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The Broken’s Feast

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the day:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.  1 Kings 19:3-5

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician.”

880    Don’t let your defects and imperfections nor even your more serious falls, take you away from God. A weak child, if he is wise, tries to keep near his Father.

There he was. seemingly victorious, and yet, he was devastated. He longed to die and saw no hope in continuing to live. He wasn’t suicidal, but he was so broken he couldn’t go on anymore. He was overwhelmed by sin, his own and that which he observed.

Even though I am a simple pastor, I’ve seen that frustration in lay people and pastors, as despair and frustration just tire us out so much we cannot even see the progress we have made. If I am honest, I’ve felt that way more than once.

Instinct in those times drives us toward isolation, but there is no solace there.  In fact, isolation only leaves us more time to contemplate our despair, to feel more overwhelmed, more alone, more… abandoned…not just broken, but shattered.

And Hungry…

Elijah wakes up to a meal prepared for him, a meal prepared by one sent by God to encourage him, to lift him up, to restore his vitality so he can journey a little farther down the road.  Eventually the journey, through storm and fire, through his spiritual and mental fatigue will bring him to the place where he will hear God. Where Elijah will be ready to hear God.

For me, in those moments of brokenness, my one lifeline is being cared for and fed by God.  It is as Bonaventure notes, it is in these times we need to receive it more frequently.  It is the feast set out for those who are broken and weary. Not just bread from angels, but the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.  The feast where He gives us His own body and blood.

It is our feast.

The feast for the Broken

A time when I can realize God is restoring what is broken, where He heals that which has been ravaged by sin.  A time just like Elijah, yet shared with friends and the family of God.  A time of great peace, and healing, and rest.

As I still have moments where brokenness is profound, where I still want to run away, where I wonder if my life will ever bee less broken and make a difference, I have learned something.  To wait it out, to look forward to the next time we gather together and are provided bread from heaven.

The nourishment we need for the journey, the blessed feast for those of us broken and shattered.

This feast, whether we call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, it is the feast for the broken, the turning point where we find such grace and peace that the journey itself changes.  He will provide it, and the Spirit will draw us to it.

This is the hope we need, this is what will satisfy our hunger.

 

De Liguori, A. (1887). The Holy Eucharist. (E. Grimm, Ed.) (pp. 224–225). New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2025-2027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transforming the Sounds of Silence…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  So by virtue of the blood of Jesus, you and I, my brothers, may now have courage to enter the holy of holies by way of the one who died and is yet alive, who has made for us a holy means of entry by himself passing through the curtain, that is, his own human nature. Further, since we have a great High Priest set over the household of God, let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of his blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation – for he is utterly dependable – and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds. And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing ever nearer. Hebrews 10:19 (Phillips NT)

Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there may be a great spirit of communion.  

Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help, and go unanswered, nothing’s ever the same again. Nothing. Even God changes.
But there is a healing hand at work that cannot be deflected from its purpose. I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry. Those tears are part of what it is to be a monk.
Out there, in the world, it can be very cold. It seems to be about luck, good and bad,
and the distribution is absurd.
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.

The song came up in a discussion yesterday, the cover of a classic that is even rawer, more real, more…powerfully and compelling than Simon and Garfunkel ever imagined.

I have listened to it over and over this morning, in awe of the pain, of the devastation and emptiness observed.  (one track is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-g7t2l4&start_radio=1&list=RDWJCGY0Hxz1M )  In awe of the helplessness expressed as the singer looks upon those he would help, and they won’t listen.

This morning, in my devotions, the resonance continued, as the quote in blue echoed the theme… the brokenness, the rawness, of prayers of a child unanswered, or prayers of a friend. The only answer is tear-soaked prayers of my own, and the insistence that we live between the moments of hope and despair, and faith and doubt, death and life.

Life is about more than good and bad luck and the distribution of them that is so absurd. Yet there are days it seems so, as evil seems blessed, as good seems oppressed, as sin and brokenness seem to reign over the land.  Even in the church, as people set aside their relationship with God to define and be in a religion that resonates with their opinions, beliefs, bias and political positions.

So how do we survive, and how do we help people caught up in the meaningless and vanity of this life?  Can we truly bring them peace, can they find it within what we reveal to them, with what we encourage each other?

The scripture passage from Hebrews says, “YES” and I do not believe it to be so!

I can’t believe it, I have been too overwhelmed by the times where there are no more tears, when the heart feels heavy and empty, and where eyes seem lifeless.  I can’t believe it, because I’ve seen the people in bondage to their pain, their grief, their shame.

I can’t believe it!

I know it though, my soul is in awe when it is has seen people come to life, be renewed, be healed of brokenness that has shattered them, and their family.  I have seen God do the impossible, I have seen the tears return at altars once abandoned, I have seen peace wash over those whose lives have known only suffering. I have seen joy break through empty eyes like the sun exploding through the darkness of night.

I know it.

I have seen this prayer come true,

and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

That is the difference having a relationship, a deep, abiding, intimate relationship with Jesus makes in life. A life with Him that is shared with others, as we remind each other of this,

As we realize that in the sound of silence, in that place stillness, we can encounter and be lifted up by the fact that He is God, and He loves us.

That is the sound of silence, transformed by the Holy Spirit…

Lord, help all who read this resonate, not only with the honesty that brokenness leaves us with but with the hope that even in the silent darkness You come and are with us.  Help us to realize that You are our sanctuary, our fortress, our peace.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 251). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

William Brodrick from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/
IT

Do We Need to All Get Along? Do We Have A Choice?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day
12  You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14  And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)

480    Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living

I am tired. 

I am tired because of the fighting going around us.  In this world as nation is against nation.  As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun!  And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.

The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues.  Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable. 

I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life. 

I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others.  That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them. 

But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works.  No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.

It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness.  That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything.  That unity is found in Christ’s love, 

Nowhere else.

It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us. 

Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.

Can we all get along?  Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him.  This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong. 

Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one.  Amen!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Man Who Won’t Search for God. Is There Hope for Him? (I’m asking for a friend)

DSCF1083Devotional Thought of the Day:

50 “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what i Jesus said to him and departed.
51 While he was still going down, his •slaves met him saying that his boy was alive. 52 He asked them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at seven in the morning j the fever left him,” they answered. 53 The father k realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” Then he himself believed, along with his whole household.  John 4:50-53 HCSB

5 One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,”  the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”
8 “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” 9 Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.
Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”
11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. ”  John 5:5-6 HCSB

For when a person no longer rises above himself in his search for God, he becomes changed—narrower, smaller. Essential organs become atrophied in him. His soul becomes coarser and less discriminating. Eventually he can no longer love the other or even himself.

My devotional blog usually comes from trying to see the place where my readings converge, To take three or four of them and see what one thought will impact my day, and sometimes my week.

As I look at the two stories from the gospel, something struck me as odd.  

In verse 12 of the second story, we see that the lame man didn’t know who it was that healed him. In the last verse of the first story, we see the statement, “Then he himself believed”  Which means he believed in the man believed in what Jesus said, but he didn’t believe in Jesus. 

Wait, these two guys had miracles done for them, and they weren’t followers of Jesus?  They didn’t believe in Him as Messiah, as their Savior?

This observation may amaze you, but it is just as likely that it will tick you off.  Come on, be honest, why is it fair that this rich leader gets this son healed?  ANd why does the wretch who didn’t stay around to find out who healed him get the healing?

There are so many good believers, both then and now, who, dare I say it, deserve to be healed?  Okay, they are sinners too, but they need to be healed.   This doesn’t seem all that fair to me.  If God’s going to bless folk, shouldn’t there be a logic, a sense of justice about the healings?

Now let’s move onto the Pope’s description of a man who no longer searches for God. Who has become smaller, narrower, more self-centered?  ( GK Chesterton has a lot to say about this kind of man)   Here is a man who soul becomes coarse and dark, brittle and stiff.  The man whose life is so irritable and fractured.  WHo is consumed by anxiety and stress?

Is there hope for such a man?

I’m asking for a friend.

No, I am not.  To be honest, I am asking for myself.

For life has become so overwhelming for those around me, I am so looking for the answers for their problems, that like the man looking for his son to be healed, I forget to believe in the Lord whose words I believed about healing someone I loved.  And often I am like the lame guy lying by the pool, hoping for a miracle, but unable to help myself.  Unable to think outside my box. (heck I didn’t even know I had one!)

The situation Pope Benedict describes I know all too well, and when I am there, when I forget or resist being drawn into God’s presence, time sucks, Life is stressful and anxiety.

Yes, even pastors go through this and go through it far too often.

Which is why I find such an amazing God who is revealed this morning, providing healing that is needed, that is prayed for, even when we don’t recognize Him at first.  He provides what is needed, even when we aren’t sure.  He is patient enough that we have the time to process it, to have the “aha” moment of realizing we were (and still are) in the presence of a loving caring God, who is at work in our lives. 

Knowing this is the God who loves us, knowing this is the God who watches out for us, who cares about us, not just from duty. but because He loves us, is amazing.  It is wonderful, it helps me know during those days when I struggle to rise above myself, when I know I am changing, God will come, and have mercy, and reveal Himself to me.

And to you.

God is with us!  And He is patent, reminding us of His love…  AMEN!

Do you always recognize God’s presence in your life?  If you don’t, how do you feel?  What do you do?  DO you ever want to just give up?

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.

Which Miracle Would You Choose? Which is more needed?

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for our Broken Days:

Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?  9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man  has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” Mark 2:8-11  HCSB

476      For each one of us, as for Lazarus, it was really a veni foras—come out—which got us moving. How sad it is to see those who are still dead and don’t know the power of God’s mercy! Renew your holy joy, for opposite the man who is decomposing without Christ, there is another who has risen with him.

A little background is necessary for this blog.

I grew up with a genetic disorder known as Marfan’s Syndrome.  It’s one of those nasty connective tissue disorders that affects my eyes, my spine, and my heart.  It was responsible for a cardiac arrest in my twenties, and the necessity of two of my heart valves being replaced 20 years ago.  I also had to deal with severe asthma attacks and allergies that put me in the hospital often and caused me to miss as many as 60 days of school in third grade.  Looking back, I was probably significantly on the Asperger’s spectrum, because my social skill wasn’t exactly…. normal. (If you know me, you know it still isn’t!)

In the process, for all of the above, my parents would have people pray for me.  We even went to see Kathryn Kuhlman once, which required a really long bus trip. My folks did what they could as did the experts.  If ripping off the roof of a house would have secured my healing – they would have done it.  For me, the idea of physical healing isn’t just a passing idea, it is something desired for a long time.  Regular back pain, poor eyesight, and the clicking of mechanical valves impact me greatly at times – both physically and psychologically, and more times than I want to admit, spiritually.

As I read that passage this morning, it hit me.  God did answer a prayer for healing in my life, but not the physical healing we all wanted.  Instead, what God gave me was what the paralytic was offered, the forgiveness of my sin.

All of it, and that is a lot.

From the things that would cause me not to sleep at night because of guilt and shame, to the little things in the eyes of the world, to the sin that I attempt to justify.

He came to die, that all my sin would be paid for, the debt I incurred by committing it erased.  For that, I will ever be grateful.

I think the scribes had it right for once when they noted that forgiving sins was a far greater miraculous act, a act far more requiring the full power, authority and responsibility of God.  

There are doctors and others who can perform physical miracles today, there are people who have the gift of doing so, and among those even some who don’t believe in God.  But forgiving sin, that is a whole different matter.

And Jesus, fully God, fully man, can forgive our sin and does.  He has that right, He has the ability, and he invested that ability in His people, with the responsibility given to those who shepherd them, who guide them into God’s presence, the men who reveal God’s presence in their lives.

This miracle is one that impacts us far beyond our mortal life.  That is why it required more dunamis, more power/authority/responsibility/capability than other miracles.  It was why the scribe doubted.

Would I love to be healed completely of the effect of Marphans?  Yes
Would I like to be more socially skilled, and less awkward?  Hmmm… tough one. 🙂  (there are days when the world not making sense is a good thing)

But were I to have all that, and not have the forgiveness of sins, all would be lost.  So I will rejoice in my weakness, and rejoice in a Lord that loves me and shows me the mercy I so need, and so do not deserve.  This is what raises us like Lazarus from the dead, this is the power of God’s mercy at work, this is the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in you and I!

Come know the joy of being forgiven, reconciled, redeemed,

( and we can still pray that God heals the rest!)

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1820-1824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I’ve fallen, and how can I get up?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our days:

15  After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16  JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17  A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18  “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19  Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)

8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?” 
“To find favor with you, my lord,”  he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.”  Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB

 

173      Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.

There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin.  We want to get past it, but we cannot.  It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.

Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him.  Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection.  Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.

Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit.  Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost.  But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.

We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!

That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off.  This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him.  Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us?  It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.

He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.

He holds us close to His heart,  so very close!  As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.

It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.

But He is there, with us.

For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.

Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Millenials Aren the First to Seek Something Deeper and More Meaningful…

Devotional Thought for our days:

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)

During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.

Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”.  According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation.  (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi.  One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system. 

They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago) 

Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.  

What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.

A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me.  As it did the generations before us.

It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.

The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it.  To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it. 

I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!

May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.”  Amen!

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

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.

The Words That You Need to Hear Me Say, but “I” dont say them.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21  (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” John 20:19-23 (NAB)

So rejoice my friends, based on your confession and your faith in Christ hear these words. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the  † Son and of the Holy Spirit.  adapted from the Lutheran Liturgy, Confession, and Absolution 

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.

It is necessary to discover anew the meaning of the scandal that enables one man to say to another: “I absolve you from your sins.” In that moment—as, for that matter, in the administration of every other sacrament—the priest draws his authority, not, certainly, from the consent of a man, but directly from Christ. The I that says “I absolve you …” is not that of a creature; it is directly the I of the Lord. I feel more and more uneasy when I hear the facile way in which people designate as “ritualistic”, “external”, and “anonymous” the formerly widespread manner of approaching the confessional.

It does seem scandalous, every Sunday as I stand in from of my parishioners and guests, and dare to forgive their sins.  Who am I to have just a great task.  Or worse, in those times where people aren’t repentant, to hand them over to Satan for a season.   ( 1 Cor. 5:5,  1 Thes. 1:20)  

But who am I to dare tell Joe that his sins are forgiven?  What if he is a man who cheats on his wife, or is verbally abusive toward his co-workers?  What if he’s been stealing and breaking into houses, or cheating on his taxes?  What if he constantly gossips about political figures?

How dare I stand there, look at him, and say, “I forgive your sins…”

Luther has it correct, the focus is not on me, but on you hearing what God desires you to hear.  You are freed from the bondage you put yourself into by sinning.  The eternal consequences have been transferred to Jesus on the Cross, they are not yours.  You need to cherish these words,  value them as life-giving, life-restoring.  It is a spiritual form of CPR and first aid. 

Pope Benedict seems to resonate with these words as well, as he discusses the delegation of Christ’s authority (see Matthew 28:18) to forgive sins is given to the pastor to use, for the benefit of God’s people.  THe “I” there is no longer dustin the sinner, but it is Jesus speaking to you.  

His authority, His message, His decision.

You are forgiven.

It is finished.

For by the stripes Jesus bore, you have been healed!

Rejoice!

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

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.

The Priceless Blessing We Cannot Afford to Neglect…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional thought of the Day:

23  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1) 

The intercessor is a worshipper who has understood the deepest feelings of God and clings to them, despite contrary appearances.

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit, and through the Son.
He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

I am sitting in my office, as I do most Saturdays.  My primary task is finalizing my sermon, the two Bible studies I teach tomorrow.  As I do, there is another task I do… on that can be heartbreaking at times.

It is receiving the prayers that people drop into mention, that text or message me or email me about.  They want to make sure they are included in the bulletin for our people to pray about, or if more confidential, that I will include them in my private prayers. 

This morning has been no different, in fact, one could say “business” has been a bit brisker than normal.  A military person going to Korea, another beloved friend diagnosed with cancer, a friend dealing with diabetes and other health concerns, people with family problems, people looking for a new home, people with family struggles.  There are a lot of people we pray for, an act often called intercession, or petitioning God on their behalf.  Or more simply – we ask God to bless them and care for them in their situation.  That includes praying for healing, for strengthening their trust and dependence on Him, which will give them hope.  Mostly that they would see God acting in their lives. 

This is prayer, this is, in a very real way, communing with God.  Or as the Lutheran confessions (in green) call it, a sacramental time.  Pope Franci echoes this sentiment when he calls it the mystery that is unfolded and revealed, a time of intimate communion, a time where we understand the deepest feelings of God and cling to them.

As I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon, this hits home strong.  Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, he sends the crowds away, and he heads in to the hills to be alone, to pray.  Specifically, the word for prayer is the word for petition.  He has to talk wiht the Father about the people he encountered, He has to bring them into the relaitonship He has with the Father because they matter to both of them!

Add to this the action of the Holy Spirit, seen in the passage from Romans. This incredible thought that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well, praying when we are too overwhelmed when we cannot find the words when we can’t find the words or thoughts to pray.  It is then that the Spirit is definitely interceding with and for us, with words that are inaudible, because the Spirit’s groans,, the Spirit’s pleading is beyond expression. 

That is how much the Spirit cares, how much the Spirit is in touch with our needs, with the needs of those we love, and those they love.

Prayer isn’t some empty time of waiting for an appeal to be heard and decided.  It isn’t a time to do out of a sense of obligation, either to God or to those who ask.

It is the time we have been given to walk with God, to see His heart, to realize His love for them is even deeper than ours.  THat He cares more for those we intercede for than He does for flowers and birds, and if he cares for them and makes them beautiful bow much more for us is He active, then we can relax, we can be at peace.

Such is this priceless gift of prayer, our time with God. And like the other sacramental times, we need to slow it down hear his voice. To let Him comfort our tears, to let Him still our anxious hearts, to help us realize He is with us….even when we don’t know what to pray.

He is with us…

If that is all prayer did,, was make us aware of that, it would be worth it.

Yet to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocating for us, pleading for us, praying with us….. how that helps us… how incredible, how much more does it help us understand the heart of our incredible God who loves us!

Be at peace, the Lord is with you!

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

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. Print.

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. Print.

Why Go to Church? Is it Really Necessary?

Altar with communion

Devotional thought for your day:
23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:23-25 (TEV)

16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)

667         Haven’t you noticed how people in love dress to please one another by their appearance? Well, that is how you should tidy up and deck out your soul.

I have seen and heard a couple of people challenge the idea of going to church recently.  Sometimes it is direct, saying that people who go to church are needy (we are!)  and hypocrites ( correct again).  Or perhaps the challenge is that you can worship God anywhere (but will you?) or that truly being a Christian is demonstrated in how you care for people. ( it is, but exactly how good are you at loving the unlovable?)

Some may say that I am biased because of my occupation/vocation, that because I often invest 60 hours a week in “church” I have a stake in whether people come or not.  If it was only a stake, if it was only to make my investment of time, talent, and tears pay off, I wouldn’t do it.  The amount of time, whether as a pastor or a lay person is great. But it demands more than that – it demands the investment of your soul.

So why go to church?

Well, the obvious one is in the first quote, simply because God’s word tells us we need to, we need to encourage each other as we gather together, not setting it aside, it is too important, too critical to keep each person encouraged, to support each person in their life, to help guide each other, and sometimes carry each other, into the presence of God.  It is in church that we learn why we find hope in knowing God, and more importantly, exactly what that hope, that incredible hope is.

That is the purpose for the music, which expresses our pain ( this type of worship is called lament)  and the healing God brings, which celebrates His love and His presence.  That is the purpose of the sermon and Bible studies, to reveal the hope that knowing, intimately knowing God’s love. It is even the purpose of the various things we do in church, and everything we take in with our eyes.

It’s all about God… and us.

Which is what Paul expresses in the second quote, where he talks of knowing, of experiencing ( because we can’t fully know/understand) the dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus.  The soaring heights as we realized we are loved, the depth of God’s compassion, as He is with us at the rock bottom parts of His life. In the midst of this, Paul inserts the word together.  That all God’s people need to experience this love, together.  That too is what church is, not just what it is about.

It is the moment we hear we are all forgiven of our sin. All of it. Completely.

It is int he moment when we realize God’s peace is with us, and we share that peace with those around us. celebrating the love of God which glues us together, and together with Him.

It is in that moment when we are given proof of that love, as we are given His body and blood, to remind us of His death for us, and His opening the door which reveals God’s love to us, together.  Even that person I was so ticked off at, is there, being loved by God, as I am.  To realize we’ve both been freed of the sin and guilt, the shame and resentment, the burdens that crush and divide us.

It is then when loving them becomes a joy, not a duty obeyed because we have to .

It is then when church becomes more than an organization, or a costly bit of entertainment mixed with some positive “feel good” messages, or a club where we celebrate our being holier than those people out playing golf or watching their kids play soccer, or working.

Church isn’t some obligation, it is what St. Josemaria talks about, a time to get our soul ready to interact with God, by hearing again and again how He has prepared us to be with Him and then spending the time with Him.  the early part of a service, as we are forgiven, as we hear of His love, of his promises, that is like a bride being made ready for her wedding.  And the Lord’s Supper is then the wedding and all joy of life brought together, as we realize how much we are loved.

This is what church is, this is what we need, a place to find hope, healing, reconciliation, and joy as we dwell together in Christ, while helping others find those same things, as God revelas His love to them.

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2792-2794). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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