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The Reformation wasn’t a call to war…..but a call to a life of repentance

Large Catechism  COmmunionDevotional Thought of the Day:
37  Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38  “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 18:37-38 (NLT2)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I wish I could have seen the body language and tone of voice of Pilate when he asked, “What is Truth?”

Was it from exasperation?  Did his non-verbals betray a sad sense of fatalism or sarcasm?  Did he really want to know the truth, but feel that his search was so in vain?

He was face to face with God’s revelation of the truth, and couldn’t see it. He heard it, but he didn’t realize it. 

Approximately 1500 years later, Luther was struggling with the truth as well.  He found the truth, and the mercy it promised so much like chasing after the wind.  What he had been taught obscured it, to the extent that he knew deep despair and depression. 

The hammering of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg wasn’t a call to arms, it wasn’t the equivalent of the first shot of the American Revolution, it wasn’t a cry for the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It was a plea to examine what was believed, and compare it to scripture, in the hope of finding out the truth of God’s love.

My denomination celebrates this day, and I am not sure I do.  I don’t regret the work of Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz and their brothers, but I do regret the necessity.  And I, even more, regret that we’ve lost the focus, that the events surrounding Luther’s search for and finding grace are lost in the triumphalism, in the “we’ve shown them.”

You see, in my mind, the reformation should still be about redirecting us to the mercy of Christ, and to the fact we need it.  It should be about the hope we who are broken find in the healer. It must be about Jesus.

That is why the first thesis read.

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

To remember the beginning of the reformation means we remember the call to a life of repentance.

And that means we have to admit where we are wrong and be willing to be questioned regarding our presuppositions, about our theology and practice. We have to accept the invitations to discuss where we have obscured Jesus, and be willing to repent.

That is reformation, that is putting Christ first, and seeing Him at work, redeeming and reforming His people.

 

Luther, M. (1996). Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of indulgences: October 31, 1517 (electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Faith in Action: Know! Psalm 46

Faith in Action:  Knows
Psalm 46

† Jesus, Son and Savior †

May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest!  AMEN!

People who have faith need to pray

I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,

How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.

It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.

As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary.  He is our peace.

The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God

Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.

Obstacles to knowing God

I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.

It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm.  It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.

Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…

Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.

Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right!  (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )

And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.

Is such anxiety sin?  If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.

You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not.  And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.

The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.

So how does this happen?

Come and see the glorious works

There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.

Come and see the glorious works of the Lord!  See how he brings destruction upon the world!

The first part seems like a great invitation.  Observing God’s glorious works!  How awesome!  How incredible!  Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.

And then I get the second half and go “wait…

BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD?  WHAT?

Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?

I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?

I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?

Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.

But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.

That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)

It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….

Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us.  In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…

And know..

That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.

As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.

And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.

And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him!  AMEN!

The Secret to the Revitalization of the Church, or a church

IMAG0406

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.   Zeph 1:7

Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.

I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.

They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus.  These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them.  But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them.  Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.

And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.

The second one is more obvious than the first.  While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan.  It requires compromise in the nature of the mission.  Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change.  That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God.  If you do that, you have changed the mission.

Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people.  God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt.  It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.

We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus.  Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.

All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote.  It brings us to the point of this devotion.  And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.

Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.

God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus.  For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.

ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.

This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.

And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible.   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.) (pp. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Te Missional Key To the Book of Revelation

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.   Rev. 12:10-11 HCSB

223         Christ expects a lot from your work. But you will have to look for souls, as the Good Shepherd went after the hundredth sheep: without waiting to be called. Then make use of your friends to do good to others. Tell each one of them that nobody can feel at ease with a spiritual life which, after filling him, does not overflow with apostolic zeal.

As I am reading through Revelation, I am not surprised at how much verse 11 sticks out.  It does every time I read it, it is just so powerful, this testimony of the victory of the saints, of our victory.

And yet this time, it struck me that this verse is one of the keys to understanding the Book of Revelation, and indeed, the role of the church in these days.  If we understand this, the mission and the very existence of the church becomes clear.

We are sent, we have our apostolate. and we are freed to accomplish this work, assured that our victory over sin and Satan, and death is finally won. Satan has been conquered, and His ability to accuse us of sin is over.

That is where the word of our testimony is so powerful, for we witness to the love of Jesus, the incredible mercy that floods our lives, our hearts and souls cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  That is our testimony, not of our work, but of the love of God which establishes us as His children, His Holy People.

And having that testimony, that knowledge that we are God’s forever, our priorities change.  NO longer are we concerned as much about our own pleasure, our own happiness?  What becomes more important is the 1 whom has wandered from the 99, the child of God who has forgotten their Creator, their Father.  Our hearts break for them, and their situation.

And drawing them back to Jesus, that becomes far more important than the latest toy, or that trip.  Their eternity becomes more a concern than riches or fame.  The foreigner who is lost, the woman in the hospital, the 20-something in jail, these are the priorities we gain over self-indulgence.

God with us, freeing us from all the fear of that which is to come, He is who we witness of, and that witness is what forms our life until He returns.

This is who we, the church, are called to be, a people full of joy as the love of God infects the world around us, drawing more an more people to Him, and into being part of His people.

We can only do that, knowing the victory of Satan is complete, and because of the blood of Jesus it is.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1133-1136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why are we so willing to judge and condemn?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  James 4:11-12  HCSB

28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11

There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.

It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world.  And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.

A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love.  And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.

Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.

A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee.  I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape.   I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him.  In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.

Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind.  And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims.  No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.

Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.

And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues.  And my heart tears for them as well.

And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism.  All three warn us, they even command us not to judge.  They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.

But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.

Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…

And rejoice in the presence in your life.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

do your job….. people of God!

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It was the mantra of my favorite football team two seasons ago.  Each person, from the owner and head coach to the Cheerleaders, field goal kicker and waterboys had a job to do, and they did it.

I think we need that in the church today, for each person to focus on their vocation, and do it and live as God wants, and please Him.

Too often we get distracted.  Sometimes it is by sin and temptation, and sometimes it is more subtle, by comfort and preference, which leads us to abandon our vocation, our call. Sometimes it is even by the illusion we are doing ministry when all we are ministering too is our own ego.

But it is critically important to realize that the wisdom, the understanding, and knowledge of God’s will comes from, along with the ability and strength to do this work, enduring in it, and finding joy in it.

That only comes from the relationship we have with God.  For none of us is greater than the apostles, yet in many ways, we look at them in a far more common role. Fisherman, tax collectors, rebels without a cause, highly competitive brothers.

They learned to do their job at the side of Jesus, with His coaching, yet they still needed the upper room, where Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and Pentecost, where the Spirit testified to their ministry, with signs and wonders, with tongues of fire, which resulted in people hearing God’s love revealed through them.

We need the Spirit to fall upon us in the same way, helping us to see the mission, the apostolate, the role God has given us.  Simply put, the will of God that none should perish, but all enter into a relationship with Him that transcends time.

But to do that, we need to depend on Him, growing in the confidence that comes from realizing God is with us. We need to know His presence and peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit brings, even in the midst of the greatest storms.

FOr we don’t do the work without Him active in our lives.

It all comes back to that relationship, which really is our first vocation, our first job. That comes first, and then, the ministry to the world flows from there.

May we be blessed as we spend all our time in His presence!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Have We Set Aside?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought for the day:
3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Hebrews 2:3-4 (NLT2)

4  “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5  But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6  Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. 7  “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. Matthew 22:4-7 (NLT2)

4         You often ask yourself why souls who have had the great fortune of knowing the true Jesus ever since their childhood, hesitate so much in responding with the best they have: their life, their family, their ideals. Look: you are bound to show yourself very grateful to the Lord, precisely because you have received ‘everything’ in one go. Just as it would strike a blind man if he suddenly recovered his sight, while it does not even occur to others to give thanks because they see. But that is not enough. You have to help those around you, daily, to behave with gratitude for their being sons of God. If you don’t, don’t tell me you are grateful.

When some Christians think of neglecting salvation, they think of the people they know who once attended church, yet now only show up for “special events.”  The people that may go to a Christian Concert, or listen to Christian music, but aren’t involved in a community of believers.

Like the ones in the story, invited by the King to share in His son’s wedding feast, who dismiss or are violent to the King’s servants.   Some who do neglect God’s delivering us from the power of sin do so by finding other priorities over church, other priorities over studying the scriptures and praying with others.

But we also neglect such a great blessing as salvation is when we do nothing with it.  When we go through the motions at church, when we soak in all the Bible Studies when we reduce our life to “attendance”. It may be because we’ve simply got comfortable in our routine, that we’ve reduced walking thru life with God to just showing up once in a while.  We can become the people that always have been able to see, that don’t appreciate it. Or who have received God’s mercy for so long we take it for granted and think every one we know also is going to be saved.

Neglecting salvation begins not with passivity, but in not realizing the profound difference it makes in our lives, and the difference it could make in the lives of those around us. And knowing that difference, helping them to see it. (Not forcing it one them, but revealing and encouraging them to believe in the promises.

We need to be grateful for this greatest gift in our lives.

A gift that all can receive.

The problem is that many of will read this and respond (or at least commit to respond out of guilt and obligation.  Instead, we should respond naturally, in awe and joy, in gratitude for the life that has been given to us.

This amazing gift of freedom from sin, of knowing we have life eternal, of knowing that we walk with God, because He wants to walk with us,,, He wants to be with us,.  He wants us to know that He, God our Creator and Redeemer loves us.

Think about that love… dwell in it.. and live in it.

May God’s richest blessings that He gives you, be recognized and hold the greatest attention in our lives!

The question of the Day:  What distracts you from God’s love, what causes you to neglect it? 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 253-260). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Secret to Longevity in Ministry

Mike's installation gangDevotional Thought of the day:
11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12  always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13  For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14  who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:11-14 (NLT2)

998    O blessed perseverance of the donkey that turns the waterwheel! Always the same pace. Always around the same circle. One day after another, every day the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in the fruit, nor blossom in the orchard, nor scent of flowers in the garden. Carry this thought to your interior life.
999    And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.

This weekend was extremely busy, a funeral on Saturday added to an already long day. Sunday included church, Sunday School, a meeting, and then another service, where we installed the new president of our district.

As I was there, I ran into a bunch of friends, including pastors that served for twice as long as my two decades in ministry, Even one who has served 55 years as a pastor. Another who has served in the mountain jungles of Papua New Guinea since 1972, translating the New Testament into three different languages.

As i shared some time with these brothers, I thought about the stories we hear, about 1500 pastors and priests a moth leaving the ministry, about clergy burnout and how often pastors flee or are fired from congregations.

And then today, in my readings, I come across these words in Colossians about patience and endurance.  As I read the words of St Josemaria about perseverance as well, about how ministry is really being available for people day after day, meeting them in trauma, helping them remember that God is with them, or revealing His presence, which brings to them peace and healing.

The situations change, but the basic motion is the same.  Encounter trauma after trauma, work with the break to see healing happen, even as Jesus heals us. Day in and day out, counting on God’s faithfulness to see us through.

Yet, even after all of our plodding, we see the effects.  The beauty in a child that wants to be baptized, the joy in a child who wants to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and learns the things that make her desire even more.  The smile on a man’s face when he receives communion after having to miss church for 4 weeks because of work.  The work of pastors who gather together to pray for and with each other.

All these things happen because we keep our eyes on Jesus as we plod through our daily ministry.  Because what happens is, our eyes on Jesus, we reflect His love to those as broken as we are.  We reflect the power of mercy, as we live knowing Jesus has forgiven us, in order to unite us to God. These things happen, as we experience the love of God, and learn to adore Him, as He invites us to share in His glory.

For those who are shepherded by such men, pray for them, and encourage them to spend time contemplating God’s love for them.

For those who plod through ministry, Keeping looking to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will use your plodding in ways you won’t believe!

And to all, find peace and rest in this fact: THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!!!!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2316-2321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Chew on This! A sermon on John 6:51-59

church at communion 2Chew on This

John 6:51-59

†  IHS  †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to contemplate the love you experience, as you eat Christ’s body and drink His blood, and remain in Him!

Bothered by an Attitude

The disciples of Jesus today had an attitude and said something I just can’t believe.  It bothers me a ton, as a pastor and as a fellow disciple.

This is what they said, This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”

And a moment later, they did something that shouldn’t just bother us, it should bring us to tears.

But there is Jesus, who has fed them, healed them, taught them in such a manner that they are in awe, and they don’t want to listen to Him.  It is too hard to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them.

Even though it promises life, and life eternal.  The life lived in joy in the promise of God. Rather than simply giving up trying to understand, rather than refusing to accept Jesus teaching that He was the Bread of Life, they needed to do something…

They needed to chew on what He told them about Himself.

just like we do.

They left the Building… would we?

They didn’t. And not only did they not accept it, in verse 66 they did something even worse.

They walked away.

They abandoned the man they thought was at least a prophet, and very probably, the long-awaited Messiah, the hope, and savior of God’s people.

They couldn’t accept what He said, so they gave up.

They walked away from the free food, from the healings, from seeing miracles happen.

They walked away because they didn’t understand, they couldn’t accept it.  Despite the evidence, despite the miracles, the teaching, the food

They walked away.

But many of us do as well.

We don’t like what God reveals to us in scripture.

The simple lessons about what is right and wrong, the lessons about loving your neighbors, and your enemies, the lessons about the fact that we all have sinned, or how the church and the family should be arranged around mutual submission as we will hear in next week’s lessons.

We don’t understand, we think we can never accept it.  Some leave. Others just ignore the parts that make them uncomfortable or say that it may have been that way in Jesus’ day, but its changed now….

And we walk away, ignoring the blessing.

In the case of Jesus talking about eating His body and drinking His blood, we walk away from the promise of eternal life.

We need to stop ignoring what we don’t understand, we need to stop giving up on what is hard to accept and just chew on what God gives us, what He reveals to us for a while.

Chewing on the Words that give life…eternal life.

I’ve used the word “chew” intentionally during this sermon, even as I titled the sermon “chew on this for a reason.

I am not talking just about thinking about and deeply meditating on the Lord’s Supper and what it means.  Though doing that is a very healthy exercise, especially when you are struggling life.  For the Lord’s Body and Blood, what he calls true food and true drink, reveal a lot about His love for you.  But that is not what is talked about here.

Where I got the word “chew” is from the Greek.  Up until verse 53, when Jesus talked about eating the Bread of life, eating His Body, he used a generic term for eat.  (Phage) But in verse 53, he changes the word to another Greek word, the to chew or chomp down on what is in your mouth.  (trogon)

Jesus isn’t just talking about understanding the imagery of the Lord’s supper, he is talking about participating in the act of remembering Him, eating His body and drinking His blood, in and under the bread and wine.  Communion is not just an intellectual or heartfelt thought, it is receiving these gifts, and trusting what Jesus says they are.

His body, His blood, given and shed for you, given to help you know your sins are forgiven. Given to help you know you are in a relationship, a relationship defined by the covenant.

it is like our benediction for the service, turn a couple of pages over to it. These last words of the service,

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 for you! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Here, as we receive the bread, as we drink the wine, we experience the love of God, the love of God that is far beyond anything we can understand.  Chewing on this is not about in-depth thought, it is about the awe of communing with God, experiencing His love. You can’t comprehend it all.

And that’s okay… for knowing you are loved, knowing the width and length, the height and depth of His love for you are more than our brains can process.  This time at the altar, this time of communion with God is beyond words, for we know His love, and accept it.

We know it in our heart and in our soul, as Christ makes us one with Him.  Not in a magical way, but in a holy sacramental way. In a way, we experience that unity, as we trust Him at His word, and come and share in His feast.  As we eat His body, as we drink His blood, and find that we remain in Him, that we have a place with God. A place made secure for our heart and mind, by Jesus himself.  AMEN!

 

 

 

If you don’t see it at first…. that’s okay?

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking o that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.  Colossians 1:9-12 HCSB

890    You are distracted in prayer. Try to avoid distractions, but don’t worry if in spite of everything you’re still distracted. Don’t you see how in ordinary life even the most considerate children play with everything around them, and often pay no attention to what their father says? This does not imply a lack of love, or respect: it’s the weakness and littleness proper to a child. Look then: you are a child before God.

As I go through my devotional reading each day, I often highlight what I am reading. As I try to bring everything together, sometimes they click, and I see the instant connection, and sometimes they seem as alike as… I can’t think of anything diverse enough!

Today’s two quotes above fall into that latter group.  They both resonated with me.  The first from the perspective of this is a great goal for anyone who ministers to anyone.  From pastors and priests to Sunday School teachers, to those who work behind the scenes, to the little old ladies who can hardly do anything in the world’s eyes, but are great assets – because they pray! Oh, how we need them to model their persistent prayer so that we can follow their example!

We need to pray, as St Paul did, for the people we pray for, even as we pray that their bodies be healed, that their problems at home and work are resolved, we need to pray that they are filled with the knowledge of God’s desire, that they would have the wisdom and spiritual understanding that leads to the strength to work in this world in a way that pleases God.

And I guess that is where the second reading comes into the picture.  For even if someone is praying for me, that I would become all this, that I would realize what St Josemaria said.

I am still a child. I will still get distracted in my prayer time,  I can try to avoid the distractions (as you can as well) and we should!  But there are times where we are still His kids, we still are weak, though in Him strong.   The distractions don’t mean we are not his, no longer blessed, no longer His holy people.

We are His children.

Sometimes I get ticked at myself when something distracts me for a moment in prayer, or in church.  When I remember I have to write to someone or call someone when I realize I forgot to do this or that.  I’ve learned to turn off the phone (most of the time I don’t remember) or try to ignore the messages that come.  But I don’t always… and it annoys me and I deal with guilt about it.  Shouldn’t I have the ability to endure like the saints of old?  Shouldn’t I have the disposition to do what is right?  Shouldn’t I, by force of will, be able to free myself from all, so that I may concentrate on God?

Yes, and no. (even now I was distracted! Sigh! )

St Josemaria’s words help me realize that the patience that Paul prays for can include patience with myself.  They help remember I am a still a kid, and God will cause the growth.  Do what I can to eliminate the distractions, but also realize that the name or face that comes to mind, may have been put there by the Spirit.  And that God will be patient as well, as I grow in my appreciation for His presence and love.

Of course, if we were all mature, would there be a need to pray for each other as Paul prayed for the church?  No…

So call yourself back, remember you are in His presence…and rejoice in His love!

 

P.S>  if you don’t have people praying for you – let me know… and I will make sure you are!  (

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2059-2063). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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