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The Future Of the Church is Simple…Who will imitate you…?

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT

2  To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)

Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.

[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.

As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.

As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.

If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”

Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?

It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.

It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.

As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,

This is the future of the church, this is its hope.

Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.

It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.

Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!

This is our past, and our future.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Mirror-Image

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)

Arrogance, the ontological lie by which man makes himself God, is overcome by the humility of God, who makes himself the slave, who bows down before us. The man who wants to come close to God must be able to look upon him—that is essential. But he must likewise learn to bend, for God has bent himself down. In the gesture of humble love, in the washing of feet, in which he kneels at our feet—that is where we find him.

Scripture tells us that we were created in the image of God, and it tells us that we are to imitate Him.  (1 Cor 11:1)  It tells us we are transformed into His image ( Romans 12, 2 Cor. 3)

I think somehow we have twisted this, instead of reflecting God’s image to the world, we reflect our image into what we see as God. We are more subtle than the ancients who created their idols of brass and gold, from wood and stone.  Instead, the image we create serves our vanity, it serves our desires, our will.

Will the image of God we see look like us?  And if so, will it be the image of one who kneels, who washes feet, who cares for the poor, who welcomes the alien, the sick, the prisoner?   Will we, who want encounter God be willing to encounter and look like the one who was bruised and broken for others?

Is our the glory that we see in God the glory of His love for us, as His suffering brings us healing and wholeness?  Or do we want to see Him perfect, unmarred, triumphant, unbreakable?

We need to see the Lord who washes our feet, who bandages our wounds, who is broken and marred and crucified, for us.  Are we willing to be patient, so that person doesn’t perish, so that person can be transformed into God’s image as well?  We need to mee the God who is broken for us…for only there can we meet Him.

And for those of us who preach and teach about Jesus, what image of Him do we portray for people to imitate?

The God who loves us enough to bow down before us, or some other god..

Lord Jesus, help us to see your love, as you wash and heal us, serve us…and as you make us whole, help us to be there for others.  AMEN!

Question to think through:   How do you picture God?  How does that affect your interactions with others?

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

The Key to Loving Your Enemies, Loving God. The Key to Loving God…

Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9  O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. 10  As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. Psalm 48:9-10 (NLT)

You still do not love the Lord as a miser loves his riches, as a mother loves her child… You are still too concerned about yourself and about your petty affairs! And yet you have noticed that Jesus has already become indispensable in your life… Well, as soon as you correspond completely to his call, he will also be indispensable to you in each one of your actions. (1)

Yesterday’s Bible Study time at church was talking about the attitude of St. Paul towards the people of Israel. How, even though those people would have killed him outright, his love for God, and His knowledge of God’s promises, led him to desire their salvation, no matter the cost.  He said he would even give up is salvation, if that were possible,

A tough act to follow, as many of us realized, and even grieved over during the Bible Study.

Paul’s comments, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ,” take on a far more challenging perspective.  They drive home the idea of loving our neighbor – for love doesn’t count the cost.  Even when our neighbor is our enemy, our adversary, or just a huge pain in the neck.  Imitate Paul as he desires their salvation more than even his own, even as Paul imitated Jesus, as He died for those who caused His suffering and death.  You and I.  (All that debate about whether the Jews were responsible for His death, or the Romans is nonsense.  He chose to die to save us from our sins, to restore us to the Father.)

Are you willing to give up all for those you love?  Are you willing to love those who hate you?

Tough questions.

Even more difficult, when we realize Paul’s challenge to us is not alone, John issues it with these words,

20  If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21  And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:20-21 (NLT)

So how do we do this?  Is there some metaphysical knowledge that unlocks in us the ability to love our neighbor?  Is it some ritual that we must undergo, that magically gives us the ability to sacrifice all for our neighbor?

No, just simply – if you love God with all you are, when you correspond to His call on your life, then this happens.  Not because of our will or volition, it is deeper than that.  It is the work of God in our lives, what He has ordained for us.  it is a life of Holiness, it is a life, set apart to Him.

Again, not easy, a radical transformation in our lives.

So how do we do these things, things God has emphasized through His word, through the Apostles, the Prophets, in the Law of Moses, in the Gospel of Christ?

Think.

No – not think about where the solution, that won’t help.  We aren’t capable of it.

Do what the psalmist asks us to do – meditate on the Lord, on His love, on His mercy, on His promises revealed in His word. On His unfailing love.  As Paul will say, explore its depths, its height, its width, its breadth.  Realize how God’s love consumes us, how it transforms us, How the Holy Spirit makes it a reality in our life.

It sounds too easy, but keep in the forefront of your thoughts during the day the incredible love and grace of God.  Spend time just thinking about it.

Don’t limit yourself to worship and praise, to just studying the Bible in classes, or studying it as you read it.

Just read and be in awe, let the words run through your heart like a bubbling brook, occasionally like a waterfall, Like the Niagara Falls, or Iguazu Falls in South America. (Watch the movie “The Mission” to see this – and an incredible story of loving your enemy!)

Let the promises amaze you, the patience of God astonich you, the miracles and wonders of God leave you without the ability to read any further.

And delight that all of this has been done and revealed – to you… for you, for your neighbor, for that person…….

Then you will love, ot as a command, but because the gospel is alive in you, you won’t be able to resist,

It will be our lives… lived as our Lord lived.

We’ll stumble for sure, we struggle at times, but the correlation between realizing the love of God, and loving others is clear… and it is necessary…

So dwell in Him, rejoice in His presence. Know His love!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3299-3303). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Challenge to Leadership in the Church…sacrfice

Today’s Devotional/Discussion thought…

A quote for leaders… (of every kind)

11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)

This verse ends a chapter which requires great humility, as we hear Paul talk about not giving offense which would inhibit another’s walk with Christ.  As a pastor, and one who works with broken churches, ( every church is broken, some brokenness is simply more visible) I hear these stories all the time.  A former pastor who may or may not have cared, a phrase uttered in the midst of a longer conversation, but that stuck with those who heard it.   Pains that are decades old, but still as tender, and then something rips the scabs off, releasing a flow of blood that may cleanse the wound, or may allow for infection, given the way it was treated.

That is where imitating Christ needs to become a focal point for leadership – where we put aside what we desire, and sometimes, yeah – what we need.  We set aside ourselves that we can be there to nurse the wounded to strength, to encourage their trust in Jesus, to bring them to the altar – not drive them out of the church because we were irritated by them.

That is Christian leadership.  I like how I came across Christ’s leadership in this manner in my devotions this morning.

 Our Lord is on the Cross saying, I am suffering so that men, who are my brothers, may be happy, not only in Heaven, but also—as far as possible—on earth, if they really embrace the most Holy Will of my heavenly Father.  (1)

To my friends in leadership, whether in the church, in government or business, to those who lead from an office, or simply have influence which people follow – please lead sacrificially,  lead in such a way that people can embrace God’s embrace of them, in such a way that God’s will is made manifest, and they can rejoice.  Serve, not command.  Be willing to suffer, in small and large ways.  As one who tries to live this, and is occasionally successful …. the rewards of seeing people embraced by God is more than worth whatever inconvenience, or pain.

Imitate Christ, that others may imitate you…..

and when you struggle to make that sacrifice…cry out to Him, and He will have mercy..  AMEN!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1123-1126). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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