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The Church Can Endure this as it does ALL Challenges.

Nothing else mattered! Just being with Jesus, and knowing His love

Devotional Thought of the Day

7  If your servant comes in from plowing or from taking care of the sheep, would you say, “Welcome! Come on in and have something to eat”? 8  No, you wouldn’t say that. You would say, “Fix me something to eat. Get ready to serve me, so I can have my meal. Then later on you can eat and drink.” 9  Servants don’t deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. 10  And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.” Luke 17:7-10 (CEV)

We come now to the taproot of our surefire program: intimacy with the indwelling Trinity. To put it simply: the main source of deep conversion is to fall in love with endless Beauty. A genuine person will gladly sacrifice for real love. Christic martyrs are in love. Jesus tortured to death on the Cross is the icon of perfect love, unconditional, selfless love. All the saints imitate him in their heroic virtue because they too are in love. Their concern, determination, and motivation are rooted in and arise from their intimacy with triune Beauty who is purest and endless love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8).

1025 You will have as much sanctity, as you have mortification done for Love.

When you love someone, truly love someone, you are willing to embrace pain and suffering if you know it will help them. I know a husband who gave a kidney to his wife, or couples who have endured hardship to stay together. I don’t know if children of any age ever realize what their parents give up, so that they can have things the parents never had at their age.

That is what love is!

It is the same as the servants, who have cared well for their master. It is just the way things are supposed to be. We are just who we are – nothing special here… just doing what we do….

We need to grow in this as the church. Whether it is in trying to help the poor, or train up more people to serve in ministry, here or abroad, whether it is in giving of time or treasure, or letting someone else learn to serve in our place and coaching them in it, we need to learn to sacrifice our preferences in view of the love we have for God, and the people He’s created.

It may be even sacrificing our preferences, in order to work with the government during times like this. ( I hate saying this… but hey – gotta preach to myself as well as to you!)

The key to this is the cross, to being drawn to where Jesus is lifted up, not just as an observer, but being transformed into His image, as we are united to Him on the cross there. There everything is so based in a love so incredible, so deep, that everything else, including the work to help others be drawn there… is nothing.

Being loved by Him becomes everything. – other challenges… – what challenges… God is with us!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 99.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Reasoned Inquiry into Faith and Theology?

May I desire to be like this saint, more than being known as a scholar

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking. 24  Don’t let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true. Psalm 139:23-24 (CEV)

One day he startled Mr. Rittles with the question: “Why cannot moral questions be posed with the same precision as a mathematical equation, so that given X and Y, Z is the only possible answer?” The tutor scratched his peruke, at a loss to answer. He had never heard the question posed before; and it had been asked by a mere boy. Finally, he ventured a reply, hoping that it did not precipitate another query. “Because many such questions do not require precise answers. Theology and the Scriptures do not invite reasoned inquiry. And moral philosophy only seems to.” “No, they don’t,” remarked Hugh. “But I believe they should.”

2697 Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.

The best way to see how contemplative intimacy and love are the same reality is to look at the radiant image of the Father, Jesus himself (Heb 1:3). He habitually spent hours “long before dawn” deeply absorbed in the Father, and even on occasion it was the whole night in this profound communion (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16; 6:12). He obviously was totally in love with his Father, for the Father was always present to him (Jn 16:32). Indeed his deepest love was coterminous with his deepest prayer

I usually do not quote from historical novels in my blog, though I love the genre, especially the era from 1750-1815 or so. It is one of the ways I relax, to enter the age of sail, and ignore the techno social babble from which I need to escape.

I read the words penned by Cline, and a part of me resonated with the students question, and the desire to be able to approach theology and faith like mathematics or a science class with a laboratory aspect. That is why one undertakes learning Greek, and picking up Hebrew, why we spend semester after semester in Systematic Theology, trying to derive the unity between Faith and Reason as if it is some kind of Venn Diagram.

“I believe they should (invite reasoned inquiry)!” That was the young students response. Since i am no longer a young man, I can tell them they don’t, and while disappointed, I also find myself glad they cannot be subjected to reason inquiry.

For our Faith, our Dependence on God cannot be subject to a reasoned inquiry any more than a husband’s love for his wife can be something he understands. It is there, mysterious yet comforting, it is overwhelming and awe-inspiring, yet so critically part of us. The husband is to close, to involved, to intimate for him to stand back and appraise its value.

The is why the CCC tells us we need to remember God more often than we breathe, and for the same reason. Failure to breathe results in our death. Failure to remember God’s presence, and love, to taste and see His goodness and His mercy results in living a life numb to existence!

Spurgeon, that incredibly rational and logical preacher described it this way, “

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them!

Intimacy with God is so different than a reasoned inquiry into dogma, than using superlatives, trying to describe how it is better, is meaningless.

Search out God, even better, let Him search within you. Trust Him enough to let Him in to clean the dark crap you’ve tried to buy. Run to Him to heal the emptiness that is there because of sin. Find yourself drawn into the intimate relationship of the Father and the Son… and let that become who you are, as the Spirit transforms you.

This isn’t theology… it is something far more… that will make that theology mean something far more than data… that will make you understand and be joyous when those rational inquiries can’t be answered…

For then you will know you are in love with God.

Cline, Edward. Sparrowhawk: Book Two, Hugh Kenrick: A Novel of the American Revolution (p. 97). Kindle Edition.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 648.

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 72–73.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Time to Pray God’s will is done…in us.

Devotional Thought for this day:

To everyone who shares with us in the privilege of believing that our God and Savior Jesus Christ will do what is just and fair. 2 I pray that God will be kind to you and will let you live in perfect peace! May you keep learning more and more about God and our Lord Jesus. 2 Peter 1:1-2 CEV

The sentence that precedes this cited paragraph brings us exactly to our point: “Worse yet, the poll results suggest that what we know has very little effect on how we live.” This statement could be expressed in neon lights, for it says exactly what lies beneath the remarkable resistance we are analyzing in this chapter. “What we know has very little effect on how we live.” This applies not only to a wise use of food, but also to what we know from the beautiful moral teachings of Scripture, what we see in the lives of the saints and celebrate in our liturgies all through each year. “What we know has very little effect on how we live.”
However, a caution is in order. The general statement should be qualified, for there are people who are growing in deep conversion as they are growing in prayerful intimacy with the Trinity.

As a failure at dieting, I know that Dubay is right when he compares what we know about dieting having an effect on how we actually eat and drink. Even more concerning is projecting that insight into the life that should be lived based on our knowledge and trust of God. We know how we should live, we know what would please God.

Yet, the Apostle has to pray that those who trust in God grow, not just in their knowledge of God, but their intimate knowledge of Him. (gnowsei in Greek is knowledge, the intimate kind of knowing shared between a husband and wife that are in love. ) It is as if this is our greatest battleground as a believer, this knowing God deeply.

It isn’t that the option is there, the entire liturgy, from the songs and hymns, to the readings, to the prayer, to the intimate time of the Lord’s Supper. The nurture of this relationship is provided, the opportunity to explore the love of God together is part of the reason the church exists. (the other reason is to invite people to join us!)

So why aren’t we falling deeper in love with God? Why aren’t we becoming truly holy, why aren’t our lives becoming more and more dedicated to God? Why isn’t prayer becoming easier and our desire for that time becoming stronger, and even unquenchable?

I could come up with 10,000 reasons, each taking up time and effort. But perhaps it is better to do as Peter does, and pray for each other, and perhaps for ourselves. What would happen if we truly begged Jesus, as the old hymn noted, to have His own way with us?

It is time to find out…

Heavenly Father, do not look on us as if we are weak and broken, and unable to relate to You. Instead, send Your Holy Spirit to set us afire, purifying our hearts and empowering us to live life walking as the children You love. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Lord and Friend, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 51–52.

More Intimate than the Incarnation

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
16  Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. 17  The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. 18  I won’t leave you like orphans. I will come back to you. John 14:16-18 (CEV)

The Incarnation was already a stupendous feat of intimacy. God did not just love us as an other but became one of us. Yet even this was not enough for Him, not enough intimacy. Jesus told His disciples that it would be better for them if He went away so that He could send His Spirit (Jn 16:7). Why is that better? Wouldn’t we all prefer to have Jesus still with us physically? Wouldn’t He draw a crowd of millions if it could be advertised that Jesus would appear in the flesh?

He had become incarnate. Jesus was born of Mary. John 1 tells us that He came and made life among us, and those who saw him beheld the very glory of God.

There are days I am jealous of Peter, and Matthew, and even James the lesser. They lived with Jesus, they camped out under the stars that were made through Him. What a relationship with God they must have had! How easy must have it been to just talk to God, and morning devotions must have been just… awesome!

3 years of walking with Jesus, of experiencing life in the presence of God! What a blessing, what an incredible blessing!

We are equally blessed, but we don’t often take the time to appreciate that our relationship with God is even more intense, even more intimate. For God did not just come and dwell among us, the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

God is us!

So intimate that our deepest, darkest thoughts are exposed, and as we pray, they are prayed for with groans that go beyond our hearing. (see Romans 8) Healing us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ, enabling us not only to do God’s will, but to desire to do it, because we know we are loved.

We need to think on this, so spend time getting to know that One who lifts us up, and carry’s us. We need to listen to the Spirit’s call and directions, even when we don’t like it. We need to even allow the Spirit to change our calendars, for there will be times the Spirit will minister to others beyond our imagination! Or times where we need to slow down, and let the Spirit minister to us.

This is the deepest for of intimacy we will know, until we have arrived before the throne of God.

I pray that we realize the presence, the intimate, transforming, comforting presence of the Holy Spirit more and more each day.





Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 132.

Random THoughts on Exhaustion and Prayer

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)

But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.
The fact that God’s love is unchangeable does not change the fact that it is love. It always wills what is best for us. And
Start Reading Pg 148 Tomorrow ×
prayer is best for us. Therefore, we must pray precisely because God’s love is unchangeable. He is unchangeably loving and commands prayer for us.

895    Work tires you physically and leaves you unable to pray. But you’re always in the presence of your Father. If you can’t speak to him, look at him every now and then like a little child … and he’ll smile at you.

Let me be honest, last week was a long, exhausting blessed mess.

It took a while to wake up and get going this morning, and even though I am in my office now, I am still dragging. Dragging enough that I thought I could not pay good enough attention to really make my devotions “worth it.”  (Whatever that means!)  So I almost moved past them to “get to work” studying scripture and preparing next week’s order of worship.

Logically, at least with what little logic was available, I realized how stupid that sounded. Overlook prayer and time with God to plan… prayer and time with God?

So back to my devotions, and what’s the common topic?  Prayer, of course!  (God does have a sense of humor!)

And I remembered why I love the practical faith of St. Josemaria!  He remembered the ultimate truth about prayer.  It is not the flowery words, it is not about the incredible dialogue. It is simply about being in the presence of God, our Father!  It is about looking up to Him, unable perhaps to even speak of our need to depend upon Him… and realize He is present – that He is looking at us!

Perhaps that is why the most meaningful time of prayer is when we are simply silent!

From St. Josemaria’s simplicity to Peter Kreeft’s philosophy, where I found the same message. There it takes the essence of why do you pray if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and unchanging? Are you going to change God’s mind? ( As Abraham thought he might be able to with Sodom?)

Ot is it something more than by struggling with prayer, by seeking God out, we begin to understand His love, His passionate care? In our times of prayer, we learn that He does desire the best for us and actively works in our lives to make it so? That even times of bargaining with Abraham, or the Samaritan woman who argued for her daughter’s healing, God is teaching us the lesson of interacting with Him, and not just using Him as a genie from the bottle?

Think through this… I decided to look up the Lord’s prayer… and missed it by a few verses, coming to those above in red. Which says the same thing…

Stop worrying,

Leave it in God’s hands…

Look at Jesus, look at the Father… seek them first… and see Them smile.

Amen!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147–148.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Real People + Real Life Problems + Real God = Real Christianity

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.
Judges 8:27 (NLT2)

2  He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 3  He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 4  He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan. 2 Kings 18:2-4 (NLT2)

It says, “I called upon the Lord” (118:5). You must learn to call. (You have heard that well.) Do not sit by yourself or lie on your bed hanging and wagging your head and devouring yourself with your thoughts by worrying. So do not strive and struggle to free yourself, and do not dwell on how badly it is going for you, how miserable you are, and how much you are suffering as a person. But get up, you lazy scoundrel, get down on your knees, lift your hands and your eyes to heaven, recite a psalm or the Lord’s Prayer, and place your trouble with tears before God. Complain and call upon God, as this verse teaches, as well as Psalm 142:2: “I pour out my trouble before God, I tell God my trouble.” Similarly, Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” Here you learn that praying, taking your troubles to God, and lifting your hands are the most pleasing offerings to God. God longs for you, wants you to bring your troubles, and does not want you to multiply your troubles by letting them weigh on you having you carry them around, torture yourself, and be the martyr. God wants you to be too weak to carry these troubles and overcome them by yourself so that you learn to
find your strength in God. Thus you will glorify God’s strength in you. In this way people become real Christians
.

Last week I heard an interesting lecture, where the speaker proposed that the modern church has begun to worship… well worship. One of his point was the way we “market” our churches, as we will spend great energy extolling our traditional worship with excellent choirs, ancient hymns, or our amazing contemporary worship, blah blah, blah.

We may not even get around to telling them our main mission, revealing to them the love of God, drawing them into a relationship with Him where they will find hope and healing as they realize how present He is in their lives.

I am going to have to watch that video over, because I think he is right. Our worship wars of the 70’s-90’s have resulted in this, we treasure our worship style more than the One we worship. We have done what the people of God did with Gideon’s breastplate, and with the Bronze Serpent. We have made our work the focus, and we pin our hope for the church on organs or keyboards, on choirs or praise teams, and we’ve left God out of the picture.

In comparison, look at this passage from Luther, and the way he describes prayer. Look at the way he shows us to dialogue with God, raw, blunt, harsh, pouring out everything on our hearts. In a word, a dialogue that is as intimate as anything we’ve experienced.

God won’t blast us for sharing our doubts our anxieties, our troubles. Luther notes this is pleasing to God, this is what He desires. As odd as it sounds to us, it is the picture we see in scripture, that God would pick us up, that He will allow us ot be weak enough that we realize that we aren’t alone, that there is a relationship we need, with Him. Christianity isn’t about being strong, it is about being vulnerable, and allowing God to do what a God should do, care for His creation.

That knowledge of God’s care should cause us to remove the idols from our midst. It should reveal the emptiness of our idols, and cause us to hunger for a real God, who will help us with our real problems, This is what it means to be a real Christian, to be one of God’s people, to realize the relationship we have with God our provider. To realize His love, His tender mercy and how He provides for us.

Lord, help us to see you, and become more and more confident in Your presence. Help us pour out our hearts to You, knowing Your desire to dwell in our midst. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 210–211.

The Power Hidden in Pronouns and the Beginning of Advent

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2  May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 3  Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Philippians 1:2-3 (NLT2) (italics mine)

God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope …always.

The Christians adopted this term to proclaim their special relationship to Jesus Christ. For them, he is the King who entered this wretched province, our world, and gifted it with the feast of his visit. He it is whose presence in the liturgical assembly they profess. With this expression, they intended to say, in general, “God is here.” He has not abandoned this world. He has not left us behind alone. Even though we cannot see and touch him like so many things—he is present, nevertheless, and visits us in many ways

As I started to prepare for next weeks sermon last night, the two pronouns in the reading caught my attention, and wouldn’t let it go.

I’ve read that passage hundreds of times, if not a thousand times, preached on it a lot, and those pronouns never hit me like they did last night. Technically they are genitive pronouns, called that because they have a relationship with a noun, as opposed to having a relationship with a verb.  They act more like adjectives than subjects or objects in a sentence.  In English, we might call them possessive pronouns.

Here is what that means to those of us who aren’t language geeks.

Those pronouns exist to tie the object in the sentence to the person/people the pronoun represents.  In the first case, “us”, in the second case, “Paul”.

And that makes all the difference in the world.  This God of whom Paul speaks is OUR GOD, OUR FATHER  this God he prays to is HIS GOD (or we can say when we pray MY GOD).  There is a relationship there, a connection that defines this God of whom we speak.  There is a personal close relationship that is so close we are defined by it, as is He.

This is a perfect thought to contemplate during Advent, especially as we begin this journey, contemplating what these pronouns mean.  That God, the creator and sustainer of the universe is our Father.  That we can go to Him in prayer, knowing that He not only will listen but that He desires too, offering comfort and peace in the times in our life that are the hardest.

This is the meaning of course, of Advent, the looking back and looking forward to Christ coming into our lives to reveal God’s love for us.  Looking forward as well, to the incredible time when we prodigals return home, for Christ has come for us.

Because of Jesus entering into our drama, we aren’t alone, we are in a relationship with God who never grows tired, who will not abandon us, whom we can and should talk to, who nourishes our famished souls.

In the past week, I have seen too much trauma, I have seen people experience too much brokenness. too much grief.  Perhaps more than any time in my ministry. It is in a time like this that the reality of Advent is such a treasured part of my life. I have to know God is here, I have to hear His voice comfort me, (through the scriptures and through those whom He has sent to encourage )

This is what Advent means, that until Christ’s return, we can dwell in His peace, something unexplainable, something unimaginable, yet something that is so real.

Lord, help us to realize your presence, as You surround us in your peace!  AMEN!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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. 381). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Christian Maturity is not Self-Sufficient

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.  Matt 19:20-22  TEV

5  That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6  I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)

One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.

he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.

We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.

We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized.  How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.

The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith.  he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well.  The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.

They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.

Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him!  Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.

Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above.  Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God.  It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.

This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated.  Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.

It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.

Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.

It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.

The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.

Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us.  AMEN!

 

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Two Encounters With Jesus: A sermon on Mark 6:45-56

church at communion 2Two Encounters With Jesus
Mark 6:45-56

Jesus, Son, Saviour

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause you to recognize Him, and bring to Him those who need to be made whole.

The Challenge to Evangelism?


In twenty years of ministry, one of the hardest things to see develop in a church is the attitude that we exist and serve to bring others to Christ.  Some call this being missional, some call it recognizing our apostolate.

You see, each of us is sent by God, to live where we are, and to reflect the love of God to those who are broken and so desperately need His touch upon their lives.

The challenge is not in learning what to say, most of us have been taught how to explain our faith. I mean how many of us can say the Lord’s Prayer and the apostles’ creed without looking at the bulletin?

We know the teachings, the basic doctrine.

So what do we need?  What will change us into being a church that reveals to people the Jesus who will make them whole?

The key to Concordia, or any other church, becoming an evangelistic church, is simple. We need to know how to act when we encounter Jesus.

For when our souls learn to recognize Jesus, when our hearts know we dwell in His presence, the intuitive thing to do will be to drag people to Jesus, to the places where we know they will encounter them.

In today’s gospel, there are three encounters with Jesus. Two will show us how we can react to seeing Him.  And the third, well, we will get to it later.

Seeing Him, amazed and confused!
The first way people reacted to Jesus is seen in the boat.  The apostles, tired and weary, still overwhelmed by their first mission trip, and the feeding of thousands, see Jesus.
They see him, the word there is from where we get “identify.”  Picture someone routinely checking driver’s licenses, and then realizing the person in front of them is someone famous. This is how they reacted, and their hearts, confused by all of life, were described as too petrified to take it all in. We all get that way sometimes, as life throws a few curves at us.  As we get overwhelmed, as we are struggling with what is going on, or with the storms in our lives.
The apostles were there, “hey” its Jesus.   Oh no!  It’s beyond natural!  It’s something supernatural!  It’s not something normal.

Uhm, yeah Peter and James and John.  It’s Jesus!  What did you expect from Him, if not the supernatural?

We don’t recognize Jesus all that well at times, or the Holy Spirit’s prompting.  We struggle to see Him during the hard times, and we don’t completely get what God is up too when we see the miraculous happen.

Our hearts are petrified, they are too hard to take it all in. But can we change?

Knowing Him – and dragging people in bed to Him

The second group was the group that encountered Jesus when He got out of the boat.  These people just didn’t identify Jesus, the Greek indicates they knew Him, they deeply knew Him, who He was, and what it meant for Him to be there.

Whereas the Apostles went crazy with fear, these people went crazy bringing every person they could find that was broken.  They ran around, grabbing people on mattresses and carrying them, they even just knew that if they could encounter Jesus, even just touching the edge of their robes, it would change everything….

And it did.

They encountered Him in the everyday mess of life. Though they had no clue about the cross, or the grave, the resurrection, they were sure He was a messenger from God, and they knew he would do the supernatural.  So they brought the broken, the needy, almost without thinking about it!

Imagine lying there on your bed, some guys storm in, and the next thing you know, you are being dragged to meet Jesus, no explanation given. As you encounter Jesus, something more occurs than just being healed.  You are made holy, you are saved. You are made right, perfect.

That’s what happens when you reveal the love of God to someone, that is what happens when Jesus is revealed In your life, what occurs when you encounter Him.

So How?  Close Encounter of the Third Kind

So how do we go from the first reaction to reacting like the evangelists in the second group of people?  How do we go from going crazy because of trauma and stress, to being crazy trying to get people to come to Jesus?  What hope is there for those of us who are overwhelmed, whose hearts are too hard to take it all in?

Because even the holiest and most devout of us can get overwhelmed by life.

I did this week, as the prayer list seemed to explode with people in need.

It isn’t within me to remember 24/7 that God is here, actively working in our lives, actively working through our lives. I get too distracted, I get too overwhelmed by the storm, I get too frustrated by the work that God sent me to do.

So how do we keep centered on Jesus? How do we stay aware of His presence in life?

One pastor wrote it this way,

Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.  (Pope Francis)

Remember where the disciples were heading with Jesus when they came back from their first mission trip? When they took off and found people chasing them on the shore, and then Jesus fed them?

They were heading off to a place to be with Jesus, to find time to pray, to find time for that personal encounter with God.  To know Him enough to recognize Him.

Jesus did this, He went away for a time to talk to the Father, that was why He had to chase the boat, and if it is a blessing for Him, it is necessary for us.

Not just to please God, though it does.  I need it, and you need it too.  We need to be able to recognize God’s presence in our lives, to expect it, and the healing and peace that He brings. For that presence ties out theology to life, it makes what we say more than words.

To know Him, to encounter Him in prayer, and in the sacraments, they help us to now He is there. And so this week, God blessed me by helping me encounter Him more, as people took time out, and we shared in the Lord’s Supper together.  Then when the storms hit, we know to look for Him, to expect His presence.

For from there, recognizing God at work is easier, knowing He is here, and He will make us whole is easier.  For with Him revealed, we are still, and we know He is indeed God. And that He keeps us, our hearts and minds safe in Jesus. AMEN!

Is it worth it? A reflection on 20 plus years of ministry….

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. 
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first.  Job 42:10-12  HCSB

670    Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!

Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness.  Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome”  a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.

As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear.  I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.

I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me.  There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings.  They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.

Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.

So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?

If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.

No, absolutely not.

While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42.  It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.

It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.

And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.

He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.

And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself;  my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB

There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it.  To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger.  This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.

Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all.  And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”

For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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