God is making us… Righteous
† I.H.S. †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus be evident in your life that you may know God will fulfill His promises to you.
The Lenten Journey
Time for another Pastor Parker Poignant Parable – that comes from experience this week!
Our Lenten Journey in the Kingdom of God is like the 405 freeway. You know that there is major construction you will encounter, though you don’t know where it will be today! It will be a mess, but you will eventually get to your destination!
Some things in our lives need to be demolished. Some things need to be widened (though they seem too wide already). Things generally need to be rebuilt, and things need to be smoothed out and repaved. The hardest part is that we have to deal with someone else making all the decisions that affect our journey!
But eventually, we will get to our destination.
Each week of Lent, we will see what God has promised to do and is doing in our lives…
Some of it will be unexpected, some may seem like it is going too slow, or the detour doesn’t make sense…
And on occasion – there will be some major demolition needed…
But getting us to the final destination – and getting the work done, is the promise.
The promise is on the cover of the bulletin. It is a promise that Paul taught the church in Ephesus about when he wrote,
“And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen? AMEN!
As we realize God is in charge of the work and in charge of getting us to our destination, perfect and mature… and on time – His time; we find His peace
The Problem with Journeys
If you ask anyone living between Long Beach and Irvine, the 405 has been a mess, is a mess, and will be a mess until Jesus returns.
Sort of like life. I’ve had to drive it 4-5 times in the last two weeks, and probably a dozen since December – and you never know where the construction will happen or what ramps will be closed or open.
It’s a mess – as is life.
Sometimes we think everything will be perfect, and then something is screwed-up. Sin enters the picture and demolishes a bridge or closes the on-ramp we thought we would use. Or someone sins, accidentally, of course, and everything in life slows down to a crawl.
You know – something like the sins happening between the Ukraine and Russia….. and the related sins – like the spreading of gossip and fear.
And sooner or later, we will get frustrated by the work, the need for it, frustrated by delays, and our reactions! Like how we react when someone cuts us off on the freeway while traffic is going 20 mph.
Our lack of understanding – which leads to frustration – leads us into sin…
God’s work – done… and yet not done.
This is where we need to remember God is at work! And the job is going to get done in His time!
After all, God is far more in control than CalTrans!
We just need to trust in Him – to believe in our heart that He’s doing what He promised to do…. Hear again from Romans,
10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
God has a destination for every single one of us in mind. That destination is His side, with Him forever. He is in charge of the journey, including the detours and the slowdowns. Remember his promise that all things work for good for those who love God..? That includes all the stops, detours, and frustrations of the journey. For God uses them to teach us to trust in Him, depend on Him, to believe in our heart that He is making us right with the Father.
That is what the cross is all about – the point in this journey where God made us righteous.
This is a done deal!
We are made right with God – we are being drawn to His side…
Believing, trusting, depending on Him means we let Him be in charge of the journey – even if it reminds us of the 405 freeway or the 5 into LA.
That’s why Paul reminds us that “Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13 (NLT2)
Saying that God gives generously to us is simply saying that if He does not spare Jesus but offers Him on the cross. He did not spare His body but allowed His blood to be spilled; how much more will He make certain what He started at the cross comes to completion.
He has made you righteous – He has made you right with Him. And though you don’t know how long the journey will be, we are confident in His finishing the work – on the day we arrive and see Him face to face.
And until then – no matter how bad the 405 is, no matter how high the price of gas, no matter how many closures – we can live in His peace and in the presence of the Holy Spirit – until we get home… AMEN!
Celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus
† I.H.N. †
May the peace of God, our Father who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, transform you in a way others can see… and may that transfiguration cause others to worship Him.
- Shutting Peter up!
As I read and re-read Luke’s recounting of the Transfiguration, I tried to imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. He wasn’t having the best day…
He fell asleep on Jesus’s discussion with Moses and Elijah.
Then Peter managed to put his mouth into action prior to thinking or even asking what Jesus wanted to do…
Then he was terrified by the storm cloud surrounding him after he screwed up…
In between all that – he had to deal with seeing Jesus differently than he would ever see him…. Revealed in all of His glory, revealed as God.
I get all that. I can fall asleep kind of quickly, I can get scared by storms, and I can, as most guys can, put both feet in my mouth with room to spare…
But what I didn’t understand was how one thing happened. Luke describes it in a straightforward phrase, “They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen!’
Somehow Jesus got Peter to shut up about the most outrageous miracle Peter haver seen to that point.
Peter, the one who couldn’t shut up – silenced…
What he saw – was that incredible… so powerful… and the promise with it so intimately personal – it changed him.
Peter had to wait until after the resurrection to share the story. We do not; we get to celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus! We get to celebrate His being revealed in all His glory… to us.
- Reactions to the glory of God – First – Fear
There are two reactions to God’s glory being revealed. The first is simple – it is fear.
In Adam hiding after eating the avocado and Moses at the burning bush, you see that. As described in the epistle, you also see it when the people of God saw Moses reflecting the glory of God…
They wanted no part of it; it terrified them, much as hearing God the Father’s voice terrified Peter, James, and John. Collapse in fear level terror. Solomon and the people of God knew that fear at the dedication of the temple, just as Isaiah knew.
Simple reason, without Jesus to explain the difference, all we got is that God is pure and perfect and hates sin…and we’ve sinned.
Even the reflected glory of God in Moses’ face was enough to terrify the people of God. As Paul wrote about – they cannot understand the truth – the truth that would set them free – that God loves them and would save them from everything…
And without that knowledge – collapsing in fear is pretty much what you get.
- Reactions to the glory of God – second peace
Compare that kind of fear to the reaction of Peter, James, and John. Seeing Jesus in all His glory, along with the two of the three greatest heroes in the Old Testament, they … they fell asleep?
No terror, nor fear, no collapsing or losing control of their bodies… they rested. They had found that kind of peace in the presence of Jesus.
Imagine that – being so restful – so at peace, that you could sleep through a miracle of epic proportions?
That is the difference that Jesus makes in our lives – because of Him, we can be comfortable in having the fullness of God’s glory revealed all around us.
By the way – this isn’t just my idea – this is what Martin Luther said,
Thus it was that the three apostles who saw Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor were not afraid of them, because of the tender glory in the face of Christ [Luke 9:32]. Yet in Exodus 34[:29–35], where Christ was not present, the children of Israel could not endure the splendor and brightness in the face of Moses, so that he had to put a veil over it.
I love the way Luther phrases it – they weren’t afraid – because of the tender glory in the face of Christ…
And that was before Jesus headed to the cross and died for their sin, and for ours. It was before He instituted the Lord’s Supper – the place where we weekly encounter the glory of God, the love and compassion that are demonstrated as God gives us the Body and Blood of Christ.
IN our interactions with Jesus, whether it is studying His word, prayer, or the sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, or the Lord’s Supper – we see the glory of God so different than the people of Israel do…
We see the glory of love demonstrated to us as Jesus served, healed, taught, and looked forward to the cross for the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2)
Knowing this, we can rest – and even sleep.. peacefully!
- Now, what do we do?
Now the challenge happens, as we wake up and realize we are in God’s presence…
We could be like Peter – and simply do what makes the most sense… except we don’t have to build tabernacles or temples. We have a perfectly nice one here.
Hopefully, we don’t need the storm clouds to come out and the sky to crack open with the voice of the Father…
We just need to hear – and treasure what Jesus has to say to us…
Treasuring His love and glory enough to just do it…
Like loving enemies and praying for those who persecute and oppress us…
Or going and making disciples of nations, baptizing them and teaching them to treasure all God has established…
In both cases, the goal is the same – to help people experience the glory of God – the kind that comes as they see the tender glory of Christ’s love for them, as they enter into His presence, as they realize what the cross and empty grave mean…. as they respond to you, as you tell them…
The Lord is with you!
Well – that is true – but I said you would be telling others this – and hearing them respond back…
Reassuring you of the glory of God and the peace that surpasses all understanding – for you dwell in Christ… and share in His glory! AMEN!
 Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 35. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you. 24 Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, I have sent all my servants the prophetsae to you time and time again. 26 However, my people wouldn’t listen to me or pay attention but became obstinate;ag they did more evil than their ancestors. Jeremiah 7:23-26
The word mediocre comes from two Latin words and literally means “halfway to the peak.” This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up to the peak.… They are morally above the hardened sinner but they are spiritually beneath the shining saint.…
Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers—the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little? Think of all that He offers us by His blood and by His Spirit, by His sacrificial death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead, by His ascension to the right hand of the Father, by His sending forth of the Holy Ghost!
And we acknowledge and confess that we are not worthy to receive such manifestations of thy mercy and goodness, but rather deserve thy judgment and condemnation and on account of our indifference, sins and hypocrites to be left without the light of thy holy Word. But we beseech thee of thine mercy, deal not with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening. Keep us and our posterity in the faith of Thy Word and in the right use of the holy Sacraments. Sanctify thy Church in our midst; further and advance thy Kingdom; glorify Thy Name; put down Satan under our feet, and destroy the Son of perdition by the brightness of thine appearance. Preserve us from all false teachers, hypocrites and enemies of Thy Word who seek to overthrow thy Church purchased at so great a cost by thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; but at all times send us faithful ministers and teachers who shall lead us into the knowledge and confession of the heavenly mysteries, and finally into the glorious righteousness of thine everlasting Kingdom. Amen.
Tozer’s statement about the Christianity becoming mediocre is all too accurate in our day. The church wants to find itself better (morally) than sinners, but doesn’t want to do the spiritual work to become saints. The church is becoming apathetic, caring less for its people, and even less for those that are “outside.” You see this in the recent treand to automate the church, from contacts,, to attendance tracing, to even planning worship and using sermons that are pre-written for a generic congregation, rather than the message for the people of God in this place. Are we going backward, not forward, as Jeremiah wanrs?
We wonder why the church gets weaker, and people who have no reason too,, sit at home and watch, rather than interacting together.
THe problem is how do we address this? Since it is not by our own reason or strength that we come to Christ, how do we bring people back? Using guilt and shame may seem effective, but it doesn’t deliver what they truly need. The fellowship, the compassion of God, the mercy and love. Why are we beoming distant from God, and then from each other?
Looking at Loehe’s prayer this morning, I wonder why we don’t pray like this anymore. Not the ornate flowery language of days gone by, but the cry of broken, needy hearts, which want to see the chruch holy, that wants to see the next generation grow in its dependence on God. That we would be preserved against false teachers.
What would happen if we began to pray this way again, with heartfelt cries to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, Praying, not to manipulate God or get our desire – but really communicating with Him? If we listened to God, if we allowed the Holy SPirit to tune our hearts to sing of His grace? If our faith became a living dialogue again…
Lord, send forth Your Spirit, revive Your Church, help us to pray again, and through us, renew this world. Amen!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 149–150.
Devotional Thought for our Days
6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? 8 Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8 (CSBBible)
“I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for one does not learn anything without practice.”
I am not an anti-academic, I wouldn’t have a master’s degree and be on the final lap of a doctorate if I were.
But having those degrees did not prepare me to a pastor. They gve me tools that assist me in some parts of my ministry. Even preaching dosen’t come primarily from the studyof Greek and Hebrew, or the communication skills honed of twenty-three years of pastorl ministry, and another 6 as a chaplain.
The biggset lessons have come serving the drunk at 3 am before they head home to a wife they no longer loved, (or so they thought) They came at 2 am standing beside a nurse who cared for the hospice patient as they breathed their last. As I prayed for them, and prayed with the family, the nurse would wash the body once more, while waiting for the mortuary.
Ministey occurs there, in the brokenness of strangers, and in the times where I myself struggled. I am not alone, of course, nor have my battles been as severe as Job’s, Jeremiah’s, Peter’s or Paul’s battles.
Ministry is shaped when we have to depend on God’s promsied righteousness, when we realize we can depend on Him, for that is what it means to adore faithfulness, for He embodies what we are unable to accomplish. To simply walk with Him, letting Him shape our work, just as He shapes our eternal destiny. It is learned as we have to find the stillness to meditation in the middle of the tenseness and brokenness and anxiety of God.
Those battles we endure, they drive us to our Lord, teaching us how faithful He is to us. They drive us to the communion rail, and again we encounter Him. Not in a mechanical way, in a forced compliance. But in despair, looking for some hope, some comfort.
Academia provides the tools, But they cannot provide the suffering (though some students think they do!) that drives us to the Lord, the Lord in whom love us, the Lord who shows us mercy.
The Lord whom we praise, as those praises are generated from our hearts and souls, from the depths of our beings.
For He is there, the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 50.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
9 That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God. John 1:9 (Phillips NT)
He told me that I have a soul
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go? (Jean Valjean’s Soliloquy- Les Mis)
Go out into the streets to look, find, knock on doors,instruct and evangelize!
In a history marked by vulnerability our Lord Jesus Christ breaks in with an unstoppable strength and courage. That’s the Good News,the core of our preaching: the outright proclamation of this irruption of Jesus Christ incarnate, dead and risen, in our history.
The humblest Christian is called to live a miracle, a life that is a moral and spiritual life with such intensity and such purity that no human being can do it—only Jesus Christ can do it.
Yet this is no evangelicalistic theology, which is grounded in the same triumphalistic anthropology of the “I” (“I have decided to follow Jesus—no turning back, no turning back”). Instead—I believe that I cannot believe—the reversed Trinity of Luther’s catechism holds in tension the human inability in theology, faith, and life with the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament. Thus, the third article is the actual turning point of the entire catechism, because everything that follows (prayer, sacraments, living in community) is precisely what happens to unbelievers when, the Holy Spirit acts on them, turning our “Woe is me!” into “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy!). The theology of the reversed Trinity is literally “theo-logy” (God word), where God speaks to us and by speaking declares the old new, the sinner a saint, the unbeliever a believer—God’s service to us, not ours to God.
This mornigns devotional readings were accompanied by Les Mis, and the words of Jean Valjean kept echoing in my ears, as he considers the humble bishop who paid for his salvaiton…and yet Jean’s attitude was not to face who he was, but to create a new life, ignoring who he was. (In the book, this is a constant theme, for him and Javert.)
Their journey is the vulnerability that Pope Francis notes, a vulnerability we need, a lack of resistance to the incarnation, for Jesus must become incarnate in each of our lives.
It is the only way to change our cry of despair, as Wengert notes, from dismay and despair to the expecation of God hearing and acting on our cry for mercy. That is the only way we can live in the life of Christ that Tozer explains, a life that is obviously not ours, for it is not within our ability.
How does the bishop know Jean ValJean has a soul? Because the bishop has one, and has seen Christ invade it. It is why the silver is worth far less than Jean’s soul. It is why the investment is worth it, though it will take decades, with only a glimpse of the return here and there. Not until his death…is it revealed. ( I believe Colossians 3:1-4 explains this quite well)
You have a soul, and I have one as well. It is where the Holy Spirit dwells, bringing us peace, even as we struggle within this life.It is were our faith, our dependence on God is formed. It is where joy resonates from, when anxiety and trauma threaten to overwhem us. It is where peace exists, far beyond our comprehension, it is where we know His love more intimately than we can express.
Yet, we can share it with others… for that to is a miracle. You are ValJean and you are the Bishop.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Timothy J. Wengert, Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 46.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. 2 You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. 3 If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong. Galatians 6:1-3
Finally, there is a mind-boggling mystery about agape which we must look into. Somehow when we love we really give ourselves away. We do not just give of our time or our work or our possessions. No, we give ourselves. How can this be? How can I put myself in my own hands and hand it over to you?
430 Jesus, may I be the last in everything … and the first in love.
There are people who claim to be spiritual, not religious. I get it, organized religion is a challenging thing to be part of, and I am a pastor. (Not to mention having a role in the bureaucracy!)
I often wonder what it means to be spiritual because when I ask, the answers are more nebulous, very loosely defined. Some might even say to be like Jesus, loving everyone.
The passage above in red, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the people of Galatia, puts some meat to the skeleton of “being spiritual.” Spirituality doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin, it gently restores the sinner. It walks with them, working to bring about their healing, revealing to them that God will forgive them.
This is spirituality, this is the point of holiness, and why it makes a dramatic impact in not just your life, but in lives. This is the greatest gift you can give someone, a gift you can give to family, neighbors, co-workers, and even your enemies.
This, of course, is easier said and done, which is where the other two readings from this morning come into play. In order to see this spirituality grow in our lives, we have to put the other person’s good before our own. We have to think of their eternal welfare as being more important than our comfort.
If this is what it means to be spiritual, then I am all for it, but we need to pray more, and spend more time in scripture, and receive the sacrament as often as possible. We need to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we need to find the strength of God in our lives, to set aside all of our own self-centeredness. But it is there, in the confidence of knowing God’s presence, that this all occurs, that this all happens.
This is spirituality, to love them as Paul loved the Jewish people who would give up his life and soul to save.
It is time for this kind of spirituality to infect the world again… starting with you and me…
Lord have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 67.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. 26 From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be. Acts 17:25-26 CEV
We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei contantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.
How can I know God loves me? I believe it, or I want to believe it. But how can I know it for sure? How can I get assurance of the most important thing in the world?
The question is an excellent one. It demands something more than the mere mental acceptance of the three-word proposition “God loves me.” It demands three greater forms of intimacy or closeness.
First, I want to know that God loves me, not just everyone. Me, with all my very specific and very real sins and uglinesses and unlovablenesses. Does God really love me just as I am? Am I really completely forgiven? All my sufferings and failures seem to me to be a just punishment that proves that God does not and should not love me completely because I do not deserve it. I need to know instead that my very sufferings and failures are the caress of his personal, individual love-plan for me, not the inevitable result of His impersonal justice.
The title of my blog post this morning is not a rhetorical question.
It is a question I struggle with, and have struggled with often in my life. Apparently I am not the only one, as the notes in the introduction to the Forge indicate.
We are going to have days when we struggle, when we face discouragement because our spiritual life, our “interior life” seems poor, lifeless, oppressed. We bay seem beaten and rundown. In the midst of physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, I don’t have to wonder what I’ve done wrong. Satan is there to remind me of my sins, and of my failures. He will throw it all at me, for that is what Devil means in the original language.
And my cry out to Jesus, do you still love me, do you still care is actually a cry of the soul engaged in spiritual warfare. It is not just a cry of despair, for this cry will be answered. It is the cry, as Peter Kreeft notes, that betrays an intimacy with God that requires trust.
Trust that He will answer. Trust to even dare ask, trust to realize He is listening and will answer.
He always does.
Look at the cross, there is your answer. Let the Holy Spirit comfort you, and be the assurance, the guarantee that Paul described.
21 It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart, 22 who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (TEV)
God guarantees that He loves us, for we are His, and we need to hear this often, especially in this midst of despair, or depression, or whatever struggle we are facing.
Remind each of this, often!
The Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 194.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Matthew 5:6 The Message
Twelfth, you see, that is what happens when one tries to make people pious and lead them to the right by means of commandments and laws. It only makes them worse. Thanks to such tactics, they do unwillingly and drearily whatever they do. This becomes a hindrance to God’s grace and sacrament. God neither wants to nor will he grant this grace to those who were forced, pressed, and driven to the sacrament by commandment and law, but only to hearts that long and pine and thirst for it, to hearts that come voluntarily……
(a little further Luther writes) Therefore, these words of his must be understood to refer to the labor and the burden of the conscience, which is nothing else than a bad conscience oppressed by sins committed, by daily transgressions, and by a leaning toward sin. The Lord does not drive all such people from him, as do those who teach that we must come to the sacrament with purity and worthiness. Nor does he issue a command or compel anyone to go to the sacrament, but rather he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help. The sublime sacrament must be regarded by us not as a poison, but as a medicine for the soul.10 Christ himself declares in Matthew 9 [:12], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament.
1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity
In some denominations, including mine, there is a concern about who should commune, and who should not. Arguments abound in regards to what it means to have a close communion policy, Argmenets and division have blossomed over this idea, of who we can allow to commune.
There is something important in this, there is a Biblical basis for denying someone the Lord’s Supper, and it is found in several places – notable 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks of the consequences of approaching the Lord’s Supper without examining yourself first.
But that examination isn’t about whether we are good enough, or getting at least a B- on doctrine test, or having our membership in the right facility. (Remember – we confess that there is only one, holy catholic and apostolic church!) Yet we always seem to make it about such self-centered things.
One of my weight loss groups talks about the idea of eating when you are at the appropriate hunger level. Not to eat just because of stress, or pattern, (aka tradition) or because it seems like time too. Eat too soon, gain weight. Eat too late, and find that you overeat – and gain weight.
I think it is the same with God – we need to learn to hunger for Him and feed on Him regularly. For some, that does mean daily reception, for others weekly. But it is based on need – not on qualification. It is for those whose souls are tormented by sin and brokenness, who realize their need for Jesus because there is no other hope.
That is why I do not understand why there are people that say there is no emergency need for the Lord’s Supper. As long as there are sinners who need to know God’s grace, who are oppressed and haunted by their pasts, there is a need for this blessing for which Jesus gave thanks, even as He offered it. Luther makes this case clear. It is worth repeating the words, “he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help.” Yearn does not indicate they would like to have it, it means they desire it, they hunger for God, they hunger for the work He does, as He draws us into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
This is where we find hope, there is where we meet God in a very unique and powerful way, and it is where we know we are welcome.
Look at the Catholic Catechism – and see the beauty we need in this! The incredible unity that is found in the Lord’s Supper, as united in Christ, we find ourselves in the presence of God the Father! (see Colossian 3:1-3)
Caught in sin? Struggling with the burden of guilt and shame? Need to know God’s love and forgiveness?
Come… and find peace at the altar of grace.
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), 176–177.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 342–343.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me. 6 You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.
Psalm 13:5-6 (CEV)
O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.
548 If you feel the Communion of the Saints—if you live it—you’ll gladly be a man of penance. And you will realize that penance is gaudium etsi laboriosum—“joy in spite of hardship,” and you will feel yourself “allied” to all the penitent souls that have been, that are, and that ever will be.
I grew up among a generation that was told not to focus on experiences, not to trust our feelings. to only focus on a logical, rational presentation of Christianity.
I’ve also seen the other extreme in my youth, where people chased after religious experiences, who wanted to feel the positive vibes that come when experiencing the supernatural, I think those excesses of the late 60’s and 70’s led to the pendulum swing of the 80’s and into the new millenium.
Both sides treat the other side with suspicion, both sides blame the other for the death or at least the hospice status of the church. ANd both try to convince me and others that their focus is the best and only hope, relying not on God for the growth of the church, but on man’s wisdom, and man’s ability to create the right… environment… that will bring about revival.
While I think both are wrong, and grow weary of both, I do think think that a sign of revival is an experience, Not one of great passion, not one of great signs and wonders.
Instead a humbling experience, one that touches the depth of our brokenness, and leaves us tired, exhausted, and in awe of what we’ve encountered… the grace of God.
That is what Spurgeon is talking about with the term loving kindness. cHesed in Hebrew, it is that experience of the merciful love of God that comes to us in our brokenness, in the depth our our sin, when we are with hope, and dries our tears and whispers to us that we are forgiven, that we are being healed, and restored.
That is what Escriva is talking about with the joy in the midst of hardship, the experience that causes us, in the future when we sin again, to pray for repentance and restoration with confidence,
It is the quiet celebration of the Psalmist, who though he believed there was no hope, found that hope in the middle of despair.
We aren’t talking about seeing a miracle that leaves everyone applauding like a Superbowl victory, (Well heaven parties like that) but one that leaves us like the feeling, having worked all night, to see the break of dawn…knowing that peace and rest is near… yet struggling to believe it.
We have to experience this healing, we can’t just “know” it happened once. We need to struggle with it, to ask, ‘could God have really loved me this much, and then be assured, by scripture and by the sacraments, yes, He does.
THis experience is contagious, it sweeps communities and nations, it changes individuals and countries, it changes the church, which welcomes sinners home with confidence, expecting to see the miracle again that reminds us of our miracle…. as we share in something that leaves us… awe doesn’t seem strong enough a word.
This experience can’t be manipulated, it is not subject to our feelings or our knowledge. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us, even dragging us to the foot of the cross, helping us see we belong there, nailed to the cross, sharing in Christ’s death, and wondering why we are even allowed near Him. And then coming to the realization that because we died with Him, we rise from the dead with Him.
That’s not head knowledge, that is life…and that life has to be lived….
Heavenly Father, help us to see the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, drawing us to the cross, uniting us to His death and resurrection. Help us to see this, not as observers, but from actually experiencing the reality of the SPirit’s work. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.