time, realizing in awe that God still accepts us anyway. He will deal with our sin… and still welcome us.

And welcoming that teaching is part of our journey. To allow God to inspect our lives, the deepest parts, to let Him find what lurks within, and carefully cut it away. To admit, as Hezekiah and His crew did, that we aren’t ready to enter into the feast, and to cling to a God who is merciful.

That is our journey… that is our hope.

This God of ours… and make no mistake, He is ours, for the Holy Spirit walks with us on this journey. Note the healing that was done to Hezekiah’s crew? That is being done in our lives today… making us right and whole, so that we would be welcomed in the presence of God.

It is a hard journey to make, for we don’t know what lurks within us. We just recognize the Spirit’s work, especially as we bow and kneel with others at the rail… and receive Christ again,

It doesn’t matter where… the Holy Land, Rome, Jiangmen, Macao, Cerritos or Lawrence, Mass.

He is our God, and we find refuge, sanctuary, and serenity as we feast with Him, and His people.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 181.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

What Draws Me To Jesus…

The Intimate Feast

Devotional Thought of the Day:

29 The king said to him, “Why keep on speaking about these matters of yours? I hereby declare: you and Ziba are to divide the land.”s
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Instead, since my lord the king has come to his palace safely, let Ziba take it all!”
2 Samuel 19:29-30 CSB

Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently that they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee, Sela.” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.

Come then, O Lord! come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee. Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being; and if ever I do not obey Thee perfectly, chastise me with rigor, that thenceforward I may be more watchful to please Thee as Thou willest. Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar; to entertain myself with Thee, and to receive Thee in Holy Communion.

The young, crippled man, Mephibosheth, who was King Saul’s son, meets King David after he was restored to his throne. Even though David would restore to him all that he had, the young man would have none of it. So glad was he that David was restored to the throne.

Grace didn’t matter; restoration of things of the world didn’t matter.

Being in the presence of his lord, the one who saved him from death, did.

This is a lesson for us! We should be like the young man, desiring just to be in the presence of Jesus.

William Loehe, a trainer and sender of Lutheran pastors and missionaries in the 19th century, saw this need and its answer in the Lord’s Supper. He implored a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The words in purple show why – “it prepares us for the celebration of the great Supper on high!” It helps us see that the only meaningful thing in our life is the presence of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the most significant way to celebrate and meditate on that presence!

Likewise, 100 years before Loehe, a Catholic Bishop, wrote the words in blue. The words come from his treatise on the Lord’s Supper. And they describe something I have found more trustworthy and more comforting in these challenging days than ever. The presence of the Lord that we encounter in the Lord’s supper, as we receive Christ, helps us find the rest that restores us from the brokenness we encounter, from the brokenness we know in our own lives.

Like Mephibosheth, we find that all that matters is the presence of our Lord. The Lord who is pictured in the parts of David’s life, where he became known as a man after God’s own heart. When we know His presence, our riches fade in importance. Our troubles lose their ability to overwhelm us. In the same moment, we want to collapse in awe and yet be hugged, embraced by the Lord, who makes our crippled souls whole, as we are invited, as special guests, to His feast.

This is the glory of God; this is why He deserves our praise. He comes to us, and He cares for us… This is the place where Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus to be when he wrote,

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT

I pray that for us all, this experience of the love of Jesus Christ. I prayer that we encounter it frequently, as we take and eat the Body of Christ, and we take and drink His precious Blood… and we look to the day when with all the saints from all times, all places, all nations, and all languages, we celebrate the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. AMEN!

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 55–56.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 128.


Why The Church WILL Gather Again…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

53  Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55  For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)

The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.

Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.

Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.

There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.

I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.

I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is. 

You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.

That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.

This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.

 

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.

The Paradox of the Pinnacle of Holiness

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..

Jesus…for us…

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.

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