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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.

AMEN

 

(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)

(1)

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.

Evangelical Catholic X: Called to being the Mission

Port St. Joe, Florida: St. Joseph Catholic Mis...

Port St. Joe, Florida: St. Joseph Catholic Mission Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion/Devotional THought of the Day:
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV) 

In the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, summing up a line of development that had begun with Leo XIII’s new engagement with modernity, taught that the Church does not have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Church does; rather, the Church is a mission, and everything the Church does is ordered to that mission, which is the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of the world to Christ. 43 Evangelical Catholicism is that form of twenty-first-century Catholicism that has fully embraced John Paul’s teaching on the nature of the Church-as-mission and that declares itself and its people to be in permanent mission. 44 And as such, it is the form of Catholicism that will complete the deep reform of the Catholic Church that has been underway since 1878.

In an evangelical Catholic perspective, mission measures everything; or, in the language of management theory, Evangelical Catholicism is mission-driven. Even in the sacred liturgy— that part of the Church’s life that seems to be a step back from the world, or better, a step into the real world that is the Kingdom of God in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb— the Church is being equipped by sacramental grace for mission. Even contemplative vocations that really are cloistered, from both the world and the rest of the Church, are mission-oriented. For the consecrated life, as John Paul II taught in the 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, is the spiritual engine of the Church. Here the energies of evangelism are refined and shared in a great exchange of gifts by which the entire Church, as the Bride of Christ, strives for union with her divine Spouse. 45 Thus the mission of the Church in-the-world is ordered to the coming of the Lord in glory and the New Life of the New Jerusalem.

If mission measures everything in Evangelical Catholicism, it also measures everyone, for as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught, “each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith.” 46 In an evangelical Catholic perspective, every Catholic is a missionary, an evangelist, a baptized disciple commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to every nation, calling all to be baptized in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Thus does Evangelical Catholicism respond to the challenges posed by evangelical Protestantism (in which sharing the friendship of the Lord Jesus is understood to be everyone’s responsibility) and clericalized Catholicism (in which mission is something reserved for the ordained). (1)

I think that believers in Christ are greatly confused by two words – Church – and Mission.

You might say, “Pastor Dt – we know about church – it’s not the building, its the people that gather together to worship God.”

That’s aa good start – but it is deeper than that – the word for church is ekklessia – “those called”, and defines us by what we are into, not  just the call itself.  We are called to be in a relationship with God, a relationship that is much like a dance, where He guides us through life, and He directs how we interact with others, and indeed, where He goes – we follow.  So church is not just “the people”  but its the people of God, walking, dancing, living in Him.

That life then, is the mission.  As Wiegel asserts above, it also defines us, not in the sense of being a characteristic of our lives; rather mission is our life together. It is inviolate part of our calling, for mission is at the very heart of our relationship with God – from His sending (the word apostle is used regarding Him) Christ on the mission to save us, to the “Great Commission”, to the very revealed will of God – that none would be condemned, but that all would be transformed.

I love, absolutely love,  Wiegel’s description then – of the gathering of the church above, “Even in the sacred liturgy— that part of the Church’s life that seems to be a step back from the world, or better, a step into the real world that is the Kingdom of God in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb— the Church is being equipped by sacramental grace for mission.” For how can we encounter God’s grace, poured out through word and sacrament, and then enter a world that is dark and bleary and without hope – but filled with narcissistic emptiness?  Are we that hardened to the plight of people without God?  Are we that unaware of what life is like, without dancing with God?

Do we take our own salvation so much for granted, that we do not desire the world to know?

Last January, I went on a “mission trip” sort of, a chance to go to China and preach in a church there, for a friend.  A chance to visit others, who teach English, and share their love of God with those who ask why they have such hope.  It was amazing to see a hall that through which a million people would pass each day – as they cleared customs from Hong Kong to Mainland China.  But there, as odd as it seems, the work seemed easier, people desiring to know about God, wanting to learn, asking the hard questions about their faith, and desiring to learn how to give others the hope they only recently encountered.  O how I wish we could bring that attitude here…  I thought.  WHat would do it?

I think Wiegel’s words give us the clue, it’s not another seminar on apologetics, it’s not another program/class on evangelism.

It’s standing at a baptistry or baptismal font, and knowing the Lord who cleansed us there, who opened our eyes – who guaranteed our lives with Him.

It’s kneeling at an altar, wondering why God decided to bless us with an invitation to feast with Him, to feed us the very Body and Blood of Christ.

It’s staying there, crying, as we realize we can pour everything we are, our pains, our sorrows, our hurts…. as He revives and renews our trust in Him…..

Then, as we leave there…. looking at our neighbor, hearing the pain in their voice.  Seeing the anxiety building in the young mom at the market,  visiting our friends in the hospital….

Seeing them, not as numbers to get to church, but as people to bring to that altar, to that font, so they can know the rest and peace… that we celebrate and rejoice in.

We are those called, we are those led on a mission…. it is who we are,…. already… in Christ.

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 85-86). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Laity and the Clergy – proclaiming the gospel together! Evangelical Catholic IX

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, A...

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, Article VII, “Of the Church”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day:

Thus the priest, like the bishop, is first a preacher, teacher, catechist, and sanctifier before he is an administrator. Priests are leaders of their parishes, as bishops are of their dioceses. But in a fully embodied Evangelical Catholicism, deacons and other qualified lay members of the Church will handle more and more of the routine business of parish and diocesan administration. The pastors— bishops who are true successors of the apostles, and priests who form a presbyteral college with and under the bishop (as the bishops form an episcopal college with and under the Bishop of Rome, the pope)— have more urgent matters to which they must attend. Yet the lay vocation, as understood by Evangelical Catholicism, is not primarily one of Church management, in which only a small minority of laity will be involved. The lay vocation is evangelism: of the family, the workplace, and the neighborhood, and thus of culture, economics, and politics. As Evangelical Catholicism rejects the clericalism by which the lay members of the Church were simply to pray, pay, and obey (or, as a nineteenth-century aristocratic English variant had it, to hunt, shoot, and entertain), so it rejects a clericalized notion of lay vocation as primarily having to do with working in the parish office or diocesan chancery. 34 There is important work to be done in those venues, and lay Catholics can and ought to do more of it, thus freeing priests and bishops for the work they were ordained to do. But the primary lay vocation, as John Paul II taught in the 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, is to bring the Gospel into all of those parts of “the world” to which the laity has greater access than those who are ordained: the family, the mass media, the business community, the worlds of culture, and the political arena, for example. (1)

I’ve mentioned before that I am sort of reviewing this book – Evangelical Catholic – slowing – digesting the differences between how its author describes the changes manifesting now in Roman Catholicism – and what I see in the present and in the hsotiry of Lutheranism – which was originally called – “evangelical catholic”.    Not as a devotional persay, but it ends up being so for me.

Today is no different – as I think about the deacons I train  (historically assistants in the college – as they were/are ordained )and about the work of the people here in my church.  Wiegel’s point about their having a primary vocation of evangelist is an awesome point – I highly agree – and it is their primary vocation, as they bring the gospel into their homes, into their friends homes, into their workplaces and the conversations they have out there in the not so “real world”.  

Some would argue that the proclamation of the gospel is the role of the clergy and indeed it is.   But it isn’t only the clergy’s work – it is the work of the family of God – YHWH & Son’s (and daughters!)  The pastors and priests (and bishops and deacons ) preachin a way that the laity comprehend the grace of God, which the Holy Spirit actively embodies in every moment of their lives – bringing joy and peace into some of the most challenging situations that they, and those around them, encounter.   It is there – that the gospel is shown through their lives, through their loves, through the hope they have – even in the midst of situations that would be considered hopeless.   Places that wouldn’t necessarily be a place where my black shirt and collar are welcome.   

But that is a harder calling for the priest and pastor, to preach in that way.  It is a more demanding way, is a sense from the people who sit in the pews.

It is, and isn’t. 

For Evangelism isn’t a duty, it is an act of love.  It is realizing that what has brought healing and peace to our broken lives will bring healing and peace to others lives.  Such healing and peace – in the midst of such brokenness, that we cannot bear to see those who are broken in such a way continue in it.   In love we come to them – to help them with their burdens, to calm their anxious souls, to bring healing to shattered lives and shattered relationships.  That means – that most of the time – it is the laity that see it first – that come alongside them – that bear them to us, were we continue the word and sacrament minsitry together.  

It’s not the laity or the clergy – it is the people of God – as He has called and equipped and sent us…. to bring His love. 

This is a good thing!   A very incredible thing!  God using us all…. how awesome!

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 80). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Beauty of the Liturgy – Evangelical Catholic VIII

Church HDR

Church HDR (Photo credit: I_am_Allan)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day”
 1  Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. 2  Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. 3  Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. 4  Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, 5  “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” 6  He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 7  Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. 8  You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” John 12:1-8 (MSG)

“Evangelical Catholicism embraces this rediscovery of beauty as a primary category for understanding God and his ways and applies it to the Church’s liturgy. Its approach to church architecture, church decoration, liturgical music, liturgical vesture, and all the other tangibles of the Church’s liturgical life proceeds from the question, “Is this beautiful in such a way that it helps disclose the living God in Word and Sacrament?” In that respect, Evangelical Catholicism’s approach to liturgy is not somewhere “between” the approaches favored by liturgical traditionalists and liturgical progressives, but ahead of the curve of the now-tiresome Liturgy Wars.”  (1)

As I continue my journey through the book Evangelcial Catholic – I came to the above quote regarding the Liturgy.  Comes at an auspicious time, as I am about to start a Adult Bible Study on the Liturgy.

( I am started reading the book for two reasons – the first being a friend recommended it to help me understand where the Catholic Church is heading and secondly, because the Lutheran Churches were once know as the Evangelical Catholic Church )

As I think about the movement of the Liturgy (my study is called “The Dance of the Liturgy”) this concept of beauty is important – if not critical.  It does what I’ve long contended – that in the battles of the owrship wars, the focus in not in the right place – and both extremes make the same error in what they point out is the problem.  Let me illustrate.  Let’s take church A – the are traditional (hymns, pipe organs, chausables, the pastor rapidly goes through the motions  in a near monotone) but the organ is played too loud, the people can’t sing and they do not know what is behind the symbolism of the liturgy, the music, the sanctuary.   Church B is contetemporary/progressive – (band which is made up of low level skilled musicians that don’t quite sync together, casually dressed pastor/priest) but again the music is too loud – there is no flow or theme to the service.  Church C is like Church A – except people KNOW why they are doing what they are doing and why, the organ is used to facilitate worship, and the pastor reads, preaches and prays in a way that is more akin to a dialgoe and story), and Church D – the praise band – moved to the side – practiced and whether simple or complex play as one and focus is such that  facilitates the singing of the people, the service is designed to instill the truth that God comes to them, brings them to life and guides their life in response.

Churches A & B are always held up as the examples of why the other form of worship isn’t “good and right and beneficial”.  They distract people from why they are there, they give rise to complaints and dissatisfaction. They become the basis of the worship wars – the argument that is equivelant to saying the sanctuary is 1/4 full or 3/4 empty.  And they completely take the discussion away from the purpose of the sanctuary – why it was dedicated.  To be a place where

In C & D, I contend – there would be little discussion or nature of worship wars.  The churches are focused on creating an atmosphere that is such that God is easily revealed through word and sacrament.  It’s a complete package – the skills of all of those who facilitate worship.  Where the musician and the pastor are not the focus – but everything blends in together in such a way that it is seamless – that God is the focus, His presence revealed, His love and mercy known and received.

Where the worship, the sermon, and the ‘execution” of them, the actual decor and atmosphere – whether simple or ornate, whether 20 people or 5000 – is “beautiful” because what it is supposed to be, the people of God gathered into His presence, receiving His gifts through (not of) word and sacrament, is what it is.

May all our churches become more and more beautiful, as we abound in His love.

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 71-72). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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