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I love it when a plan comes together! (a plan… not mine)

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

O LORD, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever. 2 I know that your love will last for all time, that your faithfulness is as permanent as the sky.  Psalm 89:1-2  GNT

 

345         What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity.

The contemplation of God, of his person, creation, incarnation, and re-creation of the world, is a different kind of knowledge. It is a contemplation on the mysteries, namely, the mystery of God creating, the mystery of God incarnate, the mystery of the cross and empty tomb, the mystery of God’s presence in the church, and the mystery of Christ’s return to claim his lordship over creation. The contemplation of these mysteries moves us to live into these mysteries, participating in God’s life for the world.

This week has not gone as I planned, I had a number of things to accomplish to get ready for vacation, also plans to celebrate my 28th anniversary tomorrow.

Let’s just say those things I planned to get done were often interrupted, as hours were spent in crisis moments, and in a meeting, a very necessary meeting, that took out most of a day.  And then, of course, the implementation of a new phone system.  Yeah, my plan?  Long days and nights, and some of the things are off the checklist… but I am leaving for “home” in a little more than 48 hours…

Yet with the esteemed Colonel on the old A-team, I can look back and say, somehow, “I love it when a plan comes together!”  Even if I haven’t seen it come to its fulfillment.

More and more I realize that Escriva’s idea that those who serve as the church are like blinded donkeys, walking around, supplying the work that God uses to bless others is true.  We love it when a plan comes together, but we are equally sure that it cannot be our plan. At least if we want it to come together!  There must be a greater planner who is able to not just plan well, but execute and carry us to where the plan “comes together”

One in whom we can trust, one who we can depend on, not just for the plan, but for the result. And then we can go back to our trodding through life, content to let the Spirit lead, flexible enough to simply follow that Spirit when the need occurs, even when we think we are a round peg being placed into a square hole.

That is where Webber’s words this morning make so much sense to me.  That as we contemplate the very mysteries of God, as we try, not to understand as much as observe in awe, and accept we cannot have all the answers, but we can have Him, the need for all the answers, the need to see all of our agendas come to pass fades.  Simply put, knowing Him, living in His glorious peace is….. more than sufficient.

We learn to sing with the psalmist about God’s love, about His faithfulness.  Which feeds on itself.  For the more aware of this, the more we explore the breadth, width, depth, and height of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ, revealed at the cross, and at the table, the more we desire to simply know that….

And we are assured of the living water that our lives help distribute to fields will see them ready to harvest, as the world comes to know the love of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

The Blessing of the Communion of Saints


Devotional THoguht of the Day

Here is my servant* whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.2 He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed* he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow dim or be bruised until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands* will wait for his teaching.  Isaiah 42:1-4 NABRE

Thomas Aquinas even went so far as to explain the scientific nature of theology in terms of this text. He says that theology, too, is in this sense a “secondary science” that does not “see” and “prove” its own foundations. It is, so to speak, dependent upon the “knowledge of the saints”, on their conviction; this conviction is the reference point of theological thought, which vouches for its legitimacy. The work of the theologian is, in this sense, always “secondary”, always ordered to the real experience of the saints. That is the humility that is required of the theologian.… Without the realism of the saints, without their contact with reality, which is what it is all about, theology becomes an empty intellectual game and loses its character as a science.  (1) 

With Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven we exalt and magnify Your glorious Name, evermore praising You and singing…”    (2)

I am still caught up a little, in the message from yesterday, and the action Jesus takes, not just in delivering a man tormented by demons, but the action Jesus takes in sending the man home. Back to the people he tormented, to the relationships that were shattered in the course of the possession.  He sent him back to give the people hope, to proclaim to them the way God worked in His life.

The way described in the passage I came across in my devotions in Isaiah this morning. The care Jesus showed, the tenderness showed even to the demons ( Why not just trash them? Why not just send them into the pit?  Why respond to their plea for comfort and mercy?)  .Look at Christ, caring for the man, and for the village that rejected him!

I then came to the theologian’s quote and heard the words of our liturgy.  They both speak about the fact that we don’t live in a vacuum.  That life isn’t restricted to what we see, but that our worship joins with those before us, that their encounters with God.  We need to realize that the list of people that lived by faith in Hebrews 11, and those that followed in their steps as they followed in Christ, are those whose voices we join in praise.

And it is their experience; it is their stories that become part of our story (I think someone might say meta-narrative – but I don’t know what that is!). It is their experience of God that undergirds our study of theology.

Not because they are holier than we are.  Not because they were more intelligent! (though in my case – they are significantly so!)   It is because they experienced the love of God!  They saw Him bring healing and forgiveness into their lives, they walked with Him, even through the valley of the shadow of death!  To those who have gone before us, we see the impact of God revealing Himself to them.  It is imperative that we realize the communion of saints that we include in our confession of faith that we call the creeds.  We have to realize we are part of that, that they are part of our lives as well.

If we are to describe theology as a science, a pursuit to discover truth, and to gain an ever-deepening understanding of it, the lives of saints, past and present is the laboratory part of the course.   It is where we see the truth of Jesus in real life, experienced, observed, known.

It is something we need to know, to know Jesus has walked with others, healed others, delivered others, and sent others out, to minister to those who will be the next generation of the communion of saints.

What a blessed gift God has given to us, to help us journey with Him in life!

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 198–199). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(2)   A paraphrase of the Lutheran prayer said as we prepare for communion

 

Here’s what Jesus did – Let’s get at it!

Devotional thought of the day:

105  Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path. 106  I will keep my solemn promise to obey your just instructions. 107  My sufferings, LORD, are terrible indeed; keep me alive, as you have promised. 108  Accept my prayer of thanks, O LORD, and teach me your commands. 109  I am always ready to risk my life; I have not forgotten your law. 110  The wicked lay a trap for me, but I have not disobeyed your commands. 111  Your commandments are my eternal possession; they are the joy of my heart. 112  I have decided to obey your laws until the day I die.      Psalm 119:105-112 (TEV) 

881 Sacrifice yourself, give yourself, and work at souls one by one, as the jeweller works on precious stones: one by one. Indeed you should exercise even more care, because you are dealing with something of incomparable value. The purpose of that spiritual attention you give is to prepare good instruments for the service of God: and they, each one of them, have cost Christ all of his Blood. (1)

We should fear love and trust God in God above all things… and so…(2)

Over the past decade, people have taken polar sides on for little letters WWJD.  Some use it as a strong reminder, an encouragement to strive against sin, especially sin of ommission.  Some see it as a condemning law, a standard that can only beat people into the earth as they fail and fail again. The odd thing is that many in the latter group extol the liturgical use of confession and absolution, whereas the former group often dismisses the sacrament.

As usual, I find a third way to look at it, a different route to take.

For years churches have sung a song written with the first verse of the reading from Psalm 119 above.  It is a good worship song, a prayer that is not unlike a modern Kyrie, asking Jesus our Lord to have mercy on our journey.

But how often do we look at the path described, the hardship the determination of the writer to be faithful during trial, to treasure the commandments? Are we ready and determined to risk our very lives in doing that which the Lord has willed – to assist those who need to come to repentance, to be trasnformed by the very love and mercy of God?  How can we live following the path that God’s light, His glory illuminates for us?

So do we give up?  Do we take the theologians escape route, and say that this passage is a prophetic look at Jesus, and is to much of a burden for us?  THat it is only about Christ?

No, we cannot.  This psalm is our cry as much as Christ’s, indeed it is ours the moment we are claimed by God, as the Holy Spirit quickens, brings to life our heart. (see Ezekiel 36:25ff and Ezekiel 37:1-12, Acts 2:37-39 and Titus 2:2-8)  Realize that walking this path is what God has called us to, why he has recreated us and we are the fullness of His craftmanship – created for this very thing.  To walk this path, with Christ, in Christ, To do What Jesus Would Do, for as we live in Him, He is doing this thing.

Living and working in His will that none would perish, Embracing hardships and suffering, learning from Him, being willing to risk it all – that someone else would know Jesus’ love (even those who know it already – but need the encouragement we are here to give each other).  To take joy in GOd’s plan, in His providence.  That is what it means to live in His presence, to have an incrantional theology, to know Christ and Him crucified…

That’s what Jesus did… and in Christ, absorbed by Him, we shall as well…..

Lord have mercy!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3110-3113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Luther’s Small Catechism

UnderCover Boss: What if God became One of Us?

UnderCover Boss:

What if God became One of Us

Hebrews 2:14-18

† IHS †

May the grace, mercy and peace God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ has planned to be part of our lives become more and more the reality we live in, as we realize God became one of us…

What if God became one of us?

 

Whatever the reason they agree to give up their comfortable lives, their homes and their families, the end result is staggering.  CEO’s of everything from restaurants like Hooters to portable toilet suppliers; from hotel chains to retail stores and airport shuttles. They go on the show, and are changed by doing the basic things their people do every day.

At the end of the show, if you have never seen it, the boss calls them into the corporate office, for a little chat.  He’s given money to help them change their lives, scholarships, promotions, new roles. But the big change is in their lives, as they stay in simple hotels, and live like the rest of us.  The changes they can cause in their peoples lives are nothing compared to the changes they find in their own lives, in their own work.

In the television show “Undercover Boss” there are great lessons for us all to learn, as we realize we aren’t dealing with just numbers, but with real people that are around us.  People with real challenges, People that become important, as we realize our lives are impacted by so many different people, people whom we don’t really know.

I owe credit for today’s sermon title to Kay, who looked at my sub-title – and thought of the show. But can you imagine if the Boss came undercover, and lived life as part of your world, your work?

How would that change your life at the end of the day, when you are called into His office?

What would happen today, if God became one…of us?

Do we realize God knows what our life is like?

Some of you, the theologians and scholars in our midst, are probably thinking that God has.  Remember the baby in the manger, the miracles, the transfiguration and cross and grace and Resurrection?

Yes, I do… but I meant today.

What would happen if the person next to you tomorrow at Starbucks was Jesus?  Or the person you encounter about 10:00 at work or the nurse taking your blood pressure at the doctor’s office?

What would that be like? If that person was “the Boss”?

The real question behind this is one we need to seriously ask ourselves. Does God know what our lives are like, and more importantly, does He care?  Or are we just another piece in His puzzle, another number on a spreadsheet, some of us in the assets column, some in the liabilities?

Does God know each one of us, and does He care?

How we answer that question will determine a lot of things in our lives. Especially how we relate to each other, and well of course to Him.

God’s answer is seen in the reading from Hebrews 2 this morning

Reason #1 to Come – You can’t help if you aren’t here

We often hear, and talk about, the role Jesus has and had, in delivering us from the power of sin, about the grief and shame we know, because we fail to do the things we are supposed to do, and we can’t stop those things we do the negative and things we think and have anxiety about.  It is true, that Jesus came to take care of those things, to deliver us from guilt and shame and the anxiety that sin causes.

But the author of Hebrews looks at another aspect of Christ’s coming here, to deal with our fears and anxieties, including that of death.  Hear the words again, 14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

it is amazing in the show to see what the bosses learn, not about their job, but about their people. The things that handicap them, the things that could be done to make their lives easier.  When at the end of the show the Bosses help the people, the emotional level is so high, they realized the Boss is human too.

The apostle John said that Jesus, the logos of God, came and dwelt among us, and that they beheld His glory, A glory that shatters the darkness, a glory that is demonstrated in a love that took on death for us. A glorious love that shattered it power over us, and freed us from the fear and anxieties we have about it.

That’s what the cross does, it puts everything in perspective. It tells us Jesus Christ, truly God, truly man, has been here. He has come.

If that was all it would mean, for Him to come, there is much to rejoice in, but that isn’t all.

Reason #2 to Come – to run to our aid..

I want you to look at the last verse of that reading, where it says:

18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

The word translated help, is a bit more powerful than that, though I don’t know any word that adequately would cover it.  It combines the concept of a scream or a yell – and an immediate run to give aid. That’s the word picture, Jesus, not looking perfectly groomed, but rushing headlong to our aid. 

Since He knows our lives, since He lives with us, since He is… here.

Unlike most of the undercover bosses, Jesus knows us completely..  He knows the ups and downs, and how to survive, for He lived and still lives in us. He didn’t come here to make a television show, or to make His company more profitable, or perfect.  He came into our lives to stay, to bring mercy, comfort and love and peace.

He is here, and He has promised that we will never ever be forsaken, that He will be with us to the end of the age.

Undercover Boss?  Not really, not at all.  He desires we reveal His presence to every person, so they can know for sure, that He has become one of us, even more, through His death on the cross,

God didn’t just come to be one of us, but God came to be one with us.

God has come, and dwells among us.

That’s what this is all about…this service, this church, our preschool.

Helping you realize His presence, in every moment of our lives…..

and knowing this, the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!.

Remember the Promised Relationship (Covenant)

Devotional Thought of the Day:
 28  I will always keep my promise to him, and my covenant with him will last foreverPsalm 89:28 (TEV)

“A Covenant sealed with blood commits both parties to each other for ever.  All they have belongs to the other, and they will lay down their life on the other’s behalf”  (1)

It was over a dozen years ago that I picked up a 2 year devotional book, called Celtic Daily Prayer.  It is the source of the quote in green above.  I’ve decided to renew my acquaintance with it, this year, partially because of its practical meditations that are challening.  So my readers might see a lot of it pondered on my blog this year, as the last year often had quotes from St. Josemaria Escriva. (and still will – )

It seems to be one of those God things that the first day’s meditation I cam across was one that focuses on Covenant. My original training in theology was within the framework of Covenant, and the deeper I’ve gone into understanding liturgical worship, the framework there is Covenant as well.

A quick definition is needed then, one I’ve developed.  Covenant Theology is a description of the intimate relationship that God desires to have with His people, and makes possible through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Scripture contains the history of God’s faithfulness to His covenant people, looking forward and back to the cross, the point where God’s love makes the depth of His desire to love us clear, where he gives us a tangible, perfect example of His lovee, as He commits Himself to us, as Christ’s blood was poured out to seal the agreement.

This is something we need to remember daily, as St. Paul prayed for God’s people (us),

 I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— 17  that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, 18  you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19  Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:15-19 (MSG) 

Explore the love, meditate on it, rejoice as you find it revealed to you in scripture, as you pray, as you gather with others around the Eucharist, as you proclaim Christ’s death – the measure of the triune God’s love for you and I and all the world. That is what it means to remember Chirst when you take and eat His Body, when you drink of the Blood that cleanses us from sin.

Theology is the servant of this relationship, in the way a marriage certificate or a love letter, or a powerpoint celebrating a 50th anniversary is.  It points to something that is more than anything we can ever completely express, this love of God for us, this desire to make us His children.   It is what Christianity is,

He loves us… He hears us, He died for us, His is with us… and we are His!

THe Lord is with you, so relax in His love!


(1)  Celtic Daily Prayer, The Northumbrian Community, HarperOne (Aidan Reading for Jan.5 )

Our Church’s Strategic Plan: Prayer

The Mission:  Briefing #2
Our Strategic Plan:  Prayer

John 12:20-33

 

Jesus, Son and Savior

 

As You look around you, may you realize the great need there is for the grace, the mercy and love that is yours to give, for that is your gift from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

At least we can? Not..

It’s probably a matter of semantics, just the way people phrase things, but I have heard it a lot this week.  It’s been said different ways, but it still sounds the same…

“Pastor, we’ll be praying, but if there is anything we can do….” Or

“Pastor, we know there is probably nothing we can do, but we’ll be praying for you and your family…”

By the way, if you’ve said that, I know that isn’t how we mean it. Or at least I don’t think we think that way.  Or maybe….. we do.

In contrast – today’s epistle reading takes a different tact…


I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

In our Lutheran Confessions, Melancthon wrote of it this way,

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.[i]

So I repeat Paul’s words – and will more and more today, I urge you, first of all… to pray for all people!

Where is our faith?

       

Whether we realize it, or not, when we set prayer as a secondary action, as a safety valve, we are breaking the first and second commandment.  You heard me, we are sinning, by placing another god in our lives, by not calling upon God in both prayer and praise.
Luther wrote about it this way:

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?

Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart;

 

For faith is not just about salvation, it’s about deacon Mike’s favorite theological phrase! It’s about that intimate relationship we have with God. It’s about trusting Him in everything – and running to Him first when we don’t know what to do, or how to love and care, all that we know is that He is where we find hope, and comfort, and love.

So Paul urges not just Timothy, but us to pray for all people.  To get God involved in their situation, to deliver them from whatever is oppressing them, especially the sin and unrighteousness of this world.  To pray that God would save them, even as He has saved us.  That His grace, His mercy and love that we know – for that is why we praise Him…would be revealed to them so clearly it would knock them over…like Paul was knocked over on the road to Damascus.

You see that’s how we deal with all people!  Yes – I mean all people.  Pray for those who annoy you, who irritate you, who’ve hurt you, who’ve betrayed you!  Put them in God’s hands, let God help them with their hurts, and your will find yourself healing as well.  For that is what it means that God is our God – that we trust Him with our who heart – even with our bruised and battered hearts…

For He is faithful and He will reconcile us all in His heart.

We have to grasp the heart of God!

That is really what prayer is about, and why it makes so much sense to put those we care for, and those who we struggle to care for, into the very hands of God.  He’s the one who can take care of their burdens, and the burdens and anxieties that they can cause us.

That is why Paul brings in God’s will.  He just does not want everyone to be saved – that is a weak translation there.  The word is desire; it is a word full of passion and zeal.  It is all about His heart yearning to know each and every one of us, to bring healing to us, and you know – that means He has to deal with those we love whose situations break our hearts… and those who simply break our hearts.

For Jesus came and lived and died for each of us, even as we broke the Father’s heart, and occasionally still do. As we get to know God’s heart; as His love is revealed to each of us.

That’s why the great prophecy about baptism in Ezekiel 36 talks about God cleansing us and removing our hard stone hearts and putting in them a heart of flesh and His Spirit – that’s part of the transformation that begins in us when we are baptized, when God gives us His Spirit.

The closer we come to God, the more His love is revealed in our lives, the more we find ourselves trusting in Him enough to give Him our pains and anxieties, which so often include, or are about, or caused by others.

The same “others” that Jesus also hunt on the cross and for whom He died.

That’s what we have to understand, that is what is true – the love of Go, seen as Jesus, the only one who can act  as an intermediary between God and man – does that very thing.

We’ll talk about that more in Bible study – but think about this – the reason Jesus can bring God and man together.. is because He is… God and Man.

His heart is for us, and He brings us into His sacred heart – He brings us into a relationship so clear that the more we spend time in it, the more we heal and our new heart is revealed to be His.


But our first step isn’t to go on a crusade…

        Protos panton

 

That is why our first step is not some crusade to go save the world.  Our first step is to fall on our knees and ask God to bless people, to help them, that’s why we intercede on their behalf.

It’s not something we do as a last resort, or when we can’t think of something else to do.  Paul urges us, literally he comes along side to help us and points out our first step – is to reach out…not to them, but to the Father who will have Jesus intercede in their lives.

This is the strategy of our mission as believers, our mission of the church.

I urge you, first of all to pray for all people.

And Paul repeats the concept – Ask God to help them..

Intercede with Him on their behalf.. even if you don’t like them… ask God to be with them..

Four times in four ways… God asks us this.  It’s called a parallelism.

It’s like when you wife, or your mother, tells you to do something… if she tells you twice..  uhm you better listen…

But if she gets to three…

But this is even more important…we’re talking about our eternity here, and about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God…. Like communion its not an individual thing – but a God pulling us all into Him thing. That’s what He does – that’s why we go to Him, and as Paul says – as Paul urges us, we go to Him first.

 

A last thought:  Why give thanks?

As we chew on this, for the heart of God is something we cannot just academically “get”, as we strive to realize what it means that God wants us all, in Christ, reconciled, as we learn to pray for all men, I would ask one more thing….

Why do we give thanks for them?  Why are we urged by Paul, along with praying for them, to give thanks for them? Even the politicians and bosses and all that oppress and antagonize us?
Because, when we realize God’s heart toward them, our hearts melt as well… and even more..
Because whether positive or negative influences in our lives…when we are urged to bring them and their situation before God.. wefind we are in His presence… and there…

 

There is peace. And may your realize that unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Heart of Theology & the Heart of Ministry is the Heart of Christ

IMG_6335

IMG_6335 (Photo credit: Light from Light)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

11  Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV) 

210         At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.  (1)

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear (awe)  and so may also pray. (2)

One of the reasons I am a Lutheran pastor, one of the reasons I love our confessions is the same reason I often am found quoting a Catholic priest/saint named Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei.  ( It is also the reason I am indebted to my non-denom Bible College professors, especially Doug Dickey and Rodney Vliet, and my fellow alum and now professor Chris G.

For all of the above, and some others in life, there is no division between pastoral practice – how we minister and equip others for ministry, and the depth of our theology.  It’s not the academics against the pragmatics, the “confessionals” versus the “church growthers”.  And while the theology differs a bit at times, there is a…. holistic approach that requires that we realize the harmony between doctrine and practice.  The pastor/priest or whatever form of ministry (professor,teacher,deacon, director of ministry) cannot divide his day by saying, from 8-9 I will pray, from 9-11 I will do theology, from 1-5 I will fulfill my pastoral duties and ministry obligations, and from 7-10 I will do church growth.   It is one constant movement, one constant life.

Otherwise, I would contend, if you think our lives can be divided like this,  you have done none of the above, but have simply whistled into the wind.  The Lutheran doctrine of vocation, and Escriva’s teaching on the apostolate doesn’t work this way.  For both find their beginning point – and entire existence, in one place.

As this blog is titled – “the heart of theology and the heart of ministry is the Heart of Christ”.

Our theology finds itself created, not in books and seminary or catechetical courses, but in our baptism, at the point where God transforms us, begins to conform our mind to that of Christ.   As we are united to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, theology begins, ministry starts. (yes even as a baby is baptized!)  For as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, as the word begins to germinate in us, quickening life, we become theologians, we become ministers, servants of the word.

And it is the sacred heart of Christ which replaces our cold, stone hearts (see Ezekiel 36) and we begin to see the world as Christ does.  The more we see Christ’s heart and desire to be with us, the more we comprehend the depth of the Father’s love, the more we realize that our masses, our Bible studies, our retreats serve not to just impart doctrine – but to lead us to pray, to lead us to worship, to lead us to interact with God as He shares His glory with us as we dwell in His presence.

Ministry and Theology have to find their essence there, in the heart of God.

Otherwise – you can find blog after blog of theologians claiming programs aren’t based in the faith, and pastors who call their seminary experience their death, and their seminaries nothing more than cemeteries.    They both have a point – and the point is the same…..

Without being found and nurtured and developed within the heart of Christ – they aren’t theology and ministry, they are academics and business practices.

But when those very same things are baptised, when they are united with the heart and mind of our benevolent, caring Master Jesus…. when we look at those struggling without Christ as St. Josemaria describes them, as we wolf down theology that shows the glory of God’s work in us, then it is theology, it is ministry, it is one….

for we are one…in Christ.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Gravity and God’s Grace….

Devotional Thought of the Day….

 32  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  John 12:32 (NLT)

As I walk between the extremes of Christianity, and my own branch of the church, I hear a lot of advice about the church.  Some suggest that God will bless the church, if we are faithful to this model.  Wait, most of them say that – their models just appear – whether traditional or contemporary, whether doctrinal or social – fundamental or liberal to be at odds with the other models.  I would content they might not be as much as they think, they are often making observations about the same thing from different perspectives.

But that isn’t the point.

I would contend that it isn’t how liturgical you are, or whether you church is Lutheran or Catholic or Methodist, or whether you are involved in social ministry, or training the next generation of leaders, or whatever it is.  What matters is, is Christ lifted up.   For Jesus is where we find hope, it is His love, His desire to reconcile us to the Father, that is seen when He is lifted up on the cross.   I will contend that this is the unseen core of the what drives both the church growth crown and the we have to be faithful to our past crowd.

They both love, even if they don’t realize it, how Christ is revealed to them.

The grace and mercy of Christ is like gravity – it is so needed, and the more people need it, the more they get caught in its pull.  The more aware they are of being broken, the more they are pulled to the one who is lifted up, just so their souls can find healing.  Such was the story of the serpent on the pole – look there – find healing.  It was the nature of Solomon’s temple – for believers – look there – find forgiveness/healing, for non-believers, God will hear them – and bring them what they need.

It is, always and forever, about our relationship with Christ, for nothing else provides us with what we need, nothing is like the one crucified to show us His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people.

May the Holy Spirit remove from us everything else that catches our eyes,,,, leaving only Christ visible…and then, as the Spirit transforms us into His image – may we see that around us with His eyes.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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