Is There Hope for the Hypocritical Church?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 and if you are confident that you are a guide for the blind and a light for those in darkness,o 20 that you are a trainer of the foolish and teacher of the simple,p because in the law you have the formulation of knowledge and truth— 21 then you who teach another, are you failing to teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?q 22 You who forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast of the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 rFor, as it is written, “Because of you the name of God is reviled among the Gentiles.” Romans 2:19-24 NABRE
To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, He gives assurance that the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one. He cautions them at the same time that this charity is not something to be reserved for important matters, but must be pursued chiefly in the ordinary circumstances of life……The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life’s journey in that sacrament of faith where natural elements refined by man are gloriously changed into His Body and Blood, providing a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. (1)
The words from Romans above hit home hard.
Do we who preach learn the lessons we preach with such clarity?
Or is our preaching nothing more than a pious role, acting without the faith, but with the knowledge we have bene given? Is our message nothing more than a false mask, an act which we think they can’t see through?
Does the world, does our community hate God, not because of who God is, or what He has called into existence, but because of our hypocrisy?
By the way, this isn’t just for those who preach as part of their pastoral vocation, but those who preach with their lives through other vocations, as husbands and wives, employers and employees, and our “vocation” in social media.
You see Paul’s words from Romans this morning aren’t just applicable to the Jewish leaders of his day, but to us, to all who claim to call out “Lord! Lord!” while turning aside our brothers and sisters who are as broken, and are as made in the image of God.
So this day, do we need to be confronted as Paul did to those to whom he wrote? Do we need to have the law drive us back to the cross, back to the altar, back to the place where we can cry, “Lord” but add to it, “have mercy on me a sinner!”
We need his grace; we need His love, his mercy, his peace so that we can live by faith. A faith that betrays the hypocrisy. We can hear the law and the gospel we preach. We can have the hope of being transformed from a bunch of hypocrites into a community, a fellowship that is charitable and loving. Not just in the big things, but in the daily struggles we daily have.
That is the effect of the law – the Law we need to hear, as it drive us to the cross, to the place where our brokenness finds compasssion and healing. Vatican II sees this in the Eucharist, in that moment where Christ’s broken body transfigures ours, and His righteousness, His love, His life is found in us!
This is what each sacrament is, whether the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, Confession nd Absolution, and even prayer. It is that moment when our hypocritical nature is overwhelmed by the incarnation, where love washes away all that is not love.
As we live in those moments, then our God is found attractive, not reviled, and as we see Him lifted up in our praises – people are drawn to Him, through our lives.
No longer hypocrites, but those broken, who find healing in Christ while helping others heal.
(1) Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Incarnation, Sacramental, and Mystical: Our Communion with God!
Devotional Thought of the day:
10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” 11 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT)
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 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 3:14-19 (TEV)
54 You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such. (1)
With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is! Of Sabaoth Lord! (2)
And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever! (3)
In a recent blog, I used the phrase, “basking in God’s love”, which apparently upset someone. Enough that I was accused, behind my back, of advocating mysticism. Now while I will freely admit to being on the mystical side of Christianity, that is not the same as mysticism.
Rather, it is the approach of being in reverent awe, and meditating on, with heart, mind, and soul, the very love of God. The devotion, the loyalty and faithfulness of God to a wretch like me, and a wretch like you. it is coming upon the absolute love of God (see the Hebrew word cHesed, and the Greek words agape and elios) for His children, and as it is revealed, being stunned and pondering its depths, while enjoying the peace that love brings to us.
It is that sacramental moment, that point of communion with God, where we find out what David advocated, being still, not fighting, knowing that God is God, our refuge, our place of peace, In Him we find that moment where all is abandoned as Josemaria, and our woes, and see them, along with our sin, sliding away (see Hebrews 12:2).
It is that incarnational moment, when we truly understand with everything we are that Jesus the Christ is here, that the Lord Sabaoth is with you. It is a moment of utter submission, of allowing God to be responsible, to be our benevolent Master, the Lord of Life, to reign over us.
And it is in that truth we need to bask, we need to be still, we need to enjoy those moments. To realize how precious are these foretastes of the feast to come, as we encounter them at the baptismal font, as we hear our sins absolved, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ.
That moment where the presence of God is not just a academic theological expression but palpable, a moment where we realize our faith is found in Him. Not in a leap of our own logic, not in a decision in a case made to prove to us He was a historic figure. It is a moment that is a mystery, something we can explain the dymamics of, save to save He dwells in us, that this love is the basis and foundation, something that is far more than our words and blogs can explain. It is sacramental; it is incarnational, a mystery of our faith.
Yes, these moments we need to bask in, not for the sake of the moment, but for the communion of God and man that occurs. As the church, we need to provide them for those who we care for, those we shepherd, for there they will find Christ, and being amazed by His glory, the Holy Spirit will transform them into His image.It has the assurance that our cry for HIs mercy is heard, and answered, when the world looks on stunned at the peace we know.
Call this being a mystic? That’s fine; God isn’t small enough for us not to be mystified, taken aback, and to become hungry to explore the dimensions of His love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus.
But it is a far cry from mysticism.
So bask in this love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, know His presence, and peace, and as you rest in Him, may you realize you are being transformed by the Spirit’s renewing of your mind. This is my prayer for you. and for me.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Sabbaoth Lord – often translated as the Lord God Almighty, it is a reference to Christ being the Lord (commander) of all of Heaven’s armies and strength.
(3) A Mighty Fortress is our God, quote from TLH at http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/tlh262.htm
Who Am I? Shaken, Broken, Shattered, It Doesn’t Matter, I am His!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29 But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30 It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! Matthew 6:28-30 (TEV)
13 You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. 15 When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there— 16 you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. 17 O God, how difficult I find your thoughts; how many of them there are! 18 If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you! Psalm 139:13-18 (TEV)
54 You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such. (1)
This is a hard blog to write, but perhaps it will make a difference.
Sunday, I was watching a new television show I’ve waited a while to see. It was pretty good, if a bit over the top at times.
But there was a scene that resonated to much with me. Like a crystal goblet resonating with a soprano’s high tone, it shook me a little to much. I’m still not sure if it shattered me, but it did come pretty close. It kept me awake most of Sunday night, and haunted me a bit since. it brought back memories from some of my darker days, days when I wasn’t sure who I was, or whether I fit in this world. Even more,it made me wonder how I adapted and changed to survive. Is the adapted me, really me?
I’ve only been shaken that much a time or two in my life. My Cardiac Arrest didn’t shake me like this. My heart valve replacement surgery did, but only for an hour. This… struck deeper to home. I know the other times, but even thinking of them… yeah – can’t go there.
The only consolation is that I remembered before that point in my life, I always wanted to be a pastor, (well back then, a priest ) I wanted to teach people about God, I wanted to give them the the Eucharist, the sacrament where Jesus gives us His Body, His Blood.
This morning, stiff and sore from working out, I got to my office. Getting out of the car slowly, I spotted the rose pictured with this blog. I took a picture of it, tweeted it, thinking of the Psalm I quoted above. I thought of just quoting the 14th and 15th verse, and thinking of people who need to realize this. Then I saw the end of verse 18, and found myself. Or the me I need to know.
It resounded when I thought of the quote from St Matthew’s gospel, and then it slammed home when I read St. Josemaria’s words. Resounded enough to make me forget the other stuff, until I started righting this. And yet, like that rose, being right there, where I could focus on it while stretching after getting out the car, it took on a different tone.
God is here.
He made that rose, He listens to my cries. He cares for me, and each of us, far more than that incredibly beautiful rose.
it doesn’t matter whether I am an extrovert or an introvert. Whether I am understood by the world or not. Whether my thoughts, outside of those sharing Christ, are understood,
What matters is I am His people. All who trust in Him are, and He is calling out to all of you who aren’t, yet.
And knowing this, giving our Heavenly and PRESENT father, that brings the peace and joy we need, even when we are shaken, broken, and shattered….
We are His people, He is our God!
It is more than enough. It defines us better than anything else we could ever know.
God, ever present, ever loving, is here with us.
Be at peace, drop all the other stuff aside, and know He is here!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Will We Treat God Then, the Way We Do Now?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17 (NLT)
2 Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever. Psalm 125:2 (NLT)
470 Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day. (1)
Last night, as we studied the passage we are preaching on this week I began thinking of the question that is the title of this post. I meet with several guys and we work together on the Bible passage for this week, which was talking about the struggles in this life are nothing compared to the glory that is awaiting us. It also talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit being the foretaste of that glory. This morning, my devotional readings included all three passages above, further fueling the thoughts and the need to meditate on this – and share it here.
We have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, therefore the places we stand and sit, as plain and simple as they are, are holy ground. But do we realize it? Do we realize that God surrounds us, His people – now and forever, Do we realize that as God makes His home in us, as we come to know the measure of His love, may we begin to really live?
Will we rest in Christ, and find the peace our souls depend upon, even as our bodies depend on food? Will we struggle with the concept of an incarnate God in our lives? Will we learn to depend upon His presence the way we depend on oxygen in the air we breathe?
A way to ask that is the title – do we expect to treat God in heaven the way we do now?
Will we forget about His presence, will we do what we want, will we go days without thinking of Him, talking to Him, hearing His voice as we meditate on His word? Will we keep Him at a distance, fighting with others for the furthest row from His presence? Or will will be in awe of the glory He shares with us? Will we run to Him, will we rejoice as He welcomed us, His children, into His presence?
Will our relationship change, and if so, why isn’t it changing already?
Look again at the above readings, what will change about the relationship, except perhaps that what we know, will also be what we see?
I pray that we would enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Love of God, that we are in awe at the thought of eternity with Him!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I Don’t Think We Realize He’s Talking to Us….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me. Revelation 3:20 (TEV)
“Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is to think often of God, by day, by night, in your business,and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone…” brother lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God – quote from Celtic Daily Prayer..
Some of us, when we read this passage, visualize a painting of Jesus, standing outside the door, robed in glory, ever hair perfectly in place. The entire walled garden radiating a sense of peace, the originates with Him.
We hear evangelists like Billy Graham, pleading with thousands to just open that door, to let Jesus in, for then their life will be idyllic, clean, and at peace.
Some of us nod our head even, thinking of that, picturing people we would like to see open that door, and let Jesus come in….
Except, that passage is not directed to unbelievers at all. We don’t think of the context, we might know it is in the book of the Revelaiton of Jesus Christ, (no “revelationS”) but we don’t realize that it was part of a letter to a church. TO people just like us, to people who claim to believe, are part of a church, and yet somehow….. are missing out on communing with God – not just daily, but all the time.
This passage isn’t talking about daily quiet times, or a prayer life that is at meals, and before bed. It’s not advocating going on some retreat either, spending time in silence and meditation.
And the time Jesus would spend with us isn’t just the perfect times, when everything is in place. It is the times where our lives are in storms, where we’ve been bruised and battered by sin, the times where we are grieving, and anxious because of the presence of death. And the simple times, as we hug our kids and grandkids, as we watch the superbowl with friends, even as we hum a song that is in our mind, as we go about cleaning our homes, or shoveling snow. He is even in our “nothingness”, those times we have when we are just vegetating, thinking of nothing, just.. there.
The church in Laodecia had forgotten this. They thought they had everything in its right place in life. Work had its place – and it was good, family its place, and they were fine, church had its place, and when it was convenient, they would make it part of their life.
But God is there, patiently waiting, pleading even, wanting to share life with them, with me, with you.
Not just to teach us, and to guide us, not just to clean up our sins, but to laugh with us, to feast with us, to share life – even the nothingness of life with us.
When we remember Jesus is here… it changes everything, The storms, though raging and violent, seem less threatening. Death loses its sting and the grief becomes a ache that is matched by knowing His comfort and finding rest.
And life is as it should be, shared with God… as we go with Him, watching Him redeeming the time.. and those we love (and will come to love)
So walk with God, throughout your days… and know He hears you when you cry, “Lord have mercy”. For He is there…
The Beauty of the Liturgy – Evangelical Catholic VIII
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day”
1 Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. 2 Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. 3 Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. 4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, 5 “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” 6 He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” John 12:1-8 (MSG)
“Evangelical Catholicism embraces this rediscovery of beauty as a primary category for understanding God and his ways and applies it to the Church’s liturgy. Its approach to church architecture, church decoration, liturgical music, liturgical vesture, and all the other tangibles of the Church’s liturgical life proceeds from the question, “Is this beautiful in such a way that it helps disclose the living God in Word and Sacrament?” In that respect, Evangelical Catholicism’s approach to liturgy is not somewhere “between” the approaches favored by liturgical traditionalists and liturgical progressives, but ahead of the curve of the now-tiresome Liturgy Wars.” (1)
As I continue my journey through the book Evangelcial Catholic – I came to the above quote regarding the Liturgy. Comes at an auspicious time, as I am about to start a Adult Bible Study on the Liturgy.
( I am started reading the book for two reasons – the first being a friend recommended it to help me understand where the Catholic Church is heading and secondly, because the Lutheran Churches were once know as the Evangelical Catholic Church )
As I think about the movement of the Liturgy (my study is called “The Dance of the Liturgy”) this concept of beauty is important – if not critical. It does what I’ve long contended – that in the battles of the owrship wars, the focus in not in the right place – and both extremes make the same error in what they point out is the problem. Let me illustrate. Let’s take church A – the are traditional (hymns, pipe organs, chausables, the pastor rapidly goes through the motions in a near monotone) but the organ is played too loud, the people can’t sing and they do not know what is behind the symbolism of the liturgy, the music, the sanctuary. Church B is contetemporary/progressive – (band which is made up of low level skilled musicians that don’t quite sync together, casually dressed pastor/priest) but again the music is too loud – there is no flow or theme to the service. Church C is like Church A – except people KNOW why they are doing what they are doing and why, the organ is used to facilitate worship, and the pastor reads, preaches and prays in a way that is more akin to a dialgoe and story), and Church D – the praise band – moved to the side – practiced and whether simple or complex play as one and focus is such that facilitates the singing of the people, the service is designed to instill the truth that God comes to them, brings them to life and guides their life in response.
Churches A & B are always held up as the examples of why the other form of worship isn’t “good and right and beneficial”. They distract people from why they are there, they give rise to complaints and dissatisfaction. They become the basis of the worship wars – the argument that is equivelant to saying the sanctuary is 1/4 full or 3/4 empty. And they completely take the discussion away from the purpose of the sanctuary – why it was dedicated. To be a place where
In C & D, I contend – there would be little discussion or nature of worship wars. The churches are focused on creating an atmosphere that is such that God is easily revealed through word and sacrament. It’s a complete package – the skills of all of those who facilitate worship. Where the musician and the pastor are not the focus – but everything blends in together in such a way that it is seamless – that God is the focus, His presence revealed, His love and mercy known and received.
Where the worship, the sermon, and the ‘execution” of them, the actual decor and atmosphere – whether simple or ornate, whether 20 people or 5000 – is “beautiful” because what it is supposed to be, the people of God gathered into His presence, receiving His gifts through (not of) word and sacrament, is what it is.
May all our churches become more and more beautiful, as we abound in His love.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 71-72). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI) (justifiedandsinner.com)
Evangelical Catholicism Pt IV: Why have churches shrunk?
Discussion Thought of the Day:
“If a robust Evangelical Catholicism, formed by Word and Sacrament to take the Gospel of truth and love “into the deep” of the modern and postmodern world, is the deeply reformed Church to which the entire trajectory of Catholic development from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI points, and which the Second Vatican Council envisioned, then the great postconciliar failure of Catholicism— the collapse of the Church in Christianity’s historical heartland, Western Europe— comes into sharper focus. Western European Catholicism’s demise was not, it becomes clear, the result of an internal civil war between Catholic progressives and Catholic traditionalists. Nor are the prescriptions of either of these exhausted camps likely to lead to revival and reform in the future. The Church in Europe has been in free fall throughout the postconciliar years because too many of its people ceased to believe that the Gospel is true. The crisis of Catholicism in Europe did not come about because the institutional Church faltered and its people subsequently bailed out. The crisis came because the people of the Church (including the clergy) ceased to believe with passion and conviction, ceased to find joy in the presence of the Lord— and sought their happiness elsewhere. Because of that, the institution (which in some countries, such as Germany and Italy, remains extremely wealthy) faltered— and seems to be collapsing in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. The Catholic future in Europe lies not in managerial reforms (although those are needed), but in a renaissance of faith, which will likely come (as such things often do) from outside the formal structures of Catholic life (i.e., parishes and dioceses) and from within renewal movements and new forms of Catholic community. There, the vision of Evangelical Catholicism is alive. And if that vision attains critical mass, following the authentic promptings of the Holy Spirit, it may eventually reform— and transform— the institutional Church.” (1)
What I read above, though directed at the Roman Catholic Church by one of its own, I believe is equally true for all churches and all denominations and especially my Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
It’s not a matter a matter of who is right in the worship wars, or the supposed division of being faithful versus being missional. It doesn’t have to do, as much as we think it might – with who is in power, for I think that where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administer – that is where the church is. The hierarchy exists to serve – to be a blessing to the people, as they serve the sacraments and are nothing but conduits through which God’s love and mercy flows. And I have seen both churches that are contemporary, and that are high liturgical and that are 1950’s dream churches – that all are growing – and that all are failing to reach their community. (Recently in Rome, I saw a church filled with people for a high Latin Mass – all of the with great joy as they looked to the sacrament.) As Wiegel notes – we can reform all our admin, we can put allt he right systems in place and run programs and have staffing, but it will be in vain. And our churches will continue to fail – and depend on what god has supplemented the God who came to us, and died.
I highlighted part of Wiegel’s words above in red for a reason, this is the only thing I see that makes a difference in a church, no matter the size, no matter the budget, no matter whether it is growing or not. It is, clearly this one principal – do they get that they are in the presence of God, do they celebrate His love and mercy and His presence. Do we get that the Lord’s Supper, the focus of this day, isn’t about the rote movements – but as one of my oldest favorite songs describes – “God and Man at Table are sat Down” DO we realize His presence, His love, cleansing not just our feet but our lives, healing us, transforming us, the Holy Spirit residing with us!
Do we get that God has invited us to be not just His servants, but as Jesus says, His friends? To dwell in HIs glory, to be adopted children of the King?
You want such and such style of worship? Fine. You want such and such programs? They are out there! You want a cozy intimate church where everyone knows you name? You want a church that is involved in missional work? Or in serving the poor? Or in saving the unborn? Or in educating everyone? All good things… BUT
Above all, desire this – to be in a place that understands these words:
The Lord is with you!
And respond back… with fervor, with conviction, and with love…
And Also with you ( or and with your Spirit)
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 51-52). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
The Church’s Answer to Post-modern thought…. Word and Sacrament
Devotional Thought of the Day.
26 Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; 29 because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 (NJB)
In these dire cultural circumstances, the social and political effects of which are sometimes masked by material prosperity, it was providential indeed that the deep reform of Catholicism initiated in the late nineteenth century by Leo XIII should have passed through a recovery of Word and Sacrament as the two pillars of the life of Christian discipleship. The life-transforming power of the Word of God in the words of the Bible is the Church’s countercultural riposte to the postmodern deprecation of the human capacity to know the deep truths of the human condition. The sacraments are Evangelical Catholicism’s countercultural antidote to the regnant Gnosticism of later modernity and postmodernity, because the Church’s sacramental system takes the stuff of the world and of human relationships with utmost seriousness, seeing in them the vehicles of divine grace.(1)
For about the past ten years professors and theologians have been advising pastors that since we now live in a “post-modern” and “post denominational” culture, that we need to change our ministry to address these new outlook on lfe – and indeed, change how we minister to others. Some of this has resulted in things like the two movements that have dominated conversation – the emergent and emerging churches. ( I highly recommend Jim Belcher’s book “Deep Church” to clarify what the differences are.
For those outside of the conversation – postmodernism is that outlook on life that is basically skeptical, that questions not only our institutions and ways of doing things – but questions the reasons we have developed that way. It is not a organized thought, for postmmodernists even question each other, but is often portrayed as the idea that there is no objective reality – and no objective truth. Personally, as a post-modernist, I wonder if it is not just the opposite. That we have found so many things wanting, when we question their presuppositions, that we long for something to grasp onto, to hold onto – to find that there is something solid – and that there is… hope.
I think that rather than doing battle with such, or mocking them, we have a much better approach – a very very Biblical one. We give them the reason we have hope – and rather than dealing with faulty reason or logic – we through the arts, through our simplicity, and with great humility, we share with them why we do have hope. We share with them a relationship that is real, and transcendent/incarnate. We let them experience the God who comes to us.
Put in terms a Lutheran or Catholic can understand – the answer to postmodern thought is not an engagement in debate where we provide there is an objective reality. The answer is word and sacrament. We introduce them to Him, to the Objective Reality who really desires to be with them, to show them great love, to reveal Himself to them, as the Holy Spirit as they hear the word of God – as they hear of His love and mercy and presence and grace, As we share with them the promises, the things they can expect because God loves them. We share with them what it means to “commune with God”, simply at first, from scripture. We use stories and modern music and art – the kind which captivates the senses, even as those things did in the middle ages. We engage them at a level where there skepticism and unbelief is put aside, and where they know this is more than what our minds can take in, and that it is real…
But this will require one thing of us, that we know what we are revealing – that church becomes more than an intellectually stimulating and entertaining time. That we realize that walking with God is a sacred thing. That we walk in the relationship with the God who comes to us, and cleanses us, and heals our brokenness.
That we experience Him, as He reveals Himself to us, in the very word ans sacraments which we will share with them.
As we do what the psalmist begs us to do…. to “be still – and (intimately) know that I am God.”
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 47). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Realizing and Revealing the Lord is With us: We can depend on Him!
Realizing and Revealing that
The Lord is with us…and
We Can Depend on Him!
When God removes all that we think we need, may we find great assurance in His Presence, a presence so strong that others, even our adversaries cannot help but comment on the grace and peace seen in us!
There is a nightmare that many people have, or so I have heard, the night before a big presentation, or some major point in their life – where they are the center of attention. It’s been described this way – there you are, the center of attention and everyone is looking at you, staring at you – and you realize you borrowed the emperor’s new wardrobe.
If you don’t know that story… you all of a sudden realize – you forgot to get dressed after taking a shower. Clothes are a good thing – and to be left without them in a dream isn’t as bad as being without them in public! But those dreams are often considered symbolic of our fears – that we will be found, we will be proven to lack something – that we will be defenseless against criticism – and that we be seen as losers.
I have the strangest feeling that Gideon knew that anxiety, that guy wrenching fear. Probably even before his army was reduced from 32,000 men down to 300. “God
,” I can hear Gideon saying, “what are you thinking? I have nothing left, and you want me to do what?
In this season of Lent, it is time to ask, to even plead that God help us give up those things we depend on, rather than depending upon His love, His mercy, His wisdom. Like Gideon – this is a time to realize – how much we need to depend on God, and indeed how
WHAT DO WE DEPEND ON, WHAT IS OUR GOD?
As I consider the conversation between God and Gideon, as I dwell on it, I have to wonder what I want to take into battle – and why? For a general, for the leader of an army – it would be the men, the size of the army, the advisors – I would want to have the best.
For us, what do we want to take with us? What do we depend on? It may be other people, those who lead us, or those we have come to trust. It might be the technology, or the books, our smile, or ability to think on our feet. What do we depend on so much, that we would not give credit to God for delivering us out of the situations we find ourselves in, or the situations where we, like Gideon, are called on to rescue people from the oppression brought about because of sin?
We have to remember that – Lent is not just about our realizing the presence of God in our lives in our time of need – but also our seeing that revealed to others.
It is so easy for us to forget about our need and our ability to depend completely on God. we are caught up in a world that proclaims to us a different gospel – a different message of salvation. If we want to get of the jam we are in, we are programmed by our society to do what all Americans do. If we want it done right, you do it yourself!
If we watch our supports stripped away… will our trust and our dependence on God still remain? The answer isn’t found in us, in our faithfulness. It is found in His. This is at the core of Lent – realizing that in our weakness, we find, quite joyfully, the love of God making as we realize His presence….
DO WE REALIZE WHAT OTHERS SEE?
That can be when the most miraculous of all things happens, as it did for Gideon. Sent by God into the camp to be encouraged, he hears something absolutely wonderful – something that causes him to drop to his knees in worship.
13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!” 14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!” Judges 7:13-14 (NLT)
Note that it is God who gives the victory, we can’t ever forget that. When we talk to someone, and they come home and are reconciled to God as the prodigal is, when we baptize someone here, it isn’t their own strength or power that saves them. It wasn’t their own ability to discern the truth about God’s heart towards them.
It’s simple – God works through people like you and I, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives – to reveal God giving the victory, God freeing His people from what binds them. We may never see the results; we may never understand the depth of the victory.
Or when we do, we’ll shake our heads, and realize how great our God is… and we’ll bow and worship and praise Him. Even before we see the final result of the victory. Even as we only see the foretaste of it, as we realize the promises made sure for us in our baptism, as we kneel at the altar, and realize He has called us here… to dine with Him, to commune with God.
Even before we see heaven, and the glory of God in which we dwell… through His love, through His guidance, we can begin to understand the incredible promises that come, as He comes, as He pours grace onto us. When we begin to realize what it means “that the Lord is with us”….
and as our lives reveal that promise is for them, as well
As our lives are lived out, in the peaceful presence of God which passes all understanding, as our hearts and minds kept in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
- Realizing and Revealing the Lord is With You, assuring You of His Presence! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Lord is with you, strengthening you… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Lord is With Us…removing our idols! (justifiedandsinner.com)
An incredible Lenten Friday Sacrifice – the “safe” distance.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you. 18 “When I go, you will not be left all alone; I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will see me no more, but you will see me; and because I live, you also will live. 20 When that day comes, you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me, just as I am in you.” John 14:16-20 (TEV)
From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.(1)
Memories of Fridays growing up – fish sticks for lunch, Filet of Fishes for Dinner, Occasionally clam strips and sometimes, if things we going well – baked stuff shrimp. Move forward into my early twenties, and working as a manager at McDonald’s – and we have to covert to extra friers to handle the demand for fish, because our unit was in a heavily hispanic area.
No meat on friday – no burgers, or steaks, or bacon or pork. Not even spaghetti and meatballs! I wish I would have understood lent as a kid, even as a young man, and the sacrifices that we were strongly encouraged to make. (Try showing up at a Catholic Jr. High School with a baloney sandwich for lunch. Still remember that day…) Abstaining from things, and even fasting are not bad, but very solid practices, given the understanding that should accompany them. They are not to make us more attractive to God, but rather, to free us to focus on Him. (Something we should strive to do all the time btw – not just during Lent!)
A suggestion- spend little moments of time throughout the day thinking about the verse above. The words of Christ, as he prepares his followers for His cross, for His death, but also for His resurrection. A great passage to contemplate, over and over, during our Lenten journey.
We must realize that because He lives, because we are united to His death and Resurrection we live, in Him. We are with Him, we aren’t far off.
Most of us, seem to prefer to live a distance from God. We want His blessings, and church sometimes isn’t a bad thing – especially when others are stressing us. We won’t Him in the background, just at the edge of how far we think our voices will cry, when we need to be rescued. Perhaps we are worried that He won’t like us close up, or that He will ask us to do something, to make some sacrifice,, or perhaps, He might want us to give up something closer and more meaningful to us than steak or bacon….yeah – you know – that sin we don’t want everyone to know about, or that resentment we nourish, because of a pain caused years ago.
It is time to give that up, to sacrifice that distance, to come close to God, to let Him draw you near, to make you an integral part of His family. No more hiding, no more looking in from the edges… time to admit, to confess, to cry our in praise and adoration – My Jesus, i love you!
For such is the response of faith, or trusting in Him and His revelation, of knowing His presence. Of depending upon Him.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2697-2700). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.