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Why We Don’t Understand the Sin is Sin… a matter of perspective.

clydes-cross-2

Devotional Thought of the Day!
31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all. 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:3 (NLT)

999    And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.   

We must see things in their proper and real perspective if we are to live well. But the key to this seeing, in turn, is loving things rightly. If we over-love things, we tend to over-value them in our minds in order to rationalize our over-valuing of them in our lives. If we under-love God and people, we tend to undervalue them in our mind to rationalize our undervaluing of them in our lives. If I love money more than God, I tend to think of money as an absolute need and God as a mere extra. Thus loving and seeing depend on each other. If I do not love properly, this clouds my vision. And if my vision is clouded, I will not love aright.
This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it. Say I want to take revenge on someone. God forbids this. Therefore I see God as a bother. But if I first loved God, I would then see that revenge was the bother. When I am in the grip of a lust, God appears as a puritanical interferer. But when I am in the grip of God’s love, lust appears as it truly is: a pale perversion of true love and joy.

Since the 1980’s I have been reading books and articles written by Peter Kreeft, from Socrates meets Jesus and the Best Things in Life, to the classic “Christianity for Modern Pagans”  (which is simply a modernized version of Pensees by Pascal) The man is brilliant, as much of a scholar as any I’ve met or worked with over the years.  Nothing he has written has hit me as deeply as this.

We see God as a bother, we see His rules to heavy-handed, too restrictive, As Kreeft notes we see him as the puritanical interfered, whose disciples are for the most part hypocrites.  If we are honest, we don’t understand the logic in them, simply because we don’t understand that we are truly, deeply, loved by God

And it all boils down to what the Apostle Paul wrote nearly 2000 years ago.  It boils down to love. It boils down to what we adore, what we cling to, what we cherish and value, what we try to perfect in life. What we love, we are committed to, what we love, we guard and protect.  We persevere to keep it in our own lives.

In Colossians, the apostle Paul talks of circumcision our hearts, cutting away these idols, letting them fade into the distance. In doing so, we can see His love clearly. demonstrated there on the cross. A love for us that no person, nothing could ever have. The more we love God, the more these other things we cling to are revealed to be what they are. The more we don’t need them around. When we realize we can love God, this stuff we have wrongly loved is revealed to be the crap that it is. And its grip on us grows dim, as the hymn noted, in the light of His glory and grace (love).

That is why we preach Christ crucified, the hope of glory, the hope of finding what we can truly love. For He loves us.

I pray we all come to know Him more, that this time leaves us the room to contemplate His love.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 192.

Why Was the Door Still Locked? A sermon on John 20:19-31

Jesus LaughingWhy Was the Door Still Locked?
John 20:19-31

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus cast a shadow on your doubt, as you dwell in Their Presence!

 The Little Details

One of my professors used to talk about the fact that everything in scripture is there for a reason, that there are some small details that are there for a reason.

His goal was to stop us from reading through the scriptures, to slow down, take time, and savor the words.

It took me about 20 years to realize how right Doug Dickey was!

It does cause some interesting observations when you slow down and try to savor each phrase and word. Those observations, in turn, make you realize some incredible things about God, and how He loves you.

Today’s insight comes from pondering a question form something I noticed in verse 26.

“The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before… “

Wait, did you say the doors were locked, the second time Jesus appeared without entering them?

Hence the title of the sermon, “Why was the door still locked?”

But they already encountered Jesus!

The first time they were locked, they were locked because they were afraid of the Jews,

But they had Jesus bless them with peace, not once but twice!

They had been given the Holy Spirit, as the entire church would be on Pentecost.

They had been given divine authority, DIVINE authority to forgive sins, or determine that people in bondage to the sins they would not abandon…

They had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, who had been crucified, and his side pierced with a spear….and had crushed death…walking out of the grave…

They were witnesses of this…and they were still afraid, hiding behind a locked and barred door like…. Cowards?  Like those whose doubts got the better of them?

They still struggled with doubt, in fact, on the day of the ascension they still struggled with it.

In the scene where Jesus ascends, right before the Great Commission is given, Matthew records, “17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!  “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”  Matthew 28:17-18 (NLT2)

You see, we talk about Thomas as being the one who was labeled as the doubter.  But he wasn’t the only one hiding behind locked doors.

Just like some of us struggle with things going on in our lives today. We might doubt, we might struggle, and while we need to grow, that is not something we should hide, or feel guilty and ashamed about.
That is important in times like this when we struggle to figure out what God is doing, or not doing in this pandemic. We don’t have to hide our struggle. It isn’t sin to struggle, it isn’t sin to doubt, it is sin to hide the doubt, or deny it, to pretend we understand it all.
Were the words only for Thomas?

When Jesus says, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” I don’t think he is talking just to Thomas, but to all the believers in the room.

For even though they see him, they are struggling with putting it all together. They are like the young father, who asked by Jesus if he believed, he had to say “yes, but help me in my unbelief!”

That should be our attitude – going to the very God we don’t always understand, or even when we do, we struggle with, and ask for His help.

We have to remember that He is there, that He loves us, and cares for us.

There are written that YOU may continue to believe!

That is the very reason that what Jesus did was written, here it again,

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

The entire scripture is a history of God acting in the lives of His people.  From providing Adam and Eve a sacrifice to help them cover the evidence of their sin, to the second coming that God promised will happen. 

Notice that it doesn’t say the doctrine is written, but the actual things Jesus has done. Not that doctrine isn’t important, but believing that He is risen, that He has the power to do all he did, enables us to believe that because He is risen, we are risen indeed.

And we can believe that, even when struggling behind locked doors, and trying to figure out what is going on, for Jesus Loves you.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And therefore… you are risen indeed.

 

The Could Not See This… Will We Refuse to?

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

John 9:40–41 (CEV) — When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked, “Are we blind?” 41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”

And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.
At the end, when we look into the eyes of our divine Lover, we shall see ourselves in totality, we shall see ourselves as He saw us and designed us from the beginning. At the end we shall touch the beginning. We shall hear Him sing to us something like the popular songwriter Dan Fogelberg’s lovely song “Longer”:
Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean,
Higher than any tree ever grew,
Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens,
I’ve been in love with you.
Jesus says something very much like this: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Mt 25:34).

Some avoid seeing it by locking onto tradition. Others by keeping busy working in the mission field. Others dive deep into academic approaches to theology. Some dive deep into doing things, into being a workaholic, as if over-using the talents of God is pleasing to Him.

I think all of these pursuits allow us to avoid actually interacting with God, much as Israel did at Sinai when they pleased that God speak through Moses. This is the modern version of Phariseeism – avoiding God.

I am not sure why we are afraid to explore the width and length, the height and depth of the love of God, but we are!  We don’t want to know that God passionately loves us, that He desires an intimate relationship with us.  We scoff at such, saying it sounds to sexual or even to effeminate. And we are less likely to talk and meditate on this love that 9 guys are to sit down and watch a Hallmark movie together!

So we remain blind to the immense love of God. We know all about Him, we can defend His existence, but like the Pharisees standing in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, we remain blind.

We are unable to sit and meditate on the love of God – because we are afraid of that love.

Read that line again…

Kreeft’s words get to the heart of the matter. They are glorious to read, yet as glorious as they are, they are challenging.

To look into Jesus’ eyes, and see how He sees us?

To see the depth of love that He has for us when we struggle to know who we really are?.

It is time to stop all that…

It is time to be still, and let your eyes be opened and see that He is God – and that he loves YOU!  Amen!

 
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.

The Kind of Faith We Need in These Days

Devotional Thought of the Day:

David sneaked over and cut off a small piecen of Saul’s robe, but Saul didn’t notice a thing. 5 Afterwards, David was sorry that he had even done that, †7 and he told his men, “Stop talking foolishly. We’re not going to attack Saul. He’s my king, and I pray that the LORD will keep me from doing anything to harm his chosen king.”  1 Sam. 24:4-7 CEV

One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King’s mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, “Our Father.”
Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace.

Of all the things King David did in his life that demonstrate trust in God, there are two that stick out as incredible.

Twice he had the opportunity to kill the man who was hunting him down, who was stalking him.  He could have killed him right there, and the nation would have never batted an eye.

He didn’t though, and he demonstrated the kind of faith we need in this time, a faith that can obey God, even when disobeying would make life easier, or less worrisome. Faith that isn’t content with self-preservation, but trusts God when we are oppressed, when we are struggling, and when we are being tempted

Spurgeon is right of course, that those who are weak in faith, yet still have it, will find themselves in heaven, but the earth will be more like hell. Anxieties and self-preservation will lead to temptations which will lead to the brokenness of sin.

Yet trusting God, hearing His voice as He cleanses us of all sin and shows us how to truly love others, is what faith is all about.  It sets aside our fears, knowing that God is bigger than what our minds imagine.

He is with us… and His love inspires and empowers our ability to love more than seek after our own needs and preservation.

even in the presence of those who think they are our enemies…

God is with you and loves you….

AMEN!

 

 
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

When the Struggle is Real….

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

24  The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away. 25  When your people meet, you will fill my heart with your praises, LORD, and everyone will see me keep my promises to you. 26  The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope. Psalm 22:24-26 (CEV)

Joshua, please come and rescue us! The Amorite kings from the hill country have joined together and are attacking us. We are your servants, so don’t let us down. Please hurry!” Joshua 10:6 CEV

Grace and mercy are there where Christ on the cross takes your sin from you, bears it for you, and destroys it. To believe this firmly, to keep it before your eyes and not to doubt it, means to view the picture of Christ and to engrave it in yourself. Likewise, all the saints who suffer and die in Christ also bear your sins and suffer and labor for you, as we find it written, “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfil the command of Christ” [Gal. 6:2]. Christ himself exclaims in Matthew 11 [:28], “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you.” In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ.

I sat in the E.R. hallway, trying to come up with something to calm my anxious soul.  The lady, screaming profanities at the top of her voice didn’t help, but I was able to pray for her, and the staff that tried to calm her down. The flood of traffic, and the delay at seeing how I was bothered and comforted me at the same time.  After all, if they were really worried about me, wouldn’t they have me in a bed, and be constantly looking in on me?

So I sat in the hall… trying to block out the noises, trying to find some sort of peace.

My prayer was not so different from the people sending word to Joshua ( whose name is shared with our Savior Jesus) Lord have mercy!  Come help… make everything all right.

It took a while, six hours later to say I had severe gas bloating….

Six hours that seemed like a year.

As I have struggled with a few serious health issues over there, I will admit, I have wondered if God hates me. I have wondered if this sin or that is not forgiven, and that is why I have to suffer. I wonder if the suffering I help people endure in the churches I pastor is my fault, It is not a challenge to spiral, to let depression or anxiety fill the space where I forgot God was…

He is still there of course, as Psalm 22 reminds us.  He has not forsaken us in our sufferings, He is there. Reminding each other of that..of God who is present, who is merciful, who is loving,,. well, that is how we carry each other’s burdens.

As to sin being the cause of our personal suffering, and the suffering all around us, consider the words Luther was able to pen…

Here sins are never sins… for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ!

Be at peace, Christ has not only overcome the world, He has overcome your world.

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 105.

The Thing I Need You to Know About My Religion…

Do your job pastorDevotional Thought of the Day:

My dear friends, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to get along with each other. Don’t take sides. Always try to agree in what you think 1 Cor. 1:10 CEV

18 The message about the cross doesn’t make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God’s power at work.  1 Cor. 1:18 CEV

Finally, we praise His kingdom, His power, and His glory because they are nothing but the reign of love. “Why do you speak of nothing else?” “Because there is nothing else.” John the Beloved Disciple knew the point of it all.

I have heard from people that don’t yet trust God that the church tries to control people’s beliefs. That we try to indoctrinate people on everything from pseudo-science ot politics and ethics. Although I haven’t heard this in years, last week I heard it twice.  One person at the table we were sharing at a music trade show was talking on this concept, looked up and saw my color.  We both were a little embarrassed!

If only changing people’s minds about Jesus and the church was that easy!

Actually, I am glad it isn’t.

It causes me to focus on what is the most important thing, in fact, the one thing I need you to know. It is also the secret of getting a church, full of people with different thoughts, beliefs, agendas to get along with each other, and agree.

For if they understand this message of the cross, then everything else falls into place.

But to many people, it does seem foolish, unbelievable, moronic even.

Here it is, the one thing I need you to know about my religion, about my faith.

God loves you!

That is the message of the cross. The creator of the universe loves you, and the cross is His demonstration of how much He loves you!

You may question why it is true!  I question why He loves me, it doesn’t make sense.
You may question what this means, or how it happens, been there as well.
You may even question that He exists, or whether He knows you exist.  I have had, and occasionally still have those days as well.

But at the end of the day, you can depend on this, He loves You.

Enough to heal your brokenness, enough to show you mercy, enough to comfort your tears and dance for joy when you spend time with Him.

God loves you…

That’s what I need you to know…for everything in Christianity finds its origin in that love.

Can’t force you to know it, can only invite you to experience it…

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 47.

Why I Am Thankful for Non-Theologian Believers

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT

The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.

But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.

To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”

In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.

And I know I am not alone.

We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.

you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.

That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.

It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.

And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.

They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.

This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.

Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. Amen.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

50,000+ reads, 578 subscribers, 1866 posts, and a thought

This underground church blessed m with great peace…
I pray my blog has helped you experience it over the years.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT

The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in it there was no light. The second was the holy place; here stood a lampstand with seven arms and seven lamps. The third was the outer court; it was open to the sky and to the sun’s light. This is a metaphor for the Christian person, whose spirit is the holy of holies, God’s dwelling in the darkness of faith without light. For the Christian believes what is neither seen, nor felt, nor comprehended. The soul is the holy place with its seven lamps, that is, every form of reason,18 discrimination, knowledge,19 and understanding20 of bodily and visible things. The body is the outer court that is open to everyone, so that everyone can see what one does and how one lives.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.

This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.

Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.

And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.

There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.

Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?

It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.

You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.

Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.

That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.

The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.

It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.

Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.

That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.

Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


The Missing Piece in Missional Thinking: D_____ !

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?”   Matt 11:2-3  TEV

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you.  Ps. 9:9-10 TEV

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn  THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)

Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.

I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.

And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.

And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.

The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.

Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.  ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?

His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs.  It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus.   It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us.   But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….

Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all.  Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.

Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything.  The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma.  The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.

So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

 

The Reformation wasn’t a call to war…..but a call to a life of repentance

Large Catechism  COmmunionDevotional Thought of the Day:
37  Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38  “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 18:37-38 (NLT2)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I wish I could have seen the body language and tone of voice of Pilate when he asked, “What is Truth?”

Was it from exasperation?  Did his non-verbals betray a sad sense of fatalism or sarcasm?  Did he really want to know the truth, but feel that his search was so in vain?

He was face to face with God’s revelation of the truth, and couldn’t see it. He heard it, but he didn’t realize it. 

Approximately 1500 years later, Luther was struggling with the truth as well.  He found the truth, and the mercy it promised so much like chasing after the wind.  What he had been taught obscured it, to the extent that he knew deep despair and depression. 

The hammering of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg wasn’t a call to arms, it wasn’t the equivalent of the first shot of the American Revolution, it wasn’t a cry for the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It was a plea to examine what was believed, and compare it to scripture, in the hope of finding out the truth of God’s love.

My denomination celebrates this day, and I am not sure I do.  I don’t regret the work of Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz and their brothers, but I do regret the necessity.  And I, even more, regret that we’ve lost the focus, that the events surrounding Luther’s search for and finding grace are lost in the triumphalism, in the “we’ve shown them.”

You see, in my mind, the reformation should still be about redirecting us to the mercy of Christ, and to the fact we need it.  It should be about the hope we who are broken find in the healer. It must be about Jesus.

That is why the first thesis read.

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

To remember the beginning of the reformation means we remember the call to a life of repentance.

And that means we have to admit where we are wrong and be willing to be questioned regarding our presuppositions, about our theology and practice. We have to accept the invitations to discuss where we have obscured Jesus, and be willing to repent.

That is reformation, that is putting Christ first, and seeing Him at work, redeeming and reforming His people.

 

Luther, M. (1996). Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of indulgences: October 31, 1517 (electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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