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Why I Believe “The” Church MUST Strive for Unity

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22  I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23  I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me. John 17:20-23 (TEV)

9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:9 (TEV)

20  Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21  Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)

19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:19-21 (TEV)

546      Pause to consider the holy wrath of the Master, when he sees that the things of his Father are badly treated in the Temple at Jerusalem. What a lesson for you! You should never be indifferent, or play the coward, when the things of God are treated without respect.

Dustin, as a Lutheran pastor you know very well the theological gulf that exists between Rome and the BoC.  Why do you continue to flog this very dead horse?

A few days ago, I was asked the question in green above, on a facebook forum. In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a man, a pastor who I admire, even as I note we don’t agree on a few important things.
And the four quotes have been swimming through my head since I was asked the question.

The four quotes from scripture are why I must “continue to flog this very dead horse”,  The quote from St. Josemaria is the reason I will do so with a lot of energy, put into prayer, into study, yes and into writing blogs and having conversations with friends across denominational lines.

A comment about each of the passages, might help.

John 17:  I don’t think we can read this prayer without seeing the desire of Christ and the Father.  Read it carefully, our unity ( real unity) is sourced, not in compromise, but in the love of the Father. Even by praying for it publicly, Jseus is noting that it is going to require supernatural influence. (deistic cessationists might have a problem with this…)  Yet it is in the very deep, personal, relationship we have with Christ, that we find ourselves in a relationship with each other.

2 Peter 3:9  Last I checked, God wanting all to come to repentance (to have the mind of Christ) is also a supernatural manifestation of His presence. All means all, it doesn’t mean “us, but not them”.  This isn’t something you can try once, grab a t-shirt and give up on.  This call to repentance is not something we can dismiss by saying, “they aren’t of our brand” or “we are an immigrant church and can’t reach out to other ethnicities.”
If God wants all to come to repentance, if this is His desire, then we will begin to desire that, the more time we spend in His presence.
On further thought.  It doesn’t say God is patient with them…but us.   Think about that.  (Go – do it!

(no, I mean it – take 2 minutes to think that through)

(that was 10 seconds – go do it some more!)

2 Cor. 5:  We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (that’s what “Churchese translations” do for this passage) Simply put, God desires greatly to reconcile with mankind, to restore a relationship with Him, a friendship, a deep, permanent, relationship where love and mercy are the norm.
Mathematically, if a=b and b=c, the c=a.  Or, if you are reconciled to God, and “they” are reconciled to God, the you and they are reconciled.  That can’t be denied.  If they aren’t reconciled, your work, done in faith, is bringing this message of reconciliation to them, to give them this hope and celebrate it with them.  Either way you are stuck, you are reconciled with them, or your vocation is reconcile them to God.  This isn’t law, this is the work of God’s gospel in you.

Unless, of course, you need to be reconciled to God yourself….. in that case… let me let you know, God will remove every sin and all injustice that separates you from Him, and He desires to be in a relationship with you, and has made it possible.  Enjoy it!

1 John 4:  If this doesn’t provide the icing on the cake, I don’t know what does.  We must continue to work that people would be reconciled to God, and the goal of any unity discussion or work starts and ends there. At the altar of God, in His presence, God and His people.
Working for unity between the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran Synods and churches is as much included in this as working to reconcile with that obnoxious person in the pew behind you, or the neighbor next door.  If we don’t work for such, if we don’t care whether they are reconciled with God, how can we claim to love them?  If we don’t love the, can we really claim to love the God who loves us?

Some may read this, and say I am a dreamer, that the RCC and Lutherans are both so stubborn that they will never change. If so, that is sad. As I am reading through the Book of Concord and the works from Trent and Vatican II, I see a lot of areas we can find enough common ground, to strive together toward unity in Christ.

Even if our leaders are afraid to breach these conversations, it is the vocation of pastors and priests, those who pastor the people of God and the people themselves to bring this message of reconciliation to God to the world.  That will produce unity, even as we struggle with how that can be expressed, (and we should struggle with that, not just dismiss the differences)

And by the very word, and the promises given to us in the sacraments, this should become more and more part of our spiritual DNA.  It should be part of our vocation, part of our prayers, striving to bring this message of reconciliation, which will reconcile us, even as it’s heard…..


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2055-2057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lutherans and Catholic Thought about the Liturgy/Mass: Let’s talk

Discussion thought of the Day:Featured image

26  This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)

This particular blog post found some stimulus in a internet discussion group I was invited to participate in, composed of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and Lutheran followers of Jesus Christ.  One of the discussions the other day was about the encouragement given by Pope Francis for Lutherans and Catholics to talk together.  A continuation of what was began under his predecessors.

I will bluntly state that I am all for it, even as I admit that there are some who see such discussions worthless.

I see it as a blessing for the church at large, because of the Bible passage above, which I believe that many in the RCC and the Lutheran church strive to see accomplished in their ministries.  It is that hope, of seeing people realize that Christ is in you, that there is a relationship there that results in His sharing His glory with you.  Being assured of that, trusting in His promise of that, makes all the difference in one’s life, and as it does, in their living it.

And it is that bond we share in common.

Below are three quotes – two Lutheran, one Catholic (from Vatican II) that discuss this, in view of our mass, our worship services, the times where people are gathered together around word and sacrament.  In both cases, these are not the words of a pastor, a bishop, a pope, or some “expert”.  They are documents which define our understanding of scripture, and the ministry.  While there are things that will divide us in these documents, these quotes show something we might benefit from realizing.

For those of my readers who are more used to a devotional blog, or aren’t Lutheran or Catholic, read these anyways.  Feel free to discuss this, to ask questions, to evaluate and see, do all of our ministries do this – do they proclaim Christ in a way the people understand and benefit from them.  (Evaluate your own churches as well!)  I am not saying this is enough to tear down walls, or to solve every problem.  But in this we seem to agree – that people need to have a liturgy that clearly reveals to them Jesus Christ.

Maybe we can start a discussion here, that is beneficial, and not just focused on showing that we have irreconcilable differences.   read the quotes – look to what they have in common to  say…. especially in view of the Bible passage above!


7 Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.

2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray

“The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.
By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 56–57). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press  (first quote Augsburg confession Artical XIV, second quote Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIV
Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Why There is a “Label” on My Church Sign

Discussion and Devotional thought of the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 2  I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 3  But I want you to understand that Christ is supreme over every man…. 1 Corinthians 11:1-3 (TEV)

1  Finally, our friends, you learned from us how you should live in order to please God. This is, of course, the way you have been living. And now we beg and urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to do even more. 2  For you know the instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (TEV)

203      Surely all those consolations I receive from the Master are given me so that I may think of him all the time and serve him in little things, and so be able to serve him in great things. A resolution: to please my good Jesus in the tiniest details of my daily life.  (1)

It sits there, on the sign identifying the congregation I pastor, on our stationary, on business cards and polo shirts.

A Label, something that identifies our heritage, but also potentially divides us from the body of Christ.

I both love it, and hate it, even despise it.

I despise it because people assume it is something that sets us apart, something that identifies why we are different, as if being a lutheran was a license to condescension, to some higher level of purity or knowledge or perfection.  Though not it’s intent in every place bearing its name, there can be pride associated with that label.  Because of both assumptions, I despise it, just as I despise the fact that we are 3 years from “celebrating” a division in the church, that is contrary to the will of God.  It is my regular prayers that something would happen, a miracle, that would allow the entire church to find healing together in Christ.  That my small section of the church would have the humility to encourage this, even noting our own sin, our own failures, our own poor theology that prevents it.

I hate the label, because it is not specific.  Many “wear” it, and have radically different beliefs.  Some have departed the focus on grace and mercy and Christ’s delivering us into the presence of our Heavenly father, saving us from sin… our sin.  They have neglected the treasuring of a relationship with God that brought such peace and joy to Luther.  For this man realized God was our refuge from the brokenness of the world.  Others have gone the other direction, forgetting the why’s and legislating the hows and whens. They look more to great theologians of different eras, taking even their errors as being right. They will even say their own teaching is beyond question. Extremisms define the label today, far more than the basic teachings of the catechism, and how it summarizes truth from scripture.  In some ways, the extremes almost defeat the benefit of the label.  Knowing this, I would actually think a better description of my church would be the old name, the Evangelical-catholic church.  Historically and with a pragmatic view to our work, it suits us well.

I think the reasons above are why some toss aside the labels, or at least try to toss them aside.  They label their church community church (though there are denominations with that moniker), or Christian Church or church of Christ (though I was originally ordained in that denominational family…err brotherhood of churches)

So why not just hang out a sign that says, “a church”, or “the church on the corner”.  Get rid of all other identifying markings, all other labels.

After all of this, why do I like the title?

1.  It reminds me that who I believe, and what I believe about Him, is bigger than just me.  It was handed down to me, entrusted to me by a larger community of faith.  My congregation and I don’t stand alone.  In the same way my friends in the Roman Catholic Church find comfort in seeing how saints have endured persecution and troubled times, knowing that God would work through Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, Walther, Pieper, Piepkorn, that broken men found solace and hope in God’s is incredible to realize.
They pass us down, not just an academic belief system, but a sense of hope, a story of healing, the assurance that God is our refuge, our help in times of trouble.  As Paul encouranged us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus, so these men (and women) provide some helpful tracks along the journey.  The label reminds me of this, and those that went before.  Their failures, their successes, and how they coped with both!

2.  While it doesn’t reduce or eliminate extremism, it gives me a base to start from, a point to evaluate what I teach, and preach and how I administer the sacraments.  While their words are only legitimate when in accord with scripture, they do help me, to ensure I don’t fall far astream.  Creeds and catechisms are never end all, be alls, but they help.  One doesn’t have to go far back in history to see those who claimed to base their understanding solely on scripture fail miserably, leading people astray.  (Jim Jones is an example, as are denominations like the Jehovah Witnesses)  Think of a amusement park, and the “car rides”, which have a steel or cement center rail.  Having a heritage of faithful people running along the same rail before helps us stay the course.  (see Hebrews 11)

I suppose the last reason I love my particular label, is that the irony keeps my humble.  I know Luther would shake his head at us, wondering why in the world we would name our denomination after such a sinner as he was.  The irony that we did, because he was a sinner that God would use to restore something the church had lost (he also messed up a lot – please understand this!) But if God could use a pastor as broken, as crazy, as powerfully as he did…despite his pride, his temper, then there is hope for me, as I ask my people to follow me, as I follow in footsteps of all of those who follow Christ.

Rejoice, we aren’t alone in this journey, God has sustained people beyond number who have handed down to us, what we hand down to others!

By the way, know this, if your label is different, that doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome… just the opposite – please, plese come let’s find out why the labels are blessings… not letting them divide us!


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 901-904). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


A Division Between Sacred and Secular? No…that is impossible!

Soufrière Catholic Church

Soufrière Catholic Church (Photo credit: waywuwei)

22  Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, 23  “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (TEV) 

 20  . ..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:20 (ESV)

 1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfectRomans 12:1-2 (TEV)

“In many Catholic parishes of the twenty-first century there is little sense of sacred space. The reverent silence that used to prevail in Catholic churches is rarely encountered, even in churches that have an ample narthex where the gathering congregation can greet one another before entering the church proper. Yet if the church proper is the Porta Coeli, the door of heaven and the portal of the Kingdom, then surely one ought to act in that space somewhat differently than one acts at the local mall or supermarket. (1)

I have, in the last few months as I have digested Weigel’s book on the century long changes in the Roman Catholic Church, found many things that are well stated, many things that are Biblical, many things I wish my own church would implement in attitude.  But no church denomination is perfect, and no plan of man for its reform is without error,  And I think I’ve found one, one that is sadly reflected in my own church as well.

It’s this idea that there is a distinction between that which is sacred and that which is secular, or to use the philosophical categories – sacred and the profane.

Like many people, Weigel sees the church facility as a transition place, a place where we go from the unreligious, unrighteousness of our world into a transition zone – we are coming close to God, and therefore our mind, our attitudes, our bodies must change.  His line about acting differently in that space, more reverential. more sanctified, more holy, is a great point – and yes – I would love for my own church to have a time of meditative silence, to think about how much we need to remember we dwell in God’s presence.  It would be beneficial, it would be nice.

But the reasoning is flawed.  It’s not about what we do that prepares us for the blessings of sharing in Word in sacrament.

It is even more flawed because it teaches us that our lives are somewhat split.  We behave one way in church, when we are in the presence of God, and one way when we are at work, or home, or a ball game.   It’s as if we say – hey we aren’t in God’s presence anymore, we can now behave like the rest of the world.  That was “His time” and now – the rest of the week is “ours”   It doesn’t work that way – and that we allow people to think that way is not a beneficial thing.

God doesn’t want that 60-75 minutes a week.  ( but the more we realize how it blesses us, we should! ) He wants to share every moment with us, that is why He is called Immanuel ( Immanent/Immediate God), that is what He has promised us.  That is the gift of our baptism, as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us.   Yes the time where blessings are poured out are awesome, but so can be the times in the night, when we need His comfort, and realize He is there. The blessings of having Him bring us peace, in the midst of trauma or adversity.  Even the restoration, when we realize the depth of our sin, or how we have created an idol that we put in His place… and cry out for forgiveness and restoration.

Christianity is not about our practices, it is about our living with God.   It is about the fact that there is no secular space for us, there is no profane time, because He has invaded it, cleansed it, set it apart for our time with Him.

The church doors being a division between such?  May we never think that way… may we never teach it that way… may we live each day, each moment, whereever we are, in His peace, in His mercy, in His glory…. in HIs love.



(1)   Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 157). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Some thoughts on Church Leadership. EC XVI

Discussion thought of the day:

 I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: 2  give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. 3  Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 4  When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory. 5 In the same way, younger people, be subject to the elders. Humility towards one another must be the garment you all wear constantly, because God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.   1 Peter 5:1-5 (NJB)

“There is, obviously, an issue of theology here. How a man understands his priesthood will have a lot to do with whether he succumbs to the worst aspects of clericalism: pretentiousness, ambition, jealousy of others who are advancing faster in their “careers,” and an inability to relate as both leader and brother to the people who have been given into his pastoral care. Thus, the way the theology of the priesthood is taught in seminaries will be a crucial factor in building the right kind of priestly fraternity, in which the priests of a diocese think of themselves as fellow members of a presbyteral college, with and under the local bishop, for the service of all the People of God. Clericalism, understood as the identification of a priestly caste with “the Church,” is an impediment to the full flowering of Evangelical Catholicism, and an antidote may be found to it in the example of Blessed John Paul II. Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, was a priest’s priest and an inspiration to countless numbers of priests and seminarians. He nevertheless found many of his friends among laypeople— men and women whom he had first known as a university chaplain, and who remained among his closest friends throughout his life. There was no confusion of identities or roles in this network of friends; he was a priest, and they were not. But even more fundamentally, all were disciples who understood that the gifts they had been freely given, be they gifts of intellect, athletic or artistic skill, or personality, were to be shared freely with others. And in that mutual exchange of gifts between a priest and his lay friends, there was a continual growth in discipleship. 9 It is a pattern that might well be emulated throughout the world Church.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I “picked” Wiegel’s book, between our national convention, and trying to prepare for vacation, and taking a class, I haven’t had time to contemplate and sift through what he writes to apply it within my own framework.  He’s writing about what is necessary in the Catholic Church, I have to translate it into my own form of Lutheranism.  But I again find the principals one’s I would strive for – even if others label that goal naive.

The same temptations, the same drives. the same attitudes can caustically erupt, no matter the brand of the man wearing the collar. (or polo shirt with church logo!)  The challenge instead is to be a servant, to be a man who recognizes that God has surrounded him with gifted people who compliment him, whose gifts are there to overcome his weaknesses, to serve alongside each other.   It is a symbiotic relationship – it is not that they are dependent on me.

The same goes for leadership in the church, Bishops (or District Presidents) and in my denomination, circuit counselors, aren’t to treat others as if they are dependent on us, or even as if we are their “bosses”.  We exist to minister together, as Weigel says, as a presbyterial college.  It’s not just me and my church, my territory and your territory.  It’s our work together, in Christ, Our being there for each other.  Yes, there are those whose wisdom we seek out – both officially, as sadly in circumvention of official offices. There are those who we can assist as well.  The idea is one church, on baptism – and one Lord of all (see Eph. 4)  It is in Him we live, the greatest example of servitude, the greatest example of pastoral care, and yes, the one in whom we are united.

May we serve, may we work alongside the people God has entrusted them, teaching them the necessity and the blessing of crying out:

“Lord, have mercy!”

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 148-149). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.


The Core of Pastoral Preparation: The Cross (Evangelical Catholic XVI)

Devotional thought of the Day:

15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV) 

For unless a man is a radically converted Christian disciple— one who, in gazing upon the Cross, knows himself to be looking at the great truth at the center of human history— he will not be able to bring to the world, through his ministry, the truth that “God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” [John 3.16].

As I continue reading through Weigel’s Book, Evangelcial Catholicism< I am once again both pleased and disturbed by what I read.  ( I am disturbed because one again, I find him so in agreement with Luther – and yet we are still divided )  

English: Christ on the Cross

English: Christ on the Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The quote above comes from the section on the priesthood – how the movement that started to reform the church and resulted in Vatican II and is still trying to come to its fullest fruit.  Weigel shows the idea that the priesthood is not some kind of clerical caste, some kind of special profession – but it is above all, focused on the cross – and therefore missional. (I’ve written about this elsewhere – numerous times – we are not, pastors and priests – professionals…. we serve alongside our Lord.) 

Everything changes because of the cross – everything in history focuses on that point.  

And its that which is the center then of our ministry – as we bring people to Christ’s cross – so that the sin in us can be killed off, so that we can be brought to life in Him (again – see Ezekeil 26:25ff and 37, Romans 6 and Colossian 2-3)  That is the core of our ministry, whether we pastor a church of 10,000 with a television ministry, or we pastor a church that is simply a few families.  The only thing we can offer people is simple – it is the love and mercy of Christ that meets them where they are at, and transforms us.  Anything else but that at the center of our ministry is simply unacceptable.   It is not the calling that has been placed n our lives – the calling we have is to reveal Christ, to make Him known, to show the cross as the way in which He brings us to share in His glory.

As we prepare to preach and to hear our pastors and priests preach this weekend… may we remember why we do what we do… that all would come to know God, and be transformed by His love! Amen

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 140). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.



Being in Ministry: a Profession or a Vocational Life? (Review of Evangelical Catholic pt. XV)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The F...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: 

5  I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6  an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7  For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8  He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9  He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it. Titus 1:5-9 (TEV)

“In the first decades of the twenty-first century, many, perhaps most, Catholic priests in the developed world still live a Counter-Reformation model of Church and a Counter-Reformation model of priestly ministry in which the priesthood is a kind of religious trade union. They believe, with real conviction, in the truths of the Creed in which they lead their people in prayer on Sunday, but their lives are more consumed with management than with evangelism; they talk more easily of “the Church” than they do of “the Lord Jesus”; and for all their devotion— and it is genuine devotion— the career aspects of their lives fill the horizon of their imaginations (and dominate their conversations, especially among themselves) rather more than the vocational aspects of their ministry.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I personally thought through what I do, and how I approach my ministry.  I spent a few hours doing so last year, when one of my deacons entered seminary.  But a serious review, taking a week or even a month and thinking through how and why I do what I do.

A couple of my recent blogs have addressed this – as I’ve reviewed Weigel’s book and considered his vision for what Bishops (in my case Circuit Counselors and District Presidents) should be like.  It’s a healthy application of both Law, and to an extent gospel.  I fall short of my own expectations, but yet, I have to admit – God is doing something in this place, in the lives of people who are finding healing from brokenness.

This week’s “highlight” again looks at this idea of what is my role as a pastor – at its foundation.  Is it simply a profession, a calling to I what I will do to be able to have a home, and food, and take care of my wife and son?  Is it about finding the best place to do that work, with the best pay and accommodations?  Am I more involved in the management and secular side of my role?  (As Sr. Pastor, i have the responsibility of being head of staff, and tasked with their development – not as saints but as teachers, office admin, etc)

Or is my role purely that of a vocational life?   That while I have to do administrative things, the very way I do them is as a shepherd, as the pastor of those with whom I interact?   That my vocation is not just the 50ish hours I am “on duty”, but that I am a pastor in my off hours as well?   Where and how do I draw the line between my vocation and my “personal life?”  There are differences in theology involved as well of course. But a vocation is far more encompassing than a profession.  It does encompass us, and while we understand this in regards to the judgment of our moral behavior, (we can’t have one set of morals for while we are on duty, the change them like a shirt  when we are off duty) I think we need to realize that our vocational attitudes and focus on caring for souls is as encompassing.

Weigel hits briefly on something most pastors/priests don’t ever want to admit to anyone.  It’s not the question of, “Do I want to “climb the ladder”” or “can’t I find a more… mature church to pastor?  I don’t even think it is a question of wanting more pay, or better benefits.  It’s more illusive than that, a deeper need.  It is like asking the following question, quite bluntly:  Do I seek validation from knowing I am “wanted” by others?  I have to admit, pastors/priests face a temptation there – when we hear someone is considering us, or the sense why not us… when we hear of other friends receiving  3 and 4 calls.  It’s not that we are dissatisfied where we are at, and even the most brutal of parishes has those things that bring us enough joy and strength to stand firm.  It’s not that we would want the pain again of making those decisions between “who needs me most”, and “where can I be most effective” and the real question – where does God want me. It just somehow affirming to be a wanted man.  Yet – when we realize the thoughts are simply a need for affirmation – that can be dealt with… even as we see the gratitude on people’s faces as we feed them with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

As we realize this is a calling, a vocational life, our outlook changes.  Our professionalism slides aside as we spend the time needed, not the time allotted.  Meeting agendas become less important than the lives of those in those meetings, and it becomes easier to become patient in tough situations, waiting on Christ’s leading  showing itself in consensus, rather than our own wisdom or inner compass.  That we are dedicated to being where God wants us to be, without accounting the cost.  We become more willing to be there in the painful moments, aware that there is where God’s grace is seen with the greatest clarity.    As this attitude manifests, as this vocation takes route, that is when our people begin to realize that our vocation is one they share in, for they are the priesthood of all believers.  For in this – they show the true teachings of Christ.. the reality of the call to come walk with Jesus.

One thing is for sure… there is a lot of room to grow…

Lord have mercy – and let this growth be accomplished, that through it, you Lord would receive great glory.


(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 137-138). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Are pastors professional leaders, or servants? ( Evangelical Catholic XIV – plus some Luther)

 All who have given up home or brothers and sisters or father and mother or children or land for me will be given a hundred times as much. They will also have eternal life. 30  But many who are now first will be last, and many who are last will be first.    Matthew 19:29-30 (CEV)

If service, in our serving. In Greek it reads διακονίαν, ἐν τῃ̂ διακονίᾳ, that is, “in ministering.” “Ministers” are all those who serve in ecclesiastical offices, such as the priest, the deacon, the subdeacon, and all who have to do with sacred rites except the administration of the Word of God, and also those who assist a teacher, as the apostle often speaks of his helpers.

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contain...

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contains the incipit Liber generationis of the Gospel of Matthew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Has this man reached a level of spiritual maturity in which his competence as a pastor and his security as a man and a Christian disciple express themselves humbly? Does he see his ministry as one of empowering in others the gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed on those in his pastoral charge? Does he treat those who help him implement his pastoral ministry as collaborators in the work of the Gospel, or as indentured servants? Does he foster talent, not being threatened by it?  (2)

Most pastors aren’t called to give up homes or family, in the USA even few are called to give up their lives.  But there is something that continues to grow, that goes against everything I learned in my early training, and more and more, I am finding,  in the historic church.

My Bible College drummed it into us that those in ministry are servants.  Whether they are going to be Children’s Ministers, Youth Ministers, Senior/Preaching pastors, or Missionaries – each are called to serve… each are called to lay behind our personal preferences, our wants, and yeah – even sometimes our needs, in order to reveal to people the love and mercy of Christ, and to show them how to love and be merciful to those around them.   This isn’t easy… it takes realizing that we aren’t superstars, that we are as broken, and the chief of all sinners, that God may show our people what can be done in our lives..

That’s different than the idea of professional clergy, it’s different from the times in history where the pastors and priests were looked up to as “Herr Pastor” or  the idea of the “high priest”.  (I have to admit a certain level of pleasure watching Pope Francis take this attitude on in the Catholic Church, where others have simply tolerated it – and more than a smidgen of jealousy as I consider our leaders…)

Luther reminded us that we are servants – not just those who have inherited the apostolic office, but all those who assist as helpers as well.  Weigel dreams of a priesthood as well – where we see our co-workers in ministry as our collaborators, not as our servants.  We have been called to serve them, to train them, to see them develop.   Last week, one of the men I get to assist in growing up in the ministry preached another awesome sermon.  Even more, he preached it in a place few others could go, to people that most “professionals” would discount, would see the doors closed, because it wasn’t enough.

there is something in his work, that I wish every professional pastor could learn, could observe, could emulate.  That they too could take on such a group of guys and serve them – work with them, patiently, lovingly, helping them see God, helping them see God working in their brokenness, helping them see that relationship develop…. and transform those that they work with…completely.  Then as they transform, watching them care for others.

Weigel dreams of this for his church body, he loyally suggests this is the track it is taking (and did so prior to Francis being elected.)  Luther knew it – his co-workers literally faced persecution and death – and rose up from nothingness…

I pray this for the churches and pastors I work with as well….

That we would serve… content to follow the example of Christ… and to seriously look at passages like Phil. 2:1-11, Romans 12:1-8, and 1 Corinthians 12-13……

And may we, in ways sometimes seen, and often not seen…on earth.. praise and give glory to God our Father, who sees all, as we obey His commands.

(1)  Luther, M. Luther’s Works, Vol. 25 : Lectures on Romans. Ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann. Luther’s Works. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1972.

(2)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 123-124). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

A Challenge to Pastors and Priests: Evangelical Catholic “review” part XIII

English: Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament insid...

English: Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament inside Saint-Benoît-du-Lac abbey. Français : La chapelle du Saint-Sacrement à l’abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion Thought of the day:

5  I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6  an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7  For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8  He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9  He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to itTitus 1:5-9 (TEV) 

George Weigel, in the book I am finding more and more remarkable, continues on his list (which I commented on 2 points of last week) for the standards for priests:

3.     If this priest has been primarily engaged in parish work, have his parishes grown through his ministry? If his principal work has been in a seminary, college, or university, have his students flourished under his guidance, spiritually as well as intellectually?              

4.     How does this priest celebrate Holy Mass, in specific and concrete terms? Does his liturgical ministry lead those in his pastoral charge into a deep experience of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension? Does his manner of leading the Church in liturgical prayer honor the baptismal dignity of his congregants? Is he regularly found with his people in Eucharistic adoration?              

5.     How many men have entered the seminary under this priest’s guidance? How many women have entered consecrated religious life through his influence? Does he foster holy marriages and stable Catholic families that are themselves “little churches”? Does he encourage lay movements of Catholic renewal? Does he guide popular piety well? Does he promote frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance, and does he devote significant time to his ministry as a confessor? Does he encourage his people to read the Bible daily? Is he, in other words, a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself?

Obviously, there are a few differnces in terminology and practice between men who are Lutheran pastors and Roman Catholic Priests.  (for example – while many of us will meditate on the passion of Christ and confess it is Christ’s Body and Blood, we don’t have a service of Eucharistic Adoration) this lists thrills me, and yet… well…. let’s just say I am convicted by it – especially point 5.

But a pastor/priest of whom these things are true, is one people will entrust their souls to, as the one appointed/ordained to care for them, a call of God, recognized through the church.  They will confess their sins to him, and receive absolution ( I do need to devote more time to make myself available for this) I love the prahsem, “a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself.”    Such a man is one whom can be what old Lutherans calls a seelsorge – the caretaker of the soul.

We desperately need that, these days. Recent events and conversations in my life more that confirm it, and to me it ticks me off, until I ask the same about me.  Are my people willing to let me care for their souls?  Have they grown to know I will be there for them, that I will speak to them God’s mercy – with more zeal and energy and desire?  Will they also be encouraged to walk with God, forsaking all that would be the world’s preference?  Will they lay down their worries, their burdens and concerns as I encourage them?  They need it, we are the ministers of the gospel, the good news… need to provide these encounters with Christ where they will see His love revealed to them….

Will they grow in trust of God, will their dependence on His love and mercy and presence deepen?

It’s not all up to me, I know this… and God will work, even through my errors.  (although that is no excuse)

But do i desire to see my people know what I’ve known?

Yesterday, a dear friend came and spoke to some pastors in my area.  He talked of coping with a family member who was significantly challenged.  And he spoke of his own battles with darkness.  In the middle of his self-disclosure and hope in Chirst, he quoted this passages.

3  All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT) 

Lord, Have Mercy on us, that we might show that comforting mercy to others….and have mercy that they will desire it more and more!  AMEN!




Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 122-123). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Who should lead our churches? Evangelical Catholic Review #12

Crucifixion of Jesus -2011

Crucifixion of Jesus -2011 (Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna)

 19  If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20  I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21  All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22  But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News.  Philippians 2:19-22 (NLT)

  Now may I who am myself an elder say a word to you my fellow-elders? I speak as one who actually saw Christ suffer, and as one who will share with you the glories that are to be unfolded to us. I urge you then to see that your “flock of God” is properly fed and cared for. Accept the responsibility of looking after them willingly and not because you feel you can’t get out of it, doing your work not for what you can make, but because you are really concerned for their well-being. You should aim not at being “little tin gods” but as examples of Christian living in the eyes of the flock committed to your charge. And then, when the chief shepherd reveals himself, you will receive that crown of glory which cannot fade. 1 Peter 5:1 (Phillips NT) 


1.     In his manner of life and his priestly ministry, does this man manifest a deep personal conversion to friendship with Jesus Christ? Has he made a deliberate, conscious, and irrevocable choice to follow Christ? Has he responded to Jesus’s question to the disciples, who were shocked by his command to eat of him, the Bread of Life—“ Do you also wish to go away?”— with Peter’s answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” [John 6.67– 69]?              

2.     Does this priest take preaching and teaching as among his primary responsibilities? Does he preach clearly, biblically, and with conviction? Can he make the Church’s evangelical proposal to unbelievers? Can he, with charity and understanding, teach, and if necessary correct, Catholics who have embraced notions contrary to Scripture and apostolic tradition? How many converts has this man made? How many Christians of other communities has he brought into full communion with the Catholic Church? How many baptized pagans has he brought back into a fuller communion with the Church?  (1)

I have been primarily dealing so far this month with the issue of leadership in the church.
We just elected those who will work beside me as the leaders of this congregation, for the next two years.

  • I am in prayer about, and met with other district delegates last saturday, the national convention of our Synod next month
  • I just finished a two day seminar, the third of four, of a program in pastoral leadership
  • Above you see the passages for the two Bible Studies last night.  The first one is our midweek Bible Study, the second for the Bible Study of my elders.

So, it is little surprise when I took up Wiegel’s book this morning, that the topic was his understanding of the new standards for the leaders (bishops) of his church, the Roman Catholic Church.

But what find admirable, and indeed would love to see in my own denomination, is these first two standards Weigel sets, as our own concerns. (replacing of course – Catholic Church, with LC-MS)

What would happen if the leaders of our churches were first men whose lives were formed by a deep friendship with Christ. Whose character displayed such Christ-likeness and the servants heart we see in both Paul’s description of Timothy, and in Peter’s encouragement to the elders.  This is the nature of the men we should have leading us.  Men whose devotion and adoration of God, their treasuring of the first commandment, is the hallmark of their life.  If they were less guided by their own intelligence, their own wisdom, their own inner compass, than by the very kind of love that showed they experienced and reveled in the love of Christ?

What would happen, if the second dominant characteristic was that they could communicate this love of God that they were so sure of, this friendship with God that so defined them, to others with great compassion, great skill, and could do it equally well with those in the Body of Christ, (both those that depended on God and those who rebelled against God)  What would happen if he had a track record of bringing all into a deeper communion with God and God’s people – no matter whether they were mature, sacrificial believers, new believers, those who tried to “cafeteria plan” their faith, or those who were apathetic or antagonistic towards God.  What if they were truly apostolic/missional in this way?

What if we had such men to pastor our church body, what if we had such a man to imitate, even as they stripped themselves of all perks and privileges of being “the leaders”.

What if our priorities were discipling leaders like this, with these two characteristics being more a priority than academics, or linguistic expertise, or knowledge or political savvy?

Lord Have mercy!  Help us to be leaders like Timothy, like Peter… like Paul… as they cared like Christ cared… AMEN

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 122). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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