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Brother to Brother…..one glorious hope!

church at communion 2Discussion Thought of the Day:
3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.    Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

Where man is no longer believed to be under God’s protection, to have God’s breath in him, then people begin to assess him from a utilitarian point of view. Then there appears the barbarity that tramples on human dignity.  (1)

Twenty-one years ago, an album containing the music of two masters was put together, one singing the lead of the other’s composition, both playing the instruments and blending their voices together.  They went on tour together, and while I would love to see many people in concert, to see Michael Card and John Michael Talbot together, would be one of my dreams.  

The album was called Brother to Brother, and it was playing in the background when I came across the words of Pope Ratzinger in my devotional reading this morning.  The lead song, One Faith,  comes from another favorite album, JMT’s The Regathering, which finds its inspiration in the words above from Ephesians 4.  It pictures the regathering of all the saints, into the perfect communion that is Christ Jesus.  As I look out on a broken world and the one holy, catholic (small c means all of us) apostolic and sadly fractured church, that day seems so precious, so wonderful and so far away.

It is the prayer and desire of Jesus fulfilled, that we truly be one, even as the Father and He are one.

And we see the glimpse of it in Pope Benedict’s (Cardinal Ratzinger when he wrote them) above in blue.  When we realize that every man is under God’s protection, every man has God’s breath in them, we can no longer view them as anything utilitarian.  We cannot hang generalizations, we cannot define them by affiliation or hang demographic labels on them.  Even the labels adversary and enemy fade away, along with fears and anxieties, as we see Christ in them, and therefore find someone who is loved, even as we are loved.  Someone Jesus is calling to, even as he calls to us.

Pope Benedict went on to say, We must always look upon other men as persons with whom we shall one day share God’s joy. We must see them as persons with whom we are called to be members of the body of Christ, with whom we shall one day sit at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the table of Jesus Christ, as persons called to be our brothers or sisters, and to be, with us, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, children of God.”

This isn’t easy.  It means we must trust and depend on God more than our fears, our anxieties, our resentments.  it requires seeing the individual as more than important than those things.  The only way to do that is to see the heart of God, the Lord who gave His body to be broken, and His blood to be shed for all on the cross, and then unify all He calls in a meal where He shares His body and blood again.

Including those that don’t understand yet, for we are called to love them, and invite them to this feast…..We won’t conquer our fears, we won’t willingly become martyrs if necessary if we don’t see them loved by God, even as He loves us.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, and help us to see that You died for each and every individual.  AMEN!

(1)  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.

Can anyone stop “them”? Should anyone?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
28He said to them, “You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles. But God has shown me that I must not consider any person ritually unclean or defiled. 29And so when you sent for me, I came without any objection. I ask you, then, why did you send for me?”

Peter spoke up: 47“These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them from being baptized with water?  Acts 10:28-29, 46b-47

Philothea, our possessions are not our own, but were lent to us by God to cultivate them, and it is his will that we should render them fruitful and profitable, and therefore we perform services agreeable to Him in being careful of them; but then it must be a greater and more solid care than that which worldlings have of their goods, for they labour only for love of themselves, but we must labour for the love of God.

As I was reading this passage in Acts this morning, I noticed something I had overlooked before, something staggering in light of some of today’s issues.

Peter didn’t know why he was there!

He knew God wanted him there, he knew he was going to speak for God, but Peter didn’t get what God was about to do.  A few verses later he sees it, as he stands in the midst of those that represent the oppression of his people, an evil, violent government, and people that days before, he considered defiled. He believed they were so defiled and unclean that simply by walking into their home, he would be considered defiled and unclean.

Even so, the Spirit sent him to Cornelious’ home, and taught him over and over that God is the one who determines who is unclean and defiled, not culture, not tradition, not even the anxieties that plagued them.

Then, even as Peter is learning this lesson for real, God takes it a step further. He just doesn’t confirm that these people can hear the gospel, He pours out His Spirit upon them. Peter’s obedience to the command to not consider them unclean results in their salvation, their being made one of us, the people of God. Our brothers and sisters in Christ.

How wonderful!  How incredible!

And how much a lesson we need to see in our day and time.

God may not send us into their homes today, it seems that He is bringing them into our homes. They are refugees and immigrants, they are those who are turning to us for help, just as Cornelius was guided to send for Peter.

Will we consider them unclean and defiled?  Will we let our anxieties rule over our mission?  But as we encounter them ( and all we encounter) will we let God determine whether they are deserving to hear of His love?   Will we let God move their hearts, and put His Spirit within them?

Or will our attitudes put up road blocks?  Will our self-righteous judgment drive them away, insisting that we have to protect what is ours?  (which really isn’t – see the quote from St. Francis De Sales in blue)

The realization that I started this with was that Peter didn’t know exactly why he was there, he had been told by God that he was to go, that this was God’s plan. As so he went, and came to know Cornelius, and so found the greatest joy.

May our faith grow like his, where we can set aside our fears, our anxieties, our biases and share with people the love of God. And so discover the one we thought was our adversary is really our brother.

Lord have mercy on us all…

 

 

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

How should we, the little folk, respond to evil?

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God, who am I?

Discussion thought of the Day:

7  “The LORD did not love you and choose you because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation on earth. 8  But the LORD loved you and wanted to keep the promise that he made to your ancestors. That is why he saved you by his great might and set you free from slavery to the king of Egypt. 9  Remember that the LORD your God is the only God and that he is faithful. He will keep his covenant and show his constant love to a thousand generations of those who love him and obey his commands,
Deuteronomy 7:7-9 (TEV)

10  Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power. 11  Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks. 12  For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:10-12 (TEV)

830    Don’t be a fool! It’s true that at most you play the part of a small bolt in that great undertaking of Christ’s. But do you know what happens when a bolt is not tight enough or when it works itself out of place? Bigger parts also work loose or gears are damaged or broken. The whole work is slowed up. Perhaps the whole machine will be rendered useless. What a big thing it is to be a little bolt!

I am struggling with the paradox that was America yesterday.

We saw an action taken that will defend the life of an innocent, defenseless human being, found in the womb. Not long after we saw other defenseless innocent humans denied assistance, denied protection. Irony isn’t the right word, and paradox doesn’t express my grief, and indeed my fear.

Both pro-life issues are close to my heart. I’ve known refugees and immigrants as long as I’ve can remember.  From my adopted grandfather, to Bing, a family friend who escaped his country, to classmates in junior high and high school.  Even the city (and my church ) I live in now is one of the most diverse in California, full of immigrants, and yes refugees who are thriving here.  Make no mistake, this closing of our doors to those in need is as evil as the act of taking a child from the womb to die.  I’ve counseled too many who have had abortions, and dwelt is silent guilt and shame when they later had another child, and they realized the blessing they were convinced was simply an “inconvenience”. There are other reasons this burdens my heart as well, too deep for me to quickly comment upon.

But what can I, the pastor of a small church, without any political or influence, do in the face of such evil actions as the denial of life?  I feel powerless, that my grief and sorrow and even anger is meaningless.

St Josemaria reminds me that even the smallest washer and bolt is critical to a machine.  if it isn’t tight enough, if it has worked itself out of place, then the entire machine and process could be at risk.

I understand the illustration, I even like it,  but am not sure of its application here.  Can my 100 or so people actually make a difference?

I then look to the first quote from scripture, that Israel too was not a large and powerful country. Even at its biggest, under David and Solomon, it couldn’t compete against Egypt or Assyria, against Greece or Rome.  Yet its power, its very existence wasn’t to be the powerful kingdom dynasty.  The reason God sustained them, the reasoned God remained faithful to them, was in order to reveal HIs love in the incarnation.  In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus] we find God.

Which is what St Paul is telling us as well.  Our ENEMY isn’t Donald Trump, just as it wasn’t Barack Obama, the Bushes, or the Clintons. Our weapons aren’t our marches for justice, our clever memes, our reasoned (if only half researched) articles that we share or chant.

It is not those things that brought us to Christ ourselves, It wasn’t our strength or our reason.  So what makes us think our strength and reason will make a bit of difference to those we oppose? (Assuming somehow they heard it?)  No, our place is as that bolt, holding fast, just as St Paul tells us,

Holding fast to Christ, to the hope the Israelites were to see bless the world. Our hope is our being united with Christ.  He is our weapon, He is our hope for victory.  He who defends the defenseless, whether they are too weak, or too guilty.

This is why Paul and Peter both urge us to prayer, to ask God to bless those who are enemies, our adversaries, to see God transform them as He is revealed, just as He did to us.  Even as we pray, our pain sacrificed becomes the love which will impact others, and bring about new life.

This is no little task, this gripping Christ as tightly as any bolt to any screw.  This praying and depending on Him, and learning to love those we could easily hate, just as Christ loves us.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of God that is at work in you, or HIs desire to bring us all to transformation.   That is where our hope is, and continues to be.

And pray and don’t be surprised if you become the next Ananias….

We pray through the tears, “Lord, have mercy”, and hear His comforting answer.

Lord, we pray this morning for our President, and all those that work with them.  That they would know your mercy, and as they begin to realize they are loved, that they would show your mercy and love to all who are defenseless, all who are looking for sanctuary and hope. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1905-1909). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will You Let His People Come?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  After this, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘This is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says, “Let my people go, so that they can hold a feast in my honour in the desert.” ‘ Exodus 5:1 (NJB)

1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.
2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith. (1)

Hear, Lord, my prayer; let not my soul faint under Thy discipline, nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee all Thy mercies, whereby Thou hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that Thou mightest become a delight to me above all the allurements which I once pursued; that I may most entirely love Thee, and clasp Thy hand with all my affections, and Thou mayest yet rescue me from every temptation, even unto the end (2)

Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful34. For in the liturgy, God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer. (3)

All of the above readings are selections of my devotional reading, and they all have one thing in common.  The people of God were responding to His love, to His call, to be in His presence.

For as people come into His presence, as they are made aware of His love, as they begin to understand it, something wonderful happens.  Augustine describes this transition so clearly and begs God to help preserve it.   It is a state of being where we are completely freed from anxiety, from guilt and shame, and we find rest in God’s presence.

The Augsburg Confession describes how the sacraments help bring about this awareness, as do the writings of Vatican II.  That the liturgy brings this awareness out, as God’s love is revealed through the word, delivered in the sacraments.  It is in these events that our faith is surely strengthened, our love of God and each other grows.

So now to the Bible passage – the Pharoah, who will hear these words from God over and over.

“Let my people go!”  Put slightly differently, “Let my people come and feast with me.”  It’s not a request from God to Pharoah.  It’s not a suggestion.  Pharoah will pay for his obstinance, for his attempt to block the will of God.

I sometimes wonder if the church is acting more like the Pharoah than it is acting like Moses.

We hold people back from coming into God’s presence.  We won’t let them go, and feast with God.  Consider…

*  We don’t let them go when we put man-made systems and rules in place, which then deny them the desire God is putting in their hearts.

*  We don’t let them go when we think they aren’t interested, or won’t bother, and we leave them in the suffering slavery of sin.  ( Israel wanted nothing to do with Moses a couple of times in the process, remember?)

*  We don’t let them go when we think they aren’t the right kind of people. (Check out Ex. 12:38 it wasn’t only the Israeli’s that were counted among the people of God in the Exodus!)

*  What kept running through my mind during the devotion is that we don’t let them go, when we let our fears and anxieties stop us from letting them come among us, the people of God.  Those who are fleeing violence, or drugs or war.  When we tell them, hundreds of thousands of you in need aren’t worth the risk

In this last case, I am saddened by the number of church folk, people who claim to follow Jesus.  As He is being lifted up by missionaries “on the ground” working with those refugees and they are coming to know God’s love, we are sending them a different message with our posts that they aren’t welcome, by the political leaders comments that we share, men who say just shut the borders down completely, and offer no option to helping those in need.  We are showing those in dire need that we are more afraid of man than we can trust and obey in God.

We won’t let them come, because of fear.  We won’t let them come to a place where they will hear of Jesus and find out about his love.  We won’t let them come and feast with them.

Are we any different than Pharoah?

Read the blue, green and purple words again, and remember what Jesus said about if He is lifted up, he will draw all men to himself.

Reach out to all around you, and help them come to know Jesus.

One last thought, from last Sunday’s reading from the Old Testament

 And those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.   Daniel 12:3b (NLT)

It is time to shine, people of God, and find out there are far more os us, than we ever thought, as God draws people to Himself.  AMEN

 

 

 

 
(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 35–36). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

(3)  Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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