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With God’s Grace….even this is possible.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…

Then Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”  Matthew 4:1 HCSB

15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 
17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16:15-19  HCSB

216      With God’s grace, you have to tackle and carry out the impossible… because anybody can do what is possible.

I sit here, just finishing my devotional time up, having done the reading, having prayed, and now I try to put what I’ve read into some kind of concrete summation. After that Iw ill try and write a sermon, but to be honest, it is going to be a struggle.

Even writing this is, as I try to think, what will people hear tomorrow, what might they read in this, that will help them know God’s love, know God’s mercy, know His comfort.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year, a day when we look at Christ’s second coming, not from the point of judgment, but from the point of the promises given to us in Baptism being fully seen, fully revealed, fully experienced.  it supposed to be a joyous celebration, yet my heart will struggle, caught up in what it should be, versus where we are, in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.  

It seems impossible, and I understand how Moses felt, trying to find reasons to no go back to Egypt, to the place of suffering. How will they believe?

And yet, it is the very thing I need to preach, the lesson in my gospel reading this morning, the promise that this valley is not unending, the promise backed up in the very confession of Peter, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

There is a lot to unpack in that confession, from Jesus unique role as the Son of God, to what it means to be the Messiah, the One anointed by God to save God’s people.  All of God’s people, those the Spirit calls and gathers.

Because of His work, the gates of Hell have been shattered, that the bondage of sin has been cut, that we, in the midst of the shadow of death, can have hope.

God is with us, the promise is complete, even though we don’t see it fully…yet.

That is why we are reminded by Josemaria that we can tackle and carry out the impossible, a reminder I need today, and tomorrow.  For it is in knowing God’s grace in the middle of the impossibility, that we realize He is working through us, with us, and it is His word that will make a difference.

That’s what I have to count on tomorrow, and every day until we see the reality of Christ the King is clearly visible.  For He is coming, and His Spirit is here, comforting us, reminding us that He is with us, that we aren’t alone. 

And because of that, the impossible is not.  For we walk with Him.  And somehow, others will know this, because our words and lives will testify to His presence.  

Lord, have mercy on us.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 940-942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Real Spiritual War We Must Fight…

Life is painDevotional Thought for our days…
24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TEV)

13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.

60      Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.

Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders.  Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy.  Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.

Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation.  And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection.  (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_

The struggle is real.

The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives.  Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,

But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it?  Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it?  Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle?  A different sort of discipline?

There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing.  I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.

So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it?  Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries?  Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?

I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us.  Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God.  These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.

That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple.  Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.

In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it!  We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us.  FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far… 

And still, He is here…

 


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Can You Leave Your Friend there… in danger?

Devotional Thought for our days…

20 “If a truly good person starts doing evil and I put him in a dangerous situation, he will die if you do not warn him. He will die because of his sins—I will not remember the good he did—and I will hold you responsible for his death.  Ezekiel 3:20  GNT

13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. John 15:13 (GNT)

993         In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.

I read an article the other day, that made the argument that a pastor cannot be friends with his congregation.  That he has to stay aloof, separated so that he can call them to repentance when needed, and that they will hear him when he does.

One of my questions in the conversation that followed was, “shouldn’t your friend also care enough, love you enough to call you to repentance”  I had several questions about the concept, but this question is one I think we need to address today.

Should a friend help a person see the error of their way?

Or should we simply ignore the path they were on, letting them move on to perdition?

This job isn’t just a pastors.  It belongs to anyone that cares about anyone else. A parent, a teacher, a co-worker, a son or daughter, a friend.

There are a couple of challenges to this.  

The first is taking sin seriously enough.  St Josemaria helps here, helping us realize that sin can only be reconciled at the cost of life, the life of Jesus.   His brutal death, the shedding of His blood.  We get that about murder, or grand theft, or adultery.  I am not sure we realize that about that little white lie, or lust, or envy or gossip, And what about not treasuring the restful time we call the Sabbath when we gather with other believers and weep and laugh and rejoice together? Do we see this as sin?  

The second is more akin to comfort.  We are afraid to broach the subject, we are afraid our desire to care for our friend will be misunderstood as condemning them (We are trying to stop that!)  We are afraid of that awkward moment when they have to look in the mirror when they have to see their sin and error.

But their salvation, is that not worth the discomfort we might experience in calling them back? 

These are hard questions, and yet, evangelism is not a matter of “Law”, but one of Gospel, one of Love.  One of Joy.  We want people to experience this because we know the difference being forgiven makes.   We know the difference being clean creates in our lives, and knowing the hope of eternal life.

Our friends need this to know about this love of God that can take a sinner and make them a friend, that revive a broken soul, that can restore to its strength.  We can’t-do this because we have to, because it is a duty because it is what good Christians do.  We do this because we love them, and we love the God who is merciful.  For then, our thoughts aren’t about preserving our life or being comfortable.  It is about knowing them.

SO that we all can have the same heart and mind – that of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Apologetics is Never, Ever, Defending the Faith!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our Days:

18 All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him. 19 God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace. 20 So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is as if God is calling to you through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God. 21 Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NCV

15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect.  1 Peter 3:15b-16

870         Matters can rarely be resolved by aggressive polemics which humiliate people. And things are certainly never cleared up when among those arguing the case there is a fanatic.

In my high school freshman or sophomore yearbook, there is a note from an acquaintance with I used to argue with a lot.  We were both interested in history and debate.  She was a disciple of Engels and Marx, me, not so much.  Her note was full of admiration, a salute to our ability to debate and still respect each other.  (despite frustrating the hell out of each other – because we couldn’t understand the position of the other! )

As I read the words from St. Josemaria this morning, my heart brought back the memory of those words.  And of many presentations, I have seen about “apologetics”.  Usually, these include th idea that we are on a “crusade”, that we have to defeat our enemy, crushing their logic, unveiling their inconsistencies, doing battle and claiming the victory in Jesus name.

There was no call for respecting them as those Jesus died for, whom God created.  No sense of love, or peace that would envelop the conversation, and rarely, any hope that was explained and explored.  I encountered this as well when teaching world religions once, where several of my seminary level students wanted to know how to crush people who depended on false Gods.  They chose the path of the fanatic and the aggressive polemics that leaves people broken and crushed. 

Compare that to the verses above, the idea of being ready to explain the reason (this is where we get the word apologetic from btw) for the hope we have!  Peter goes on to say, but do so with gentleness and respect.  Look at how many times Paul mentions peace that God makes with us.  Look at the idea that God is calling to those whom He would reconcile to Himself, to those He would give His peace to, through us. Reading that, does it seem that the tactic best suited to doing so is walking with them, exploring this hope we have, this incredible idea that God wants to live with us in peace.  Helping them see that Jesus would walk with them, in all the ways described in the beautiful words of Psalm 23.

Some might say this doesn’t allow us to properly deal with their sin, but I don’t agree.  Sin is brokenness, and whether we will admit that everything we do is sin ( and Christians play this game too!) we do recognize the brokenness it causes in our lives. Sin is not just our deliberate rebellion in this action or that, but those sins are the symptoms of the brokenness of sin, something every religion deals with, mostly through threats and punishment, of being cut off and sent away.

Christianity meets that brokenness offering hope, offering peace with God, because of the cross and the empty grave.  A completely novel way not just to scare people away from future sin, but to bring comfort to the shame, the guilt, and despair that we all live with because of our pasts.  

This is the apologia, the hope, the peace, knowing the love of God who comes to us.It’s not something we have to defend or hit people over the head with.  It is something offered with great love, with mercy consistent to God. 

It is what we depend upon, what we hope for… it is Jesus….with us. 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3559-3560). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Please tell us, “What Does this Mean (for me)?”

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 I will thank you, O Lord, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 10 Your constant love reaches the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies!  Psalm 57:9-10  GNT

52 “How terrible for you, you experts on the law. You have taken away the key to learning about God. You yourselves would not learn, and you stopped others from learning, too.”  Luke 11:52  NCV

Baptism has also shifted away from identity with Jesus in his death and resurrection and turned into “my personal testimony to others that I have given my life over to Jesus.” The spiritual life in this case is not a passionate embrace of God signified by a baptism into his death and resurrection but a passionate embrace of my personal decision to follow Jesus signified by my conversion. In the outworking of this experiential spirituality, baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus is replaced by confidence in my personal decision. And baptism no longer has any meaning. (1)

In Martin Luther’s small catechism, there is one phrase that constantly appears.

What does this mean?

It appears so often, that it has become part of Lutheran’s vocabulary, a phrase that is reduced to a thought.

Even so, as we excel at defining the concept, it seems we’ve lost our ability to make the connection. We have become the experts in the law Jesus is talking about in Luke’s gospel, able to become experts on the Greek and Hebrew, experts on the nuances of the history/ grammar, but we’ve lost the key to it all, and in our pride, refused to learn.   The impact on our churches is enormous, and though the details can hold some people’s attention and fascination, it does only that, and it neglects their heart, their soul.

This is demonstrated in the quote from Dr. Webber, where he summarizes a shift that took centuries, showing our teaching on baptism moving from something that had great personal meaning to a teaching that highly defines baptism, yet robs it of its connection to the person we are instructing.

But it is not just those who have lost sacramental insight that rob scripture and religious teaching of what Webber caused the Divine Embrace ( I often use “intimate relationship” while others use sacramental or incarnational).  I have seen this occur in my own denomination, as teaching on ministry becomes more and more about proper order and understanding regarding the ordained clergy than what the role of the ordained is. We are nothing more than conduits, the pipe of the pipeline that carries grace.  We are necessary only when our role is that of dispensing grace through Word and Sacrament. But our teaching has elevated the understanding of the ordained to a higher priority than preparing and placing them where people need them.

That’s where “what does it mean (to me)” is such a necessary question.  Or where we ask “so what” when someone explains the “what” of theology. We give them what the caused the psalmist to rejoice, the revelation of God’s love, of God’s faithfulness, of a God comes to us, and shares with us His glory, His love, HIs peace. A God who nurtures and cares for you and I – not just some group which we may be on the fringe of, but He desires and cares for us specifically.

He embraces us.

This is what evangelism is about, what sharing the hope we have in these dark times means.  It is the gospel we preach,  it is why we should teach scripture. To answer the question that they should have – “what does this mean…. to me?”

May God bless us, as we reach out with His love… and may they hear it.  AMEN!

 

(1)  Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

 

Anyone and Everyone. A Pentecost Sermon on John 7:37-39

Anyone and Everyone

John 7:37-39

I.H.S.

 May the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life not only bring you the comfort but also may it bring the love that will flow out others and change their lives!

Quiz:

Since it is the end of the school year, I thought it would be appropriate to give you all a little quiz about Pentecost this morning.  The first is yes/no, the second is multiple choice.

Question #1  Is Pentecost only a New Testament “holy day.”

Nope, it was an Old Testament Feast, celebrating the harvest.  At this point you can see what the rest of the harvest might look like, we see it commanded in Leviticus 23:15.

Question #2  How many people did the Holy Spirit fall upon at Pentecost.

A)  120       B)  12    C) I am not sure

How many think A? B?  Anyone want to admit to C?

Well C was the right answer, and anyone who didn’t get both questions right has to stay after service for some much-needed catechesis.  Don’t know what catechesis is?  Well, it’s a lot like going to a doughnut shop with some friends and having a good discussion.  All those who got the answers right can also come.

Back to the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost, which is the reason we are here today.  If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, I am not sure we would be here together, and Pentecost is where the church came alive, as the Spirit falls on the people of God, creates in us faith, and transforms us into the Father’s children.  

It is a feast day where we see that anyone who believes is welcome and that everyone who believes will be given the Holy Spirit, who will flow out of their lives into a world that is incredibly thirsty and need to know they are loved.

Anyone who believes

I want you to hear the invitation that Jesus gives in the Gospel, that anyone who is thirsty can come to Him.

It doesn’t matter your age, or your whether you are male or female.  It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 95, it doesn’t matter if you are from Indonesia, from Austria, from Guyana or even Boston.

On the first Pentecost they came from all over, religious people, people that came because of culture, we even know that some who weren’t Jewish, but simply curious about the God Jews worshiped came. Many didn’t know what they were thirsting for, like the crowd we heard about in Athens two weeks ago, but they knew they didn’t have the answers they needed in life.

They were thirsty,

Jesus goes on to talk about any that who believe in Him can not only come but that they can have that thirst quenched.

Believe in Him, not believe about him, or believe He was this or that.  Believe in Him, trust Him, depend on Him, take God at His word to be involved in your life.

That is what believing in Him is about.  As one pastor put it, the kind of belief, faith, and dependence that causes us to participate and contemplate on this incredible love.  He described it this way,

Christian contemplation ponders, reflects, gazes, and delights in the wonders and the mysteries of God active in this world “reconciling the world to himself”

Even as we know and begin to trust that Jesus loves us this much, it takes us aback, it is too incredible, to amazing, and trusting in Him causes us delight and joy, as we explore as Paul urges us to

18  you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God
That is what happens as God makes us His children, it is a miracle of our baptism, of our Pentecost.  It is the beginning of trusting God when He says, “I love you, let me provide and care for you,”

And when we come to know this love, it changes everything, for the Spirit has brought us to life.

Everyone will have the Spirit

Let’s go back to that second question for a moment, how many people did the Holy Spirit descend upon?  We know it was more than 3132 because it wasn’t just the men, but their family, their wives and children that were baptized that day.  And upon each of them, just as upon us, the promises of the Holy Spirit was made as sure as the water was wet.

It is what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit being poured out on us that is amazing, that from our hearts will flow the Holy Spirit. That from our hearts the love of God will pour out with the Spirit, reaching and touching those around us.

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy.

All this talk of prophesying, it just means speaking for God, sharing His love, sharing the message that the Spirit uses to bring others to life and faith.

A message that we all have, empowered by the Spirit we all have been given, and share with those who like us, need to know they can trust in God, that they can depend on Him, that He is with them, and with us.

This promise of the Holy Spirit being given to anyone who believes, to everyone who believes is why Jesus was born, and died, and rose. It is why Jesus when He was drawn to heaven, did what He promised and had the Spirit given to us.  The Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit has come, and is yours, just as Jesus said.

He is here, as sure as God’s promise….

The Spirit is here, to transform our hearts, and flow from them to bring healing to this broken world.

And here in our hearts, the Comforter provides His incredible peace, and we can relax, protected by Jesus, our hearts and minds kept safe by Him.  AMEN!

The Question is Not Relationship or Religion. A Plea for Communion with Christ.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day
21  For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. 22  Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25  For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 (TEV)
The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.[i]

The relationship of spirituality to God’s story has a long history in Christian thought. This relationship has been affirmed, challenged, distorted, lost, and regained in various epochs of history. Today spirituality is separated from God’s story. In his crucial work, Spirituality and Theology, Philip Sheldrake points out that “contemporary spiritual writing is open to the accusation that it amounts to little more than uncritical devotion quite detached from the major themes of Christian faith.”2 In order to understand this separation, I will comment briefly in this chapter on (1) how God’s story was affirmed in the ancient Christian church and (2) how the story was lost through Platonic dualism and in late medieval mysticism. In chapter 3 I will address how ancient spirituality was regained with some moderation by the Reformers and how Christian spirituality was lost again in the modern shifts toward intellectual and experiential spiritualities together. We will look at these points in Western history where the stone skims the water and through this history gain a perspective on the crisis of spirituality in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (treated in chapters 4 and 5).[ii]

Gandhi has been credited with saying that he loved Christ and His teachings, and if he found a real Christian he would become one. The modern version is those he say they love Christ but hate the religion his followers created. They want a relationship with God, but like too many theologians, they want it on their own terms.  As if man is equal to God as if man gets to judge God, and force God to modify the covenant he created for our benefit.

The religious respond to this, not with understanding, but often with contempt.   Or with the condescension of thinking that we have to logically work to correct their sinful narcissism.

Both Robert Webber and Pope Benedict this morning warn us about this, noting that far too often we have done the same as those we question.  Our theology and philosophy is used to put God into a box, to prove His existence, and to prove our perception of His plan.  The Pope warns of this with the quote, “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.”   As if man could do this!  Webber mentions the same concept as he promises to track the history of the divorce of spirituality (the divine embrace) from God’s story.

We’ve been so eager to know about God, we chased after that without knowing Him.

And those who are critical of us, they pick up on this ironic tragedy.

What they see is either a scholastic approach to religion devoid of the relationship or an experience of God devoid of living with Him as our Lord, our Master.  In both cases we set aside scripture, or have it subtly twisted in our minds, and we get to judge whether it is binding or not, whether it is “clear and logical” or not.

So what is the solution?  How do we ensure our humility, and stop playing as if we have to “prove” God’s logic, while at the same time submitting to its wisdom?

I would suggest it is communion, what Webber calls “spirituality” or the “divine embrace”.  It is what Pope Benedict calls approaching God with an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.  It is Moses at the burning bush, hearing God and taking his shoes off, or Peter getting out of the boat.  It is David, realizing he was the man in the parable, and grieving over his own sin, it is the man formerly possession by demons, sent home to tell what God did for Him, or the blind man testifying to the religious leaders.

In that moment, when we realize we are in God’s presence and realizing that He is cleansing us, healing us, declaring we are His holy and just people.  When both experience and knowledge are subject to God, and when our pride is overwhelmed by His love. When we stop trying to be observers and judges, and settle for being with our Father, and hearing Him.

This is the moment we need, the awareness of being in His presence, and of His work in our life.  It is found as water is poured over us, as we are given His Body and Blood, and know His peace, for it is found in His promise, that He is with us, and will never abandon us.

We are welcome in His presence, we are welcome to hear Him testify of His love for us, and count on His faithfulness.  AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

2 Sheldrake, Spirituality and Theology, vii. Sheldrake is one of a few contemporary authors who understand spirituality as an ancient applied theology. I fully recommend this book and Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method, rev. ed. (1991; repr., Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998).

[ii] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Dealing With the 2 Steps Forward, Three Steps Back Life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

6  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NAB)

78         You don’t feel like doing anything and there is nothing you look forward to. It is like a dark cloud. Showers of sadness fell, and you experienced a strong sensation of being hemmed in. And, to crown it all, a despondency set in, which grew out of a more or less objective fact: you have been struggling for so many years…, and you are still so far behind, so far. All this is necessary, and God has things in hand. To attain gaudium cum pace—true peace and joy—we have to add to the conviction of our divine filiation, which fills us with optimism, the acknowledgement of our own personal weakness.

There are days like yesterday when I feel like my faith, which took two steps forward the day before, takes three or four steps back.

Sometimes this is caused by my own sin, sometimes by the sins I have to help people find redemption from, sometimes from sin I see or hear about, but am not in the position to help people with, (and sometimes I do not want to) and sometimes it is something that just challenges my faith, like my 46 year battle with my health.  Some days are a perfect storm of all of the above, and I struggle to see God,

Sometimes, I do not want to.

My bet is that I am not alone

I think we all have those dark nights of the soul, those moments where we aren’t certain about God helping us, caring about us.  We are so overwhelmed, so broken that we doubt his existence, if we bother to think about Him at all.

These are difficult days, it takes an enormous effort to think of God, to not run to something else to console or comfort or distract from the despair.

St. Josemaria talks of adding to the conviction of divine filiation, to put it in our terms, our dependence on God’s love for us, and loving Him in return.  I am not going to say this is easy, for it requires us to look away from what is troubling us, and hear His voice, hear his promises, to know they are true. It’s not about our personal strength growing, but our dependence and awareness of His strength, His faithfulness. To see them as a measure of His love, His care, His work.  The way we add to our conviction of His love is to hear it, and experience it through His word, through prayer, through the Sacraments.  For all point to that day Paul tells the church in Ephesus is coming, the day when all is finished, all is complete.

A work that will be completed, a work that will be finished, a work that draws us into Him, into His eternity.  This is our hope, this is our faith, in a God that comes to us, that we might come to Him.  AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 547-552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Powerful Presence of God… some thoughts on the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16  When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17  And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.   1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (NLT)

We have quoted all of this here, not to begin an argument on this subject (his Imperial Majesty does not disapprove this article), but to make clear to all our readers that we defend the doctrine received in the whole church—that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with those things that are seen, bread and wine. We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that “death no longer has dominion over him.”7

826      You have to make your life essentially, totally eucharistic.

My father’s 88th Birthday was on Monday, and one picture of my dad continues to come to mind.  It was him, kneeling at the altar rail, wearing his sunglasses (with a  light brown tint )

I knew the reason he wore him, he was afraid of people seeing the tears that would flow as He received the body and blood of His Savior Jesus.  The presence that would lay his broken and wounded heart out, and allow healing to happen.  The tears couldn’t stop while he was there, the was nothing he could do about them.  And there was, in the midst of the tears caused by ripping open the scars, a sense of wonder at the peace.  It overwhelmed him.  There are two pictures of my dad that come to mind when I think of him in his older years, and this is the primary one.

I then think of a phenomenon that occurs when the youngest of children approach the rail in my church.  It started with one girl during an Ash Wednesday Communion service.  She was 2 and a half, and so comfortable at the rail next to her mother that communed that she grabbed hold of it, and wouldn’t let it go.  Her scream pierced the darkened church a moment later, “No I want to stay with Jesus!” she said!  Since then, almost always on their first visit, we’ve seen children do this, again and again, grasping onto the rail, or trying to come back after their parents returned to their seat.  Far too many times for it to be a coincidence, and my elders and deacons know well to simply tell the parents it is okay for them to stay there. They are welcome, and they are at peace.

When I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, as he advises us to make our lives eucharistic, ( or some Lutherans might use the word Incarnational) it resounded to me.  The words were supported by the observation in the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession – as Melanchthon reminds us we are communing with the Body and Blood of Christ, the presence of the living resurrected Messiah, Jesus.

We are in His presence, He gives us Himself in this bread, in this wine.  It is something that should leave us in awe at His sacrifice of love, at His desire to be part of our lives, part of us.  That in this meal, at this moment, we find ourselves in the same place as the elders of Israel in Moses day.

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

He did not destroy Him, they were so at peace in the glorious presence of God that they ate and drank ( the NLT adds in “a covenant meal, ” but they were indeed celebrating the Mosaic Covenant – God’s promise to care for them, to make them His people)

I know my dad felt that overwhelmed, even if he had great trouble describing it with words.  Just the thought would bring tears to his eyes, and cause him to struggle to speak.  He would be so overwhelmed he didn’t want to approach it too often, he had to work himself us to go to that place, so overwhelming was the peace and his need for it.  I think kids are more aware of the presence of God than we could credit them for, which is why the altar is a joyous, peaceful place they don’t want to leave.

I could tell you the story of others, whose body language shared how crushed they were by the world, or by the weight of their own sins, only to approach the altar and have all that pressure dissipate, all that weight lifted.

Not because of the pastor/priest, not because of the building, but simply because of the presence of God, Because of the gift, the grace He gives us in this holy sacrament, for He gives us Himself….. and like the elders, we do not die in the presence of God, but He nourishes us, as He reminds us of the covenant, of His promise that we are His.

I pray that you and I could be like the kids, who never want to leave, as we experience His presence, as He heals our broken hearts and souls.  May we yearn for it, not to be considered pious by the world, but to experience the foretaste of heaven, and share in His glory.

May we receive His gift with gladness and joy!  AMEN!

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2935-2936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How they/We Recognize(d) Him. A sermon on Luke 24

How they We Recognized Him

Luke 24:13-35

I.H.S.

 This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.

The walk – 

I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.

Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples?  Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus?  (significant pause)

Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel.  She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus.  She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body.  It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…

Why hide?

Why hide in plain site?

In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.

It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.

And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.

So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered.  He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.

He Listens

The first thing Jesus does is listens.  Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him.  They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!

Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him.  There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony.  Think about it!  They are telling Him what happened to Him!

But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on.   Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.

We do too…

The Revelation of the Word

Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”.  He explains what we need to know about Him!  The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.

And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.

But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,

The glory of the Resurrection

For Praise God, He is risen!  (He is risen indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore, we are risen indeed!

And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.

But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.

We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.

And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….

And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him.  And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.

They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.

The Revelation of the Sacrament

He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart.  For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.

And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes.  This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.

Not only was Jesus the Messiah.

He was their risen Lord.

He had entered His glory.

And they were there to share it with Him.

What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.

He lives and because He Lives, we live as well.  We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.

That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….

Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.

Where we learn to rejoice.

Where we share in His glory.

The Ministry of Word and Sacrament

This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.

For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you!  And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.

AMEN!

 

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