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The Strength of the Church’s Influence is Not Where You Might Think

40  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41  Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.” Matthew 10:40-42 (TEV)

The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches be lived completely and in all its fullness fails to take into account humanity as it actually is. There exists in every man a certain tension between that which the Church recognizes as what the Christian ought to be and do and that which the average Christian normally achieves. That is why penance and pardon are fundamental constants in the life of a Christian. In fact, the strength of the Church, the possibility of making her teachings more widely known to mankind, lies not so much in the extensive sphere of mass influence, but rather in the fact that she encounters people personally in the small communities in which they live. It is, indeed, precisely the personal word, the personal pastoral care, and a renewed catechesis that reaches out to the children and cooperates with the parents that are fundamental in making people realize that they are not to be treated as children, but that, on the contrary, it is actually their own survival as men that is at stake.

Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37 footnore below)

The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.

Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.

It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.

It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.

This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.

To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.

In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.

To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….

Words like, “The Lord is with You”


Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/rapi, meaning that by faith the Christian is enraptured into God: per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum. See Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1986), 149–54.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

A Challenge to Leadership in the Church…sacrfice

Today’s Devotional/Discussion thought…

A quote for leaders… (of every kind)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imitate Christ, that others may imitate you…..

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

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

 

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