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What Did the Apostles Do Today…?


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8  None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9  but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him10  to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God.   1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)

318      Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you.   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge

Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping.  They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.

They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him.  They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him.  They rejected Him.

Just like we do at times.

But what did they do today?  Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors?  Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught?  Did their fears and anxieties oppress them?  Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?

What did they do?

I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today.  Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame.  We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.

We need to see Jesus.  As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive.  We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.

And with Him, we died and rise as well….

 † Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises.  We pray this in the name of the Father,  † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN! 

Then You Will Know that… A Lenten Sermon on Ezekiel 37


dscf1215-copy-copyThen You Will Know

Ezekiel 37:1-14

 In Jesus Name

 As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!

In the midst of the miraculous

There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…

It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….

And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!

What a wonder it would be!

A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!

What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!

And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…

The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,

“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”

“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?

Yea – those are our bones…

The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.

Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out.  We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.

It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on.  Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved.  Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.

It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.

Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.

And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.

But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell.  Can our dried bones live?  Can we, despite our sin and shame find life?  The LORD knows…

It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history

Yea – that is the Quickening

Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.

It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross.  Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.

This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.

But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…

But here is what you need to know.

Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:

We may skip over that far too quickly.   For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.

But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM.  To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden.  Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.

We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.

This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul.  Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it.  Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.

This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.

For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God.  AMEN!

 

It’s time to come home… coming to our senses about sin and the family of God


dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:
17  Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. 18  I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.” ‘ 20  So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:17-20 (NAB)

985    You strayed from the way and did not return because you were ashamed. It would be more logical if you were ashamed not to return.

Why, Then, is the Law to Be Taught, and What is Its Legitimate Use?
I. That people might learn from the Law seriously to acknowledge both their manifold sins and the judgment of God against sins, namely that they are subject to divine wrath and the curse or eternal condemnation, unless they are set free through Christ, so that they thus turn themselves away from sins, fear the wrath of God, and seek the true physician who alone can heal our weaknesses. Ro 3:20; 4:15; 2 Co 3:6–9; Eze 18:30–31; Mt 9:12.
II. That the Law, written by the finger of God, might be for the reborn a sure norm and rule, showing which works God has prepared, in which He wants the reborn to walk and serve Him. Dt 12:32; Eze 20:19; Ro 13:8; Cl 2:20–23.

He came to his senses. We need to do the same. 

Growing up 40-45 years ago, there was a rule in our home, be back int he house before dark.  We lived on 3 hilly wooded acres in New Hampshire, and darkness fell fast, there was nothing like lingering twilight in the, once the sun went down, darkness descended, and it was a black darkness.  

More than once, I would leave too late to get home before darkness caught me.  Once i remember sitting in the small ancient cemetery (newest grave was 1810 or so) a half mile down the road, fearing what my arrival home would bring.  As a side note, I don’t recommend sitting in a dark cemetery with huge creaky oak trees blotting out the moonlight.

Car lights could be seen, and I feared each one would contain my parents, out searching for their young rebellious, disobedient son. After about an hour passed by, as the night was getting colder, desperation would force me to leave my refuge, and walk my huffy bicycle home. 

As I walked by my neighbors, looking in their windows, I wondered if they knew of my misadventure if my folks had checked with the Stobers and the Zahns.  Eventually, I tried to figure if I could sneak in, through the basement sliding glass door, or maybe through the studio or kitchen door.  But I made it home, and at first hugged, then scolded, then hugged again, I was finally safe, and the anxiety could fade away.

This is how we treat God, whether we’ve run far off, or whether we are hiding deep inside our own hearts as we sit in church on Sunday morning.  St Josemaria tells us our shame should have driven us home, desperately seeking refuge, rather than ensnared us and kept us anxious, cold, hungry and left…. outside, tormented, and scared what would happen when we finally arrived home. 

As a pastor, there is a need for me to teach people that the best place for them to be, when struggling with sin, is in the midst of God’s family.  There, mercy and peace is waiting.  Forgiveness and love will be manifest.  Chemnitz was correct, where the Law serves properly when it moves believers from remaining in sin to remember they are set free from sin by Jesus, and enables them to respond to that mercy and love.  That it shows them they can seek the healing of their hearts and souls, for this is why Jesus reaches out to them.

People need to know that church is a safe haven fro sinners, a place where they aren’t going to be condemned for being snared by sin, but where they will find peace, as others similarly wounded assist them, and help them depend on Jesus.  

This is the church, this is the Father’s home, where we find His compassion.

So come home, enter the warmth and light, and know love and peace…. it’s time.

And if you see me or anyone else hiding behind a tombstone, bring us home too.

For we all get caught in the darkness from time to time.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 2290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition 
Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

This Church is For Misfits and Outcasts


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts were following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”  17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”   Mark 2:15-17

580    Humbly ask God to increase your faith. Then, with new lights, you’ll see clearly the difference between the world’s paths and your way as an apostle.  (1)

They were the those who were sent away, either to an island for toys that didn’t meet the standard, or out of the camp of Israel because they had sinned, or perhaps, their sin was just more obvious than the rest.

They didn’t fit in, and to be honest,  I count myself as one of their number, and sometimes, I even wonder if I am a mis-fit in their circles.  I have days like that, even a year or two where I feel that way.

Which is why it is hard at times to realize I do fit in at my church.

If I, their pastor, can feel this way, how many others do as well?

How many of us who gather on a Sunday morning know intuitively or because someone told us, that we aren’t like the others.  Maybe it is a psychological challenge, or one of intellect.  Maybe it is what appears to be a physical deformity or disease.  Maybe it is the weakness of character, or some other distinguishing factor that the world would use to separate us from the norm.

But the church is Jesus’s territory, not the worlds!  It is not so different from the Island of Misfit toys, the place where the outcasts would be gathered, and form a tightly-knit community.  One gathered around Jesus, because He shows us we do fit, we are fine and safe.

The incarnation was not for the people in perfect places, with perfect clothes, with sinless perfect lives.  The incarnation was among the misfits, the outcasts, those who others sent away, as if they were broken, or undesirable.  Such make up the One, Holy, catholic (universal/complete) and Apostolic Church, and indeed, of those who were judged mis-fit, some become some of our greatest heroes of the faith, those we call saints (even though all who walk with Jesus are!)

For the world’s paths can’t be tread by them, and as they learn to depend on God, as their faith increases, as they talk and pray with God, He sends them out to bring the healing they are experiencing to the world. They reach out to the other outcasts, and even to those who have pretended they are not!

This is church, real church, with real people who have real problems, and are sustained by a real God.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1386-1387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Crafting Serenity: A Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King!


church at communion 2

Crafting Serenity

Col. 1:13-20

† Jesus, Son & Savior †

May the Grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace seen in action as He brings us from darkness to life, may you know so clearly that grace, that you dwell in His peace!

Made Peace – Crafted Serenity:

In the last verse read from Colossians this morning, we hear something that Jesus has done.  It is accomplished, done, competed, and yet we don’t’ always see it.

It is a great description of what reconciliation really is, what the cross accomplishes,

Hear the words again,

He made peace with everything on heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

He made peace…made peace.

It actually can read more powerfully than that…

He crafted serenity…

 Crafted Serenity….

I hear those words, and for a moment I am taken back to Lake Ossipee – to a place where you can barely see the homes on the other side of the lake, when the colors of the fall include just about every color imaginable, and the lake’s waters are so still there are no ripples… just calm serenity, with a brief breeze or a snowflake fluttering down….

A bit different than life lived on the 91, 5 or 605 freeway.

We need to note that God isn’t saying He will craft serenity later, that this peace will be made at some future point.  It’s not happening in some undefined period labeled “soon”.

It is a tense that originate in the past – and keeps going – that crafting serenity, that making peace hasn’t stopped for a moment..

But that raises the question….

Why doesn’t our spiritual life seem more like that serene day standing at the edge of a beautiful calm lake, and why does it too often seem like I am standing in the middle of that freeway at 5 p.m.?

Who is this?  Who are We not?

That peace is the creation of God, created as Christ’s blood was shed on the cross.  The Christ we worship and praise, the Christ who is the visible image of our invisible Father. He’s been there forever, in Him everything – including us is created.

He created it all – everything in heaven and on earth!  Everything we see and can’t see, and He is supreme over all creation holds it all together.

And that is where we struggle, and often why we don’t know peace.

That He is Creator, we don’t have a problem with, it is that we want to be supreme, we want to be in charge, we want to make it all work out.  That is the root of all sin, the idea that we think for a moment, or we are tempted to think that we know what is best for us.

And so we go off on our own, we walk away and do what we want, what we desire. Even today we struggle with this idea that Jesus is not only our Savior but our benevolent, loving Lord.

Rather than learning what He desires, rather than seeking Jesus first. we choose what we want, what excites us, what we think might quench our cravings, or what we think might lead us to comfort or peace, or rest.

That’s why Paul goes back over – it through Jesus God created this all. From the beginning, He was in charge, not us.  For if we look to our own efforts to find the rest we desire, all we will do is find the consequences of our sin, of our rebellion, our throwing off God’s desires.

We have to set our desires aside and hear Paul’s confession – Christ is the head of it all, everything that was created was created for him, and for Him,

Which means all things, everything was meant to be defined by it’s relationship to Christ.

For He is God, in everything. Over life and death, over the new resurrected life that we have been given, as Christ drew us back to Himself.  For that is what reconciliation is, retuning that which was changed beck to its original – apokatalsso- to bring back, to restore, to make right.  To take us out of the darkness we entered and bring us into the light of His glory!

And that is what Christ did and is doing – making everything in heaven and earth the way it should be….you see that, even as He hands on the cross and reconciles the thief to Himself.

The work that was planned before creation, that was revealed at the cross!

That’s why we are in awe

That is why we are here, to see this work of God revealed.  As He calls us to Himself, as He reconciles us to Him, recreating us in His image, recreating in us His righteousness, guiding us.

It is why we listen to people read the bible, why we confess what we believe, reminding ourselves of His return, it is why we listen to a sermon, that forces us to consider our struggles, and know He is the answer to them.

It is why we know we can pour out our burdens here in prayer, and then come here to be given the Body and blood to eat and drink, to know that He has crafted for us a serenity, that He has fashioned this place where everything is set aside and we see what heaven will be like, where He gives us this peace, a peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Jesus.  AMEN!

Give Thanks!


Give Thanks!

Luke 17:11-19

In Jesus Name

May the compassion of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed for you, that you hear Him as He tell you to rise up!

Jesus Frustration:

Jesus asks, “where are the other nine?!” and I can’t imagine hearing that without hearing some frustration in His voice, and maybe even a little pain.

Where are they?

Don’t they realize what I’ve done for them?  And don’t they know that this is only the beginning?

Where are the other nine?

I don’t know how you read it any differently, though it may seem odd to hear God being pained by our inattentiveness, by our being ungrateful, by our not being aware of the incredible mercy and compassion that goes neglected.

But consider this.

God describes himself in Exodus 34 with these words,

14  You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.    Exodus 34:14 (NLT)
and in Hebrews we find this,

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

This is the God who weeps over Jerusalem, who compares himself to the man whose beloved wife whom he rescued from a horrible life cheats on Him.

Now can you hear the pain in his voice, as he asks, “Didn’t I heal ten?  Where are the other nine?

is it enough to color between the lines?

Where are they?  Why at the priest’s, showing them the healing so they confirm it.  They are obeying Jesus, but isn’t that enough? Isn’t’ that the point of scripture, and the commandments, to get us to obey the commandments?

A quick illustration why it is not enough might help.

Think of  a children’s coloring book – with pictures of great masterpieces in it.

Forgetting the parental requirement to love every piece of art your child or grandchild colors in; is it enough to color between the lines? Can a Van Gogh be as beautiful or a Mona Lisa look as stunning if the colors don’t make sense?

Or to use another illustration – if we stay in our lane on the freeway, does that mean we can travel as fast as we want?

Of course not!

So in this case, while listening makes sense, what they didn’t hear was that Jesus had heard them, and answered.

A quick background – these lepers were supposed to cry out when people approached, “UNCLEAN!  UNCLEAN!”  They were to warn people to not come close, their disease was not only devastating, it was contagious.

Instead, somehow this group recognized Jesus, they recognized that though he wasn’t their Lord, He was one with authority, and they called out to him have mercy, to have compassion on them.  Mercy and compassion aren’t just about feelings, but love so full that it acts, it finds a way to relieve the burdens, to bring comfort and peace to lives that were broken, that were shattered.

As Jesus speaks, he offers them something they could only have dreamt of – to go and show themselves to the priests, to be declared free from the ravaged brokenness they knew, to be welcomed back into the community of the people of God.

And as they left, they were healed physically, miraculously.  Bodies that were more rotting than whole, bow showed skin that was a whole and new and vibrant as any.

This was the Master that spoke, that commanded this.  The Master, the one promised and sent by God. This is the Messiah, the one who would not just restore bodies, but souls. That would cleanse not just skin, but hearts and minds. Who would make them His people for eternity!

And we walked away.  We neglected the salvation, we obeyed the letter of the law, and missed something more important.  The Spirit, the messiah, Fellowship with God.

Even though they obeyed to the letter of the law – they missed what the law was given to do, to show them they were in fellowship with God.
Rise up!  Not only healed – but saved.

There is Jesus, and we’ve just heard him ask where the other nine was, when he focuses on the man again, lying there on the ground in front of him.  Who voice, which was loud when he cried for mercy, was mega loud when cried out God’s praises, when he offered great thanks – using the very word Jesus will use as he starts the last supper and gives thanks.

And what Jesus says is lost in almost every translation.

In this one it says this,

“Didn’t I heal ten men?” Then it says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

A few others say, Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.Luke 17:19 (NASB)

But a few say it this way – reflecting the Greek, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’ Luke 17:19 (NJB)

Not just made well, not just healed, his faith, his trust in God demonstrated in the return to praise God was the trust, the dependence that saw a much greater gift given – and invitation, and the recognition that he was no longer an alien, no longer a foreigner, but a part of the people of God.

Jesus was now this man’s Lord, this man’s master.  Salvation, like the healing that was for so long only a dream, this salvation was now his.

And Jesus tells him to stand, he doesn’t have to grovel, he doesn’t have to lay there in the dirt.  He was made whole and saved, therefore he was welcome to stand!

If there was gratitude when he only knew the healing, can you imagine the gratitude when salvation was what was given?  When eternity, in fellowship with God, given the ability to stand in His presence, to truly live life.

Can you imagine how incredible the mercy, the compassion he cried out for was revealed?

Yet that compassion, that mercy, that love, that acceptance of God is ours.

It is time to revel in it, to give thanks and praise.

And to hear, as Jesus look at the table, and considers the bread and wine, the gratitude he shows the Father, who will allow Jesus to give His body and blood for us, to save us.

For it our time to hear those words, you trust in God has saved you,,, for He has had compassion on you.  AMEN!

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the Feast for Broken Folks


Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 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. 18  Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? 1 Corinthians 10:14-18 (NLT)

69 True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”8 Likewise, “The power of God is made perfect in weakness.”9 Likewise, “As for a man who is weak in faith, welcome him, for God has welcomed him” (Rom. 14:1, 3). For whoever believes on the Son of God, be his faith strong or weak, has eternal life (John 3:16).  (1)

He says to her: “Unfortunately I can live and dispense love only in the small coin of everyday life—but then there is that person whose television is too loud, who makes so much noise, or who is so uncouth; then I have to try to understand him, to keep calm and to smile, and this will be true love without all the rhetoric.” And he tells us a brief parable that reveals him as he really is. An Irishman, who has done little good in his life, dies and comes before the heavenly tribunal. He stands in a long line behind those who are already being judged, and he hears and sees how the Lord scans the ledger of each individual and then says to the first: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Paradise!” And to the second: “I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. Paradise!” To the third: “I was naked and you clothed me. Paradise!” And his heart sank deeper and deeper, for he had done none of these things. So he comes in fear and trembling before the judge and can hardly raise his eyes. But in one of his timid glances he observes what seems to be an enigmatic, mischievous smile in the eyes of the judge. And the Lord consults the ledger and says to him: “Well, there’s a lot missing here. But once I was unhappy and you told a joke and made me laugh. Off with you—Paradise!” This is typical of John Paul I himself. That’s exactly how he was. He not only told us a joke, but he bequeathed to us his smile and gave us a glimpse of what humanity really is; he let us surmise something about our lost paradise. (2)

Forty-three years ago, as I watched a priest commune people at a prayer meeting in our home, I realized that was what I wanted to do with my life.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a 91-year-old lady in her room in a residential care facility, or hundreds at pastor’s conference. It doesn’t matter whether it is in a grand cathedral, or in a humble chapel.

It is also why I grieve the disintegration of the church, as more and more divisions split her, and break the fellowship that is found in Christ, and in His death and resurrection. I have wept as I refrained from communion at a friends church (3).  Likewise, I weep as I hear men say they would never commune one “one of them”.

Even as we as God’s people need to take and eat, to take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, it is not a right. It is a need, not a membership benefit.  The Lutheran confessions I quoted above in blue make it clear, the way you are “worthy” to commune is not because of your membership, or how mature you are, or how strong a believer.  Rather it is because you recognize you need God’s presence, His healing and His mercy.

We recognize we aren’t able to live and the nourishment of Christ’s Body and Blood sustains us, renews us, revitalizes us. It is that “coin of everyday  life” that Pope John Paul 1 mentioned, and while his illustration of the Irishman is how he pictured himself, it is a fine picture of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist as well, and the ministry that is provided through His Body and Blood does in our lives.

For once i was unhappy, broken, crushed by sin and unrighteousness, and then you invited me to a feast, and made me laugh and know joy and peace.

This is what happens as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as we celebrate His life, lived in us, and therefore our life, lived in Him.  This is why this feast, this sacrament is so precious, so important that theologians can’t explain it, but a 8-year-old can desire it.  It is Christ in you, the hope for those of us broken, the hope of sharing in God’s glory!

So come, all you are burdened, who are weak in faith, and find rest, and life and laughter.And God will give you rest.

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

(2)  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.

(3) Because of different beliefs, different denominations have different rules about communion.  Not to be picky or self-righteous, but because they believe a person can eat or drink judgment on themselves (see 1 Cor. 11) and they can’t actively be a part of that.  Such actions are often taken as hostile, but they should be viewed as a call to unity and to settling the matters that divide us.  Understanding this, even as my friend and I desire to commune together, and it pains us not to, we long for the day when we shall.

Why Christianity Isn’t a Solo Act


Devotional Thought of the Day:

21  It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22  I truly delight in God’s commands, 23  but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24  I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25  The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Romans 7:21-25 (MSG)

19  My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back 20  and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.
James 5:19-20 (MSG)

1  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 (NIV)

59    It’s good for you to know this doctrine, which is always sound: your own spirit is a bad advisor, a poor pilot to steer your soul through the squalls and storms and across the reefs of the interior life. That’s why it is the will of God that the command of the ship be entrusted to a master who, with his light and knowledge, can guide us to a safe port.

It is one of the most grievous things a pastor can observe.  

When a person is driven away from the church in the midst of their need, or in the midst of the pain caused by the need – they try to drive the church away. 

I’ve been there myself, not recently, but not so long ago that I can brush off the pain easily. Being at the end of the rope isn’t good, it is worse when the rope is set afire by fear, by pain.  

Guilt and shame can do this, so can anxiety, so can the unrighteousness of the world. We fear judgment, and condemnation. We fear people pitying us, or looking down in scorn at our brokenness. We may even fear healing, and push away attempts, rather than take a risk that God and those He sends us can be trusted to not do more damage.

Paul knew this – he recognizes he wretchedness, and his need to hear the answer that is found in Jesus. 

Paul also knew the danger of being the person who is helping and warns those who do to watch their own lives carefully, less they find their own brokenness.  We get deceived by our own estimations, we exaggerate our spiritual health until its too late, or are so overwhelmed by the pain we can’t see anything blessed.

We need others to point us to our hope in Jesus,ro remind us of the Holy Spirit’s work, right now, right here, in our lives.  We need to enter His rest, but often we can’t – unless guided, or even dragged to that place.

But what if they let us down?  What if they are drowning too?  What if we drag them down? Been there, had my mind pound those ponderings through my head. 

Logically, I can answer that with another 100 plus Bible passages and another thousand cute, overused stories and cliches.  But the best answer is to simply be there and keep pointing the person to Jesus.  For He is the reason we have hope.  The only reason.

That reason, and only that one, leads to hope, and the hope to peace. Peace found in Christ, in His promises, in HIs love, in His bringing us into the glory of the Father. 

But we can’t get there alone…… we will betray ourselves. But we have our brothers and sisters.  For the church is a place where broken people find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping other heal.  

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 305-307). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Emperor’s New Clothes, and our Need for a(nother) sacrificial victim.


Devotional Thought for the Day:

10  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)

20  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21  But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22  Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23  And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)

It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.

Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world.  The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.

Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify.  During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police.  Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others.  I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something  – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.  

We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay.  Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results. 

 What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”  We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it.  We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace.  And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.

And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.

if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness.   The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target.  Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame.  But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.

We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.

We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.

We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality.  We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was.  For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one.  There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.

He also rose from the dead.

Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.

He died, and no one else has to be crucified.

He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.

Even those we wanted to crucify…

It’s Time to Get Up, and Know you are Free from Sin!


Devotional THoguht of the Day:

1  Jesus got into the boat and went back across the lake to his own town, 2  where some people brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a bed. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the paralyzed man, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” 3  Then some teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is speaking blasphemy!” 4  Jesus perceived what they were thinking, and so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? 5  Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6  I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!” 7  The man got up and went home. 8  When the people saw it, they were afraid, and praised God for giving such authority to people.
Matthew 9:1-8 (TEV)

15 Note, then, as I have often said, that confession consists of two parts. The first is my work and act, when I lament my sin and desire comfort and restoration for my soul. The second is a work which God does, when he absolves me of my sins through a word placed in the mouth of a man. This is the surpassingly grand and noble thing that makes confession so wonderful and comforting.

In Luther’s Large Catechism, we see the words in blue above, as Luther exhorts (begs) his people not give up the blessing of confessing their sin. Only a man who himself experienced the overwhelming crushing weight of his own sin, and the relief he knew writes in such a manner.

Luther’s relief is found all over his works, and he gets a bit testy (okay even violent) toward those who would deny people as broken as he was/is the hope he found and the healing he experienced.

His explanation nails it, our confession and absolution is far more about the absolution that we receive, that we so desperately need, than it is about the crap we drop in the presence of God.  We may fear seeing it revealed, we may fear the surgery that removes it, what St. Paul calls the circumcision of the heart. We may even consider it impossible, a task beyond our ability.

Yet, the emphasis is not on the confession, but the cleansing.  The work is not ours, it is the work of freeing us from the darkness that consumes us. That can even physically inhibit and paralyze us, as the man experienced in the gospel reading. But Christ’s death, and the authority given to Him by the father shatters those bindings, those things that trap us.

The blood of Christ, which binds us to Him, already did this, as He hung on the cross and declared we are free from sin, and even while we get up – perhaps for the first time, His Spirit quickens us, strengthens us, restores that which had decayed and been destroyed by sin.

We need to stop buying into the lie that confession is difficult, a duty that is one that burdens us and breaks us.  It is a moment of incredible promise, a moment of being found in the presence of God, in peace that may be completely unfamiliar – but yet is home.

A little further down the section, Luther emphasised this again,

22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.

This prayer, this desire for mercy needs to be seen as a treasure, not because of the words we say, but because of the words said to us in love.  That changes our plea from one of desperation, to one of expectation, as the glory of God surrounds us, and we dind His love is still deeper, higher, broader and wider than we could have ever thought.

This is our God. We are His….gloriously his. 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 458–459). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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