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The Toughest Example to Set…

24 As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. 1 Tim 4:24-26 GNT

Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Sacred Host, recognize Him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.

Our educational work should have a purpose: to elicit a change in our students, to make them grow in wisdom, to help them undergo a transformation, to provide them with knowledge, with new feelings and, at the same time, achievable ideals. Many institutions promote the formation of wolves more than of brothers and sisters by educating their students to compete and succeed at the expense of others, with only a few weak ethical standards.

For most of my life, I have loved a good argument. I loved getting into it with someone, whether over politics, sports (an easy one NOW, since Boston teams have been great for a couple of decades), philosophy, even, I am embarrassed to say, religion.

I still occasionally still enjoy a good debate, and with a highly intellectual 12 year old in the house, I have a ready made opponent. Yet I would dread to see him observe me arguing about religion. For what I would be teaching him is that our belief is God is not as important as winning an argument.

Our relationship with God, our ability to trust in Him is too precious, to important to argue about. Correction needs to me more loving, more patient, and this is something every single one of us needs to grow in and mentor others, helping them develop an attitude like Jesus.

This is something we need to model, to teach, whether as pastors, elders teachers, parents, our purpose is to help those entrusted to our care to mature in faith. What Pope Francis noted about our educational system is true in our lives as well – we need to stop pushing competitiveness in a way that humiliates and demonizes the competition. It has invaded to many relationships, wrecked to many friendships and divided too many communities, and sad to say, to many churches.

I think the quote from Benedict XVI shows us where the hope of the answer is found. I have long thought the answer to division is not found in an office or conference room, but at the altar. To realize that the Body broken and the blood spilt for me was also broken and spilt for my nemesis, to realize my being drawn to the table to communion is matched by the same Holy Spirit drawing them there, puts ou relationship into a different form. It helps us recognize Jesus in them, or the work the Spirit is doing to draw them to Jesus, a work that is either advanced or hindered by my actions, words and attitudes.

This is one of the myriad of blessings found in the Lord’s Supper, and it is one of the reasons I run to it, or spend time contemplating the gift it is, especially when I am in conflict. To realize what God is doing, bringing us all to completion, bringing us all into the holy relationship with Him that He has created and set us apart for, is amazing. At my church, we still have an altar rail, where everyone kneels together, and receives this blessing together. The choir and praise team especially, but many others have begun to hold hands after they receive, another sigh of unity. This isn’t forced, and it started during a time when one member was struggling. It is a sign of this unity that transcends anything we could argue about.

We can still strive to do our best, we can still try to correct what we see is in error, we can still hold strong opinions, but when we see Christ in the other person, it calms our spirits, it helps us still do our best, but to do so in a way that glorifies God, and encourages them to trust Him.

Lord, help us not only be good examples of Your love and care, help us to encourage that in others, including those we struggle with…AMEN



Benedict XVI, “Homily for the Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 221.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 286.

Thoughts about Our Need of the Lord’s Supper..and preparing for it.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (TEV)

651         You sometimes allow the bad side of your character to come out, and it has shown itself, on more than one occasion, in an absurd harshness. At other times, you do not bother to prepare your heart and your head so that they may be a worthy dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity… And you invariably end up by remaining rather distant from Jesus, whom you know so little. If you go on like this, you will never have interior life.

For the Fathers of the Church, the Eucharist is considered as the medicine of eternity. It is a remedy. Jesus continues to touch the sick with His Eucharistic Body. St Thomas Aquinas understands the Eucharist as the bread of the soul: as bread sustains the body, the Eucharist sustains the soul. As bread repairs the body, the Eucharist repairs the soul. As bread increases the life of the body, the Eucharist increases the life of the soul. As bread gives joy to the body, the Eucharist gives joy to the life of the soul, sometimes even to the life of the body, as it is given to us to see.
In refusing to go and draw from the Eucharist the source of healing, many of our contemporaries are tempted to seek out pseudo-healings in false spiritualities.

“He was insistent that the church, and the teachings of the church, not be the subject of evangelization but that Jesus be the sole focus of evangelization. Jesus is the Message that should be taught, and not the church, which is the vehicle for the message.”

We stand there, kneel there, wait there…

So many come who are so burdened, so broken. Even though they confessed their sins not long ago, you can see the weight of their sin, and even the sins of their community, their world, weighing down on them.

And Jesus comes to them again, giving them the nourishment and grace that they need. They are not there to prove their holiness, their piety, they are there because they need to experience the love of God.

If, as Girzone notes, the church’s evangelization is in the message revealing Jesus, if our role as God’s people is to reveal His glorious love and mercy to the world, then the altar is a time where this happens.

It is why the fathers of the church, from Clement to Augustine to Francis and even Martin Luther put such a value on the sacraments. The means of grace where God reveals and pours out His love on us. Where we find ourselves in the presence of God. This moment, when the veil between heaven and earth is transparent, where the soul and heart realize what the mind assents to when it responds to “the peace of the Lord is with you!” and thunders back “AMEN!”

So how do we prepare for this? How do we not take such a great salvation for granted? How do we recognize that Jesus giving us His precious body, His blood which covers our sin?

It is not by perfecting our lives, for we cannot do that.

It is not by pretending to be holy, or deserving.

It is by realizing we need this medicine, that our souls need to be revived, that our hearts need to know God’s promise is not in vain, that He has forgiven us, that this sacrifice of Christ ~2000 years ago was done, to make you and me the children of God.

We prepare for this great gift, this means of grace, by realizing our need and expecting God to deliver what He said He would give us. We prepare for it by realizing our hunger and our need and rejoicing in the gifts of God, given to the people of God.

So come, and join us, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and give thanks and praise to the Lord who serves us, in love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2732-2736). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 8). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Girzone, Joseph. (2011) The Homeless Bishop, Orbis Books , Maryknoll, NY

Has your Faith matured, or just gotten old?

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of 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? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT2)

68 We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?
69 Of course, it is true that those who despise the sacrament and lead unchristian lives receive it to their harm and damnation. To such people nothing can be good or wholesome, just as when a sick person willfully eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the physician.
70 But those who feel their weakness, who are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, should regard and use the sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in their systems. For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defense, and power against death and the devil and all evils.

Sin can be forgiven but not corruption, simply because at the root of every corrupt attitude there is a fatigue for transcendence. In front of God who does not get tired of forgiving, the corrupt person gets tired of asking for forgiveness.

You can’t go to a seminar for church leaders where you won’t hear about the “nones”, the people who have no religious affiliation at all, that won’t even declare themselves agnostic, or atheist.  They are described by those who “observe” them as apathetic toward any form of organized religion.  

I am not sure as I would describe them as the apathetic ones.  

I think I would describe as apathetic those who believe we can’t reach them, just as five to ten years ago we gave up on GenX and tried to focus on the millennials.  You might be thinking I am talking about being apathetic about out-reach, about Evangelism, 

I am not, I think our problem is deeper than that, that our apathy starts with the very salvation and the presence of God. It starts with what Martin Luther called despising the sacrament, or “getting tired of asking forgiveness” that Pope Francis describes as being subject ot corruption.  We see it as well in Paul’s words in Hebrews, asking what hope is there for those who neglect so great a salvation.

As a pastor, as one who trains others in ministry, what  I’ve learned is that people can only respond so long to motivational cries for evangelism before they burn out.  They can only keep their purpose-driven lifestyle up so long before it fades and disappears and we lose our first love. If doing our duty is our motivation in our being missional, in working where God has sent us to be a light, then we will fatigue like metal, We will allow our spirits to be corrupted.  

Some call this backsliding, others term it a “falling away”. I simply think a spirit of apathy has found room in our hearts and slowly taken over. Instead of maturing in our relationship with Jesus, we’ve allowed it simply to age, to get old. As it ages it becomes more fragile, brittle, and even bitter.

Where is the answer?  

It is going back to what is amazing, what moves us from the fear of God into being in awe of Him.  In once again finding the joy that comes when we know we are forgiven, that God is restoring our relationship with Him, and restoring the calling in our lives. We need to see the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist as the incredible blessing it is, and the promise of again knowing we are forgiven, and that God desires to share in our life, as He invites us to share in His. 

The medicine that cures apathy is God’s mercy, applied to the wounds in our lives caused by sin.  That healing changes us, and as we experience the fact that we are loved, that God rejoices when we allow Him to forgive and heal us of the damage inflicted by sin.  That promise, fo forgiveness realized is not easily forgotten, nor that feeling as we take and eat, and take and drink, and experience the depth of God’s love. Prayer, reading the scriptures, remembering the promises given to you in baptism, receiving Christ in the Lord’s supper, and hearing your sins are absolved renews your faith.  A renewed faith is full of joy.  That joy is contagious, that joy, lived out day to day is noticeable…..and you can’t be apathetic about it.

That joy is the thing that will attract the “nones” 

You want to reach a broken world?  Let God reach you in your brokenness… and heal you of your sin!

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 234). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

An Interesting Look at the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic.

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:

15  I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (NAB)

4  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 5  For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. Romans 6:4-5 (NAB)

The Lord could say that his Body was “given” only because he had in fact given it; he could present his Blood in the new chalice as shed for many only because he really had shed it. This Body is not the ever-dead corpse of a dead man, nor is the Blood the life-element rendered lifeless. No, sacrifice has become gift, for the Body given in love and the Blood given in love have entered, through the Resurrection, into the eternity of love, which is stronger than death. Without the Cross and Resurrection, Christian worship is null and void, and a theology of liturgy that omitted any reference to them would really just be talking about an empty game.

As much as I appreciate the Lord’s Supper, as much as I’ve meditated on it and studied it, I’ve never thought about it as I read the blue quote above. I have read the great book by Pope Benedict, (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) several times, in fact, I’ve used it as a supplemental text when I teach on the liturgy. And yet, I’ve never considered the point that is offered above.

That not only do we share, participate, fellowship, become partners with Christ’s body during the celebration of the Eucharist (Communion/Lord’s Supper) we are also because He is risen, a partner in the resurrection, drawn into His resurrected life, and into the “eternity of love.”

This is a mind-blowing thing to me, and be patient with me while I process it.

As someone formally trained in non-denominational theology, and then in Lutheran theology, I tend to think of the Lord’s Supper given His death, His offering of His body as the hilasterion, the sacrifice of blood that covers and cleanses us from our sin.   I know well the implications of that and am in awe to think of it. 

When I lead people to the altar, with the cross overhanging it, when we commune together in front of the New Testament version of the mercy seat  (Lev. 6:14) my thoughts are almost always on the love of God poured out on the cross.  There we meditate on the Body was broken, and the Blood was shed.  By no means am I saying that this is still not true!

There is something there, in these words of Pope Benedict, that I have witnessed so many times at the altar, the incredible, glorious mystery that happens as people come and are joined again to the death of Jesus, and that is that they come alive in that moment.  You can see their bodies change, as they enter into this blessed moment, this feast, ( I want to use the old word “repast” ) as the brokenness is shorn away from them, as the wait is lifted. As they are revived in their spirit, it shows physically. 

This is the missing key, the idea that not only are we given the gift of His death for us, but the gift of His resurrection, the gift of life in the resurrected Christ!  

This is something that we don’t understand, if we only think of the Lord’s Supper as in sharing in His death (though it does certainly proclaim it so strongly )  We don’t see it if we only see our sharing in the dead, lifeless corpse.  But our souls get it, as this feast is one of incredible joy, one of peace that shatters the chaos of life. 

This feast, which is a foretaste of the feast to come is just like baptism, a joining with Christ’s death, and with the hope, the promise, the reality of our resurrection, because He is risen.  

You have been united with His death, and sin has been dealt with, but in His giving you His body and blood, He also gives you life!

Hear again the blessing that is given, as people stand and kneel form the altar…and know it is for you.  ( It might make even more sense now!)

Now, may the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, your confidence in the God’s work in your life; and until we are all before God throne, dwelling in His glory, may you know you dwell, kept secure in His peace!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Because of What He is Done: A Sermon on Romans 11:33-12:8

church at communion 2Because of what God has done,
I plead with you…

Romans 11:33-12:8

I.H.S.

May you experience the incredible gift of the love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as that love changes your very life!

Because of What He’s Done

Normally, I unveil the bread and wine during the Lord’s prayer.

As I say the words, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, for in that moment we recognize that God’s will, I uncover and reveals the chalice and the tray.  That Jesus would die, giving up His body and blood, that our sin would be forgiven, that our lives would be renewed.

I am not going to wait to do that but will do that now, and as I do, I would ask that we all take a moment of silence, and think about the suffering, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(pause)

Now, thinking of all God has done for you, I plead with you, as Paul pleaded with the church in Rome, give your body to Jesus, a sacrifice that lives and breathes and IS holy.

For God has done so much!

As Paul wrote, everything comes from Him, exists by His power and is for Him! All Glory to Him for ever and ever!  AMEN!

So let’s find out what it means for us to be living and holy sacrifices…if we can!

How Impossible
I say if there for a reason.  We are talking about dealing with, and interacting with God, the Creator of all there is, the one whom Paul started this passage describing when He said,

How great are God’s riches and knowledge, How impossible it is for us to understand His decision and His ways!

We know it is impossible to know what God knows, and I think we get that it is impossible to understand His decisions and the ways He arranges our lives.

Even so, how often do we try to advise God, or throw a tantrum when things do not go our way?  How many times do we choose to go our way rather than His?  How many times do we struggle with life, and choose to sin because we can’t see how God’s way makes more sense than ours?

Maybe we don’t understand why it’s so important to be faithful to our spouse, (not just sexually faithful – but in all ways) Or maybe we struggle with respecting an authority figure because we can’t figure out why God put them there.  Maybe the temptation is to covet what someone else has, not being content with what God has blessed us with in our lives. Or maybe the problem we have is with judging people and sharing that judgment in a way that is called gossip.  Or maybe we don’t understand why God would have us set an entire day apart, we don’t get why we should waste it and be still, and know that He is our God, that He is our refuge and strength.

It doesn’t matter which sin it is, for they all find their origination in our not recognizing that God is greater in riches and knowledge, as we determine that since we cannot understand His decisions and ways, that ours is better.

It isn’t, and we don’t realize it until we hit rock bottom.  And most of the time not even then.

It takes the grace of God to run us over before we ever can realize that God’s decisions, His ways, His knowledge is best, even if we cannot understand it.

It takes the mercy of God, it takes a transformation, the one Paul describes that happens to us as we realize God’s ways are not just bigger, but far better.  Hear Paul again,

You Will learn

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Notice it doesn’t say let Pastor Dt change you, or change yourself, or let the latest self help guru change the way you think about yourself.

What Paul wants us to do is to let the Holy Spirit transform us, by changing the way we think.  What it says in Greek isn’t just to change a though or two, but to change your mind.

This is an absolute key, and it is what causes our lives to be lived in a way that is discussed in the rest of the chapter, to embrace depending on God, to work as God calls us to live, doing what He has chosen, but doing it in in accord with the faith he gives.

That is part of the result of the transformation.

You are a transformer!

Paul describes this transformation to the Corinthians this way,

18All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.

 

What a transformation God does to us!  (Much better than going from a car to a militant robot!)

A transformation that affects every part of us, every bit of our lives.

For God creates life in us, and shows us that we can have faith, we can depend on Him, and we can know, not all the mysteries of our faith, but what God’s will is for us, His pleasing and perfect will.

What is that will?  To do what God has called and equipped you to do.. whether it is to speak publicly about God, to serve others who are in need, to teach, to encourage others, to give beyond normal, to lead others, or simply show kindness to others…

just do it, depending on Jesus – as much as you can, as humbly as you can, as God has called you to do.

just do it, because of God’s love for you – and the work He does, revealing His love to you, serving you, teaching you, encouraging you, giving to you without any boundary, leading you, and simply showing you His mercy and kindness….

live life, moving with Him, for He is your God, and you are His people…..

For that is His good and pleasing will….for you – to know you are His, and He is with you always…  AMEN!

 

The Powerful Presence of God… some thoughts on the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16  When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17  And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.   1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (NLT)

We have quoted all of this here, not to begin an argument on this subject (his Imperial Majesty does not disapprove this article), but to make clear to all our readers that we defend the doctrine received in the whole church—that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with those things that are seen, bread and wine. We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that “death no longer has dominion over him.”7

826      You have to make your life essentially, totally eucharistic.

My father’s 88th Birthday was on Monday, and one picture of my dad continues to come to mind.  It was him, kneeling at the altar rail, wearing his sunglasses (with a  light brown tint )

I knew the reason he wore him, he was afraid of people seeing the tears that would flow as He received the body and blood of His Savior Jesus.  The presence that would lay his broken and wounded heart out, and allow healing to happen.  The tears couldn’t stop while he was there, the was nothing he could do about them.  And there was, in the midst of the tears caused by ripping open the scars, a sense of wonder at the peace.  It overwhelmed him.  There are two pictures of my dad that come to mind when I think of him in his older years, and this is the primary one.

I then think of a phenomenon that occurs when the youngest of children approach the rail in my church.  It started with one girl during an Ash Wednesday Communion service.  She was 2 and a half, and so comfortable at the rail next to her mother that communed that she grabbed hold of it, and wouldn’t let it go.  Her scream pierced the darkened church a moment later, “No I want to stay with Jesus!” she said!  Since then, almost always on their first visit, we’ve seen children do this, again and again, grasping onto the rail, or trying to come back after their parents returned to their seat.  Far too many times for it to be a coincidence, and my elders and deacons know well to simply tell the parents it is okay for them to stay there. They are welcome, and they are at peace.

When I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, as he advises us to make our lives eucharistic, ( or some Lutherans might use the word Incarnational) it resounded to me.  The words were supported by the observation in the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession – as Melanchthon reminds us we are communing with the Body and Blood of Christ, the presence of the living resurrected Messiah, Jesus.

We are in His presence, He gives us Himself in this bread, in this wine.  It is something that should leave us in awe at His sacrifice of love, at His desire to be part of our lives, part of us.  That in this meal, at this moment, we find ourselves in the same place as the elders of Israel in Moses day.

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

He did not destroy Him, they were so at peace in the glorious presence of God that they ate and drank ( the NLT adds in “a covenant meal, ” but they were indeed celebrating the Mosaic Covenant – God’s promise to care for them, to make them His people)

I know my dad felt that overwhelmed, even if he had great trouble describing it with words.  Just the thought would bring tears to his eyes, and cause him to struggle to speak.  He would be so overwhelmed he didn’t want to approach it too often, he had to work himself us to go to that place, so overwhelming was the peace and his need for it.  I think kids are more aware of the presence of God than we could credit them for, which is why the altar is a joyous, peaceful place they don’t want to leave.

I could tell you the story of others, whose body language shared how crushed they were by the world, or by the weight of their own sins, only to approach the altar and have all that pressure dissipate, all that weight lifted.

Not because of the pastor/priest, not because of the building, but simply because of the presence of God, Because of the gift, the grace He gives us in this holy sacrament, for He gives us Himself….. and like the elders, we do not die in the presence of God, but He nourishes us, as He reminds us of the covenant, of His promise that we are His.

I pray that you and I could be like the kids, who never want to leave, as we experience His presence, as He heals our broken hearts and souls.  May we yearn for it, not to be considered pious by the world, but to experience the foretaste of heaven, and share in His glory.

May we receive His gift with gladness and joy!  AMEN!

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2935-2936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the Feast for Broken Folks

Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15  You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16  When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17  And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 18  Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? 1 Corinthians 10:14-18 (NLT)

69 True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”8 Likewise, “The power of God is made perfect in weakness.”9 Likewise, “As for a man who is weak in faith, welcome him, for God has welcomed him” (Rom. 14:1, 3). For whoever believes on the Son of God, be his faith strong or weak, has eternal life (John 3:16).  (1)

He says to her: “Unfortunately I can live and dispense love only in the small coin of everyday life—but then there is that person whose television is too loud, who makes so much noise, or who is so uncouth; then I have to try to understand him, to keep calm and to smile, and this will be true love without all the rhetoric.” And he tells us a brief parable that reveals him as he really is. An Irishman, who has done little good in his life, dies and comes before the heavenly tribunal. He stands in a long line behind those who are already being judged, and he hears and sees how the Lord scans the ledger of each individual and then says to the first: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Paradise!” And to the second: “I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. Paradise!” To the third: “I was naked and you clothed me. Paradise!” And his heart sank deeper and deeper, for he had done none of these things. So he comes in fear and trembling before the judge and can hardly raise his eyes. But in one of his timid glances he observes what seems to be an enigmatic, mischievous smile in the eyes of the judge. And the Lord consults the ledger and says to him: “Well, there’s a lot missing here. But once I was unhappy and you told a joke and made me laugh. Off with you—Paradise!” This is typical of John Paul I himself. That’s exactly how he was. He not only told us a joke, but he bequeathed to us his smile and gave us a glimpse of what humanity really is; he let us surmise something about our lost paradise. (2)

Forty-three years ago, as I watched a priest commune people at a prayer meeting in our home, I realized that was what I wanted to do with my life.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a 91-year-old lady in her room in a residential care facility, or hundreds at pastor’s conference. It doesn’t matter whether it is in a grand cathedral, or in a humble chapel.

It is also why I grieve the disintegration of the church, as more and more divisions split her, and break the fellowship that is found in Christ, and in His death and resurrection. I have wept as I refrained from communion at a friends church (3).  Likewise, I weep as I hear men say they would never commune one “one of them”.

Even as we as God’s people need to take and eat, to take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, it is not a right. It is a need, not a membership benefit.  The Lutheran confessions I quoted above in blue make it clear, the way you are “worthy” to commune is not because of your membership, or how mature you are, or how strong a believer.  Rather it is because you recognize you need God’s presence, His healing and His mercy.

We recognize we aren’t able to live and the nourishment of Christ’s Body and Blood sustains us, renews us, revitalizes us. It is that “coin of everyday  life” that Pope John Paul 1 mentioned, and while his illustration of the Irishman is how he pictured himself, it is a fine picture of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist as well, and the ministry that is provided through His Body and Blood does in our lives.

For once i was unhappy, broken, crushed by sin and unrighteousness, and then you invited me to a feast, and made me laugh and know joy and peace.

This is what happens as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as we celebrate His life, lived in us, and therefore our life, lived in Him.  This is why this feast, this sacrament is so precious, so important that theologians can’t explain it, but a 8-year-old can desire it.  It is Christ in you, the hope for those of us broken, the hope of sharing in God’s glory!

So come, all you are burdened, who are weak in faith, and find rest, and life and laughter.And God will give you rest.

 
(1)   Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

(2)  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.

(3) Because of different beliefs, different denominations have different rules about communion.  Not to be picky or self-righteous, but because they believe a person can eat or drink judgment on themselves (see 1 Cor. 11) and they can’t actively be a part of that.  Such actions are often taken as hostile, but they should be viewed as a call to unity and to settling the matters that divide us.  Understanding this, even as my friend and I desire to commune together, and it pains us not to, we long for the day when we shall.

Are You Burdened As You Follow Jesus? Here is Where I Find Help and Rest

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (TEV)

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

72 If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength.73 If you wait until you are rid of your burden in order to come to the sacrament purely and worthily, you must stay away from it forever.

Open your own hearts to Jesus and tell him your story. I don’t want to generalize. But one day perhaps an ordinary Christian, just like you, opened your eyes to horizons both deep and new, yet as old as the gospel. He suggested to you the prospect of following Christ earnestly, seriously, of becoming an apostle of apostles. Perhaps you lost your balance then and didn’t recover it. Your complacency wasn’t quite replaced by true peace until you freely said “yes” to God, because you wanted to, which is the most supernatural of reasons. And in its wake came a strong, constant joy, which disappears only when you abandon him.

In the last week, I have had to deal with a lot of people whose lives are in turmoil.  Some are dealing with health issues, some are dealing with financial issues, a lot are dealing with the impact of sin, either others sins, their own, or both.

I’ve tried to be there when I can, or at least send a note or someone who can be there for them.  Not that I am any greater than anyone else, but I am, by call, a pastor.  I want to be there, as do many who have closer relationships.   Somewhere in the middle I plan worship, write sermons and Bible studies, and am married.

Just like every other person I know who has a relationship with God, there are times the burdens seem overwhelming.  Let me drop the pride, they are overwhelming. Every pastor, every priest, every chaplain, youth worker, Christian educator (whether a professional teacher or just a Bible Study leader) I know gets weary; the burdens mount up.  They get overwhelmed.

Usually when I start to show wear, my elders remind me to take a vacation.  Take a few days off, play golf, (and I sometimes do!) Go get your mind off of things.  To be honest, that doesn’t work that well, either my mind doesn’t leave the “office” (because the office is the life of people I care for) , or I end up finding someone else that needs help, and I struggle to remember I need it too.

So where do I find rest?  I’ll tell you – Sunday mornings, about 1045 to 1100.  As people come and kneel, as eventually I will kneel with them.  On every Wednesday evening during Advent and Lent, when we are in that same place.  When pastors gather together once a month, and recently, as some other servants of God, gather on Monday evening.   Guys who are as weary, as broken, as under pressure as I am. Some work 1 or 2 jobs, some of us have relaxing careers as pastors ( please note sarcasm)

We gather in His present, and as the elders did with Moses on Sinai, or as the apostles did in churches (even house churches) the sacrament is shared.

Martin Luther in the blue quote above talks about receiving refreshment, comfort, and strength as we do.  St Josemaria Escriva notes that as we say “yes” and walk with Him, we gain a level of peace beyond comparison.  St Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, echoes this, talking about sharing the blood and body of Christ as ONE people, of finding in that feast a level of unity and therefore peace beyond comprehension.

This is where the burdens are lifted, where they are removed.  Where we find God working in our lives and even celebrating His work.  There is a sense of peace, a sense that all is right in the world.  This is where again God tells you of His love, of the promises He makes to all those He brings into a relationship (that is what a covenant is) with Him.  It is there we are assured that our sins are forgiven, that they can’t separate us from God’s love.

As a pastor, from my perspective, this isn’t just theory.  I wish I should show you the changes in people’s posture as the anxiety leaves them, as the guilt drains from them, leavening refreshment. As joy replaces tiredness, weariness in people.  For God is doing what He has promised, what He has done for others.

He has visited His people, demonstrated His love, and the fact that they will never be alone.  He has given us a glimpse into the amazing height, the glorious depth, the abundant breadth and measureless width of His love.

We know it and celebrate that together.

I wouldn’t trade it for a month in Hawaii – or in New Hampshire.

For it in sharing His presence that we are refreshed, strengthened, lifted up and where we find healing for our hearts and souls.

Come join me tomorrow – come feast with God, come revel in His presence. And then let us go out and bring this hope to others.   AMEN.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 455). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 374-378). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Do You Invest in?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the day

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.(Mal 2:5–7 NLT

758    The wholehearted acceptance of the will of God is the sure way of finding joy and peace: happiness in the cross. It’s then we realize that Christ’s yoke is sweet and that his burden is not heavy.  (1)

Yesterday I ha the blessing of baptizing a young man named Aiden.

And then I was able to give to 60 or more people Christ’s body and blood.  Somewhere in the middle I delivered a sermon,   This is what I live for in life when I am consistent with the Spirit given me in baptism some 50 years ago.

It’s what i do, it is, in many ways, what I’ve invested my life in, at least the investment that is worthwhile.

I have invested time in other things, some that were fun, some that were silly, some that caused suffering, my own or someone else’s. Are some of those things good?  Well, God promises that all will work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

It is when we see God’s will when we see His presence, His mercy, and His love made manifest, those are the times of the greatest peace, the most incredible joy. Which is why giving and yes receiving the sacraments, or studying God’s revelation of love is so much a time of blessed peace. It is when we are praying with someone, asking for God to reveal Himself, to reveal His mercy, whether that person is 98 and on their death bed, or 2 years old and crying because she doesn’t want to leave church, or with a bunch of friends at lunch that we see this.

You see the work of a pastor/priest is different, but no different in that God is working through us all, reconciling the world to Himself.  That is His desire, that none should perish, but that all are transformed into this life.

He is here, He is with us, He brings us life and peace… this is what we all are to pass on,  That is the greatest investment we can make… giving someone else the peace of God, found in life united to Christ.

And may we rejoice as we turn many from their sin because of this gospel message, lived out in Christ.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1766-1767). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Victory of This Year… Who Will You Tell About It?

Devotional Thought on Monday:

Featured image15  I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (TEV) 

938      Let us go to Jesus in the Tabernacle where we can get to know him and assimilate his teaching, and then be able to hand out this food to souls.

Yesterday, we celebrated an incredible victory. 

I wonder which of us will share the news of this victory today? 

Yesterday, we were invited to feast together, with a crowd far greater than any audience to watch any superbowl, any all star game.  A diverse and rowdy bunch for sure, as people not just across racial, cultural, and age gaps were gathered together.  Even across time were gathered in the presence of God to feast, to enjoy, to know God’s love. 

What a victory we celebrate!  What a victory we can share with others!

Our victory, for we share in it with Jesus.  We share in His Body, His Blood, together.  We share in praising Him with angels and archangels and all those host of Heaven. 

After a super bowl victory, the fans will relive the special moments of the game for weeks. I am still getting advertisements for Patriot gear.  People are still talking about it though it is slowing down quite a bit.

I wonder why we don’t talk about the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, with similar fervor?  Even among church folk – you rarely might hear how good a sermon was, or more likely the music, but how often do we hear about how incredible communion was?  

Is it too intimate?

Do we not comprehend what took place?

Do we not realize the promises, once guaranteed, now fulfilled as we take and eat, take and drink?

Do we not understand what it means to proclaim and celebrate His death, which intercepted our spiritual death, until He comes again? 

Celebrate my friends!  As you do, at that moment as you take the Body and Blood of Christ and are nourished by it, may you gain more insight into God’s love for you! May you know the incredible dimensions of that love, revealed in Christ Jesus being made a sacrifice, for you.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3316-3317). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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