Blog Archives

Is Correct Doctrine and Practice Enough? Are We Just Going Through the Motions?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our Day:

2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6  NCV

Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.

A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God. 

It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church.  That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol.  That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.  

It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing. 

The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above. 

They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.

They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)  

They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it!  Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against.  When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)

Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even.  Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important.  Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous.  But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry. 

St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God.  It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway.  The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!

I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution.  THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself.  Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him.  I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.

FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.

For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…

Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.  quote from Melancthon

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

A Growing Faith & Ministry and Those who Would Prevent It

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
5  And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.    1 Peter 2:5 (NLT)

1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.    Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)

On some occasions I have witnessed what could be called a general mobilization against those committed to dedicating their whole lives to the service of God and souls. Some people think that our Lord ought to ask their permission before choosing others for his service. Apparently they believe man is not free to say an unequivocal yes or no to this proposal of Love. To people who think that way, the supernatural life of each soul is something secondary. They do believe it has to be reckoned with, but only after petty comforts and human selfishness have been accommodated. If this were the case, what would be left of Christianity? Are the loving but demanding words of Jesus only to be heard? Or are they rather to be heard and put into practice? Did he not say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”?8

One of the things that those who observe the church and its ministry is that the millennial generation is more caused based.  That is, they do not want a passive church where they sit and learn academic proofs for the existence of God and the formula for justification. They want an active faith, a trust in God that drives them to serve with purpose.

Some say this is new, but I remember my generation wanting the same thing.  We responded to calls to be servant leaders, not just the bureaucrats and office holders we’ve too often become. What is worse, my generation, and the one before that seem determined to quench the spirit of those who would serve, saying that they cannot serve.

In doing so, not only are they preventing men and women from serving the vocation God has given them, they deny them a chance to grow in faith.  The church should be recognizing the gifts and calling that God has given them.  The church should be laying hands on and praying for the Spirit to bless those who would serve!  Those who stop people from serving as part of the church are restraining them from doing the things that would lift up their pastors. There is no scriptural or confessional reason for this!  ( Luther, Melancthon, and Walther all talk about such assistance as being good and right!)

I think St. Josemaria Escriva is correct, the resistance to letting people serve as God has called them has nothing to do with caring for them spiritually, and everything to do with petty comforts and selfishness.  Harsh words, but to dismiss the supernatural life of souls as something secondary is completely contrary to the scriptures.

For these is a great tie between making sacrifices, and depending on God.  Service and Faith are inseparable.  Just like there is a right call to the office of the pastor, there is a right call to the priesthood, to the ministry of serving, to what in Greek is called the diakonos, that is – the office of deacon.

As a pastor, there are few things more uplifting as seeing the people of God hear the message I proclaim, the gospel I teach and desire to do something with it. It is not a threat to my job, or a threat to my existence.  It isn’t a financial threat to see this!  There is no threat in educating people to serve.  It becomes the joy of seeing the care of souls entrusted to me bearing fruit. What a joy it is, when people say that this person ministered to them, what joy is it to watch a man stand by me and assist in baptizing those he shared the hope he has because of Christ.

What a joy it is to see them hunger and thirst to know God’s love, to help them explore it, to help them be rid of those things that quench their relationship with God. To see them realize that they can please God, that they who were justified by Christ are now sanctified and set apart to live walking with their Lord, guided by the Holy Spirit.

We have a unique opportunity, to see the church’s faith become relevant to their lives, to see them dedicate their lives to serving God and the people in the communities they live in, and the communities around the world. How we do that will determine the church for generations to come, whether it will be weak and die out where we live, or whether it will serve God.

It’s our choice, just as it was Israel’s as it entered the land.

Let’s pray.. and hear God speak clearly.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1116-1122). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Ministry is Not About the Clergy!!!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

5  I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6  An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7  For an elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. 8  Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9  He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.
Titus 1:5-9 (NLT)

11 If ordination is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no obligation to calling ordination a sacrament. The ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom. 1:16), again, “My word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
12 If ordination is interpreted this way, we shall not object either to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament. The church has the command to appoint ministers; to this we must subscribe wholeheartedly, for we know that God approves this ministry and is present in it.  (1)

. Since only general laws can be made where there exists a wide variety of nations and regions, a special “program of priestly training” is to be undertaken by each country or rite. It must be set up by the episcopal conferences, revised from time to time and approved by the Apostolic See. In this way will the universal laws be adapted to the particular circumstances of the times and localities so that the priestly training will always be in tune with the pastoral needs of those regions in which the ministry is to be exercised.  (2)

This summer, there will be a lot of talk in my denomination about the ministry, and in specific the ministry of the diaconate, (Ministry in Greek is diakonos) .  Our problem is somewhat in semantics and somewhat an issue of ignorance. Ultimately, it is a misunderstanding of the ministry, and what it means to be divinely called to serve the church.

Without a doubt, those who serve the Church are a gift to the church.  Yes ,there is a divine call to not just pastors and priests, but to deacons and I believe any who teach in the church. The need to be trained and examined, and prayed over and for as they take up their roles, their vocations.

But the ministry isn’t about them.  The ministry is about serving the needs of those they are called to serve.  The people God would call to be His people, His children.

You see that clearly in the Ephesians passage, as we are called to minister, and even a point to which the job is complete.  (GULP)  But we see it as well, as the Titus passage describes our roles, again using the idea of building up, encouraging, being a Paraclete.

We see this in the idea early Lutherans (the quote in blue from the Apology of the Augsburg Confessions) as ordination is considered a sacrament if the ordination is setting them apart for this ministry of teaching God’s word.  (The first president of my Lutheran denomination included in this group all those the pastor delegated such work to as well!) This is why there was a time where ordained clergy not in dedicated full-time parish ministry was not considered “in the ministry”.  It’s about the care of souls, about urging them to cross, where they will find mercy and love and peace.

We see as well in the Catholic Church’s cry (the quote in Vatican II) to make seminary training about being in tune with meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the area they are to serve.  They clearly understand that what is important is what we do, and our personal identity is to be lost, so that we speak as stewards of the mysteries of Christ.  if our training is merely academic, merely the recitation and repetition of the experts who have gone before, and not tailored to give people what they need to know about Jesus, then the seminaries and universities have failed in their mission.  (as have pastors who train up Deacons and Sunday School Teachers, and all who have part of our ministry.)  What is true fo the clergy is as true for all those who will serve in the church?

It’s about the people being drawn into the presence of God. Our identity as ministers is that of the servant making sure his Master’s guests arrive.   The focus then has to be on the guests, their needs, being met by the church, being served by those who have been called and examined and placed there, because God wants them to be.

This is their ministry, God’s gift to them.

AMEN.

 

 

 
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The Problem with Leadership…

Devotional/Discussion  Thought of the Day:

I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: 2  give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. 3  Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 4  When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory.  1 Peter 5:1-4 (NJB) 1

Many false apostles, in spite of themselves, do good to the masses, to the people, through the very power of the doctrine of Jesus which they preach—even though they don’t practice it. But this good does not compensate for the enormous and very real harm they do by killing the souls of leaders, of apostles, who turn away in disgust from those who don’t practice what they preach. That’s why such men and women, if they are not willing to live an upright life, should never push themselves forward as leaders. (1)

 

Tomorrow morning, before even life gets up, I will get on an airplane and head to my denominations convention, a three year event to do the business of the church.  I dread it, for there are forces at play that are well described in St. Josemaria’s words.  That don’t care for the flock, or its leaders, and they see themselves as not just leaders, but the only authority on what it means to be Lutheran or for that matter, Christian.   It is more than sad.

But that brings up a question, how are we to deal with leaders described in the quote from St. Josemaria?  Do we simply not listen to them, and do what is right in our hearts, according to our own

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ lag in Todes Banden, and who, with Johann Walter, also wrote the melody (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

internal clocks?  Do we call for their resignations, or if they don’t, we try to remove them?  Or do we call them to repentance and rejoice when they do.  In a large group – how is it best dealt with, not just for our good, or theirs, but for the good of God’s kingdom?

More importantly, can we realize that it is ultimately God that is in charge, and if this is a season of pruning or oppression, God will use it to bless us?   A great example of this is Luther of course, who was forced into a nearly monastic hiding arrangement, yet came out of it with even a greater appreciation for our life in Christ, having translated the New Testament into German.  Can we avoid the real harm which some would do, can we endure the disgust and minister to those around us, pointing them to Christ, and the reason we have hope?

In such times – the cry is simple… Lord, Have Mercy!

and not just rely on it, but trust completely in His provision.

Godspeed!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1024-1028). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Necessity of Teaching People Worship and the Liturgy: Evangelical Catholic IX

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the day, please discuss and meditate on it:

 2  Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved. 3  As the scripture says, “You have found out for yourselves how kind the Lord is.” 4  Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5  Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 2:2-5 (TEV)

 “This emphasis on beauty in the liturgical life of the Church is another reason why Evangelical Catholicism takes sacramental preparation and adult catechesis so seriously. Absent a true understanding of what the liturgy is, grounded in a firm grasp of what the Gospel is, those who “come to church” do not grow in living faith. Liturgy without Gospel is superstition, or self-worship, or both. Thus evangelical Catholic parishes take care to provide ongoing liturgical catechesis; this is primarily done through preaching, but it is also done through the various other means by which pastors communicate with their people. Pastors who understand that liturgical catechesis is a matter of empowering their people to exercise the priestly gift that is theirs by reason of Baptism will be likely to be effective in building worshipping communities that celebrate the sacred liturgy nobly, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Evangelical Catholic liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Having been lifted up to the threshold of the Throne of Grace through the dignified celebration of the Church’s liturgy, evangelical Catholics leave Sunday Mass with a new charge of missionary energy. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.” (1)

I recently began a new class at our church, one that is, at once a review of our our faith and of the what and why of our Liturgical Worship.   I need to start off with a disclaimer I suppose, that I find an incredible richness in the liturgy, yet because of the uncommon language, and the unexplained movements, that richness is mostly hidden.  When I comment to that extent some have accused me of being a proponent of anti-liturgical or aliturgical (i.e.  Contemptorary Worship) even though I have noted the same errors in those groups. The church (and I mean the church in its entirety ) in the twenty-first century simply doesn’t do a good enough job teaching people the way in which we worship.  This is true whether it is in the uncommon language and movements of Liturgical churches, or the Contemporary services where the simpler movements are still not explained, and are often far removed from the interaction of a Liturgical Service.

In Wiegel’s article – there is much that is true to the church outside the auspices of Rome. (As well of course, as the Church of Rome about which he writes.)  Specifically of the quote above, and the Bible passage, I would highlight these things.

1.  Worship/Liturgy without the Gospel is empty superstition
There is a part of me that loves to describe food, for example the sizzling of a thick slice of bacon, with its incredible flavor investing the air throughout a home.  It’s because I love watching people uncontrollably begin to react.  You can’t help it.  The same thing should happen within the liturgy – when people are so aware of the grace, the gospel, the love, the mercy and peace  that is about to be shared, that they cannot but begin to react in expectation.  Like those babies in Peter’s letter, there is a desire that builds within us, when we know about what we are to receive.  Absolution, being reminded of the promises of our baptism as we make the sign of the cross, the fact that we are welcome into the Father’s presence, not only that – He desires our presence!  Then, the incredible feast – that which we must give thanks and praise.   ( I hope maybe you are longing for communion like deacons hunger for bacon.)

But imagine not knowing what bacon tasted like?  Imagine not knowing what the flavor that is carried throughout a home where it is cooked.  How could you know how good, how alive the flavor would make your mouth come alive?  The same is true with the liturgy – we rob people when we don’t show them how the Liturgy delivers to them everything of Christ – His presence, His mercy, His love, His comfort, forgiveness, peace, healing…… to them.  This is true as well – when the service is robbed of liturgical elements, when we don’t take the time to realize that that’s the Lamb of God, sent to take away  our sins as well as the sins of the world,  or,  my gosh – we have seen His salvation,  or even as simply as hearing that every burden we have, God desires to take away from us, that we may realize that indeed His is the glory and the honor and the power….as we pray as He taught.

2.  Teaching the people the Liturgy, (and how it delivers to them Christ) is something that empowers them, that helps them realize the gifts given to them in their baptism.  Heling them know that they are God’s children, priests and kings.  As Peter says, as we are joined to the Chief Cornerstone in our Baptism – we are used to build that spiritual temple – where we all work together, serving together, as His priests, where our work is acceptable to God, because it isn’t ours, it is Christ’s Jesus. (see Romans 12:1-10)  People need only realize what is being given to them, if how the liturgy teachings them, shows them, how to dance with God through life, even through the slow and somber times.  Having realized the incredible power of God’s love, having been taught what they need to know about Christ, having realized how God has ministered to them through word and sacrament…how could we not be empowered?  Look at Acts – every time someone proclaimed the Gospel of Christ’s work, the sermons weren’t even completed before someone did something.  Because they proclaimed the gospel – and the people heard it.

May ours do as well.

3.  And that is why the third thing happens:  liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic (insert your own “brand here) Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.

I love that Wiegel described what it means to be missional, to have an apostolate.  It’s not about recruiting people to become members of the organism.  It isn’t about getting them from their churches to ours, or to convert them for the sake of numbers.  I love the way Wiegel puts this…it is so… well Lutheran.  Worship is a means (and it contains the means) to meet Christ, and enter into a relationship with Him.  A relationship where He no longer calls use servants – but indeed, friends.  This is what it is all about, this is why we do what we  do.

They need to know Him – and this liturgy – honed and translated into the language of the people, does that very thing….. so well.

So I encourage you – if a pastor or priest, church musician, worship leader, singer – know  why and what you do – and share it with those who need to know Jesus….. and then watch your liturgy come alive…..

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 74). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: