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What do we train/disciple people/pastors/priests to do?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

Carlo realized that the countries of Europe have turned secular mostly because the people are tired of hearing about church. They hunger for spirituality and intimacy with God, and all we give them is church. Carlo was determined to make Jesus real again for the people, knowing from his own experience that when he preached Jesus to the people, it changed their lives. It is what they had been looking for, and the crowds at his masses proved that. Now was his chance to make that happen throughout the whole world, and it was his plan to start with the seminaries. The congregation governing the seminaries would prepare a course on Jesus. The book that Carlo’s special staff had just finished would become the resource material for making Jesus real to seminarians studying for the priesthood throughout the world. They would no longer be trained as lawyers, masters of moral law, liturgical law, canon law, the natural law. They would be molded in the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, so different from the masters of the old law, the scribes and Pharisees.

I really like Fr. Girzone’s novels. and the one quoted above and the Shepherd are among my favorites. The reason, I think, is because they talk about the role of priests and pastors, the role we are supposed to fulfill, as opposed to what we often have to do.

We are called, not to bureaucracy, not to roles of power, but roles of service. We are called to show people Jesus, not just the historical figure, not just the theological doctrines of Christology, but to help them experience the love of God, revealed in Jesus. To help them realize that Jesus loves them!

We need to know Him, for you cannot find replicated in yourself the love for others if you don’t know (intimately even) the love of God. You can teach them the theological doctrines, you can help them go through the motions that facilitate worship, and the Holy Spirit may work despite you.

(side note – this is true, not just for pastors and priests, but parents, elders, deacons, any and all that serve in the church, and the community)

It is as St. Paul also writes,

28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ.
Colossians 1:28 (TEV)

I love that Girzone isn’t afraid to use the phrase “the hunger for spirituality and intimacy with God.: It is what we have to pass on to those we are all tasked with discipling, with all those God the Father draws to Jesus (and Jesus brings to the Father.) This is what our world so desperately needs, A connection to God that is so close our personalities get imprinted, stamped, sealed with His image.

This is the intimacy that scares us, that we struggle to understand. That God loves us so much He wants to live with us, and us with Him. Yet this is what we are called to reveal to people, it is the “end game”, what eternity will be like, and the reason for the celebration that is known as the Feast of the Lamb.

It is what Paul is talking about with his words up top, “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” We get words like mime and mimeograph and mimic, this idea of being imprinted with the image of Christ.

And if we, those who disciple others, are called to facilitate this, it means that is what we should be trained to do, first and foremost. And how we should train others… to do this for those who are around them as well.

Revival doesn’t happen because of dynamic preaching, or inspiring worship. It comes as the Spirit draws people into union with Christ, as the Spirit moves them, using the gifts, to minister to those around them. That is what Fr. Girzone was getting at (or the character was !)

Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus to us, so that we could find life in Your Presence. In His coming, You have planned and made that happen as our sins have been forgiven, as You declare us righteous, as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and makes us like Jesus. Help us to see this happening, as we find ourselves sharing our lives with those whom You draw to you next. AMEN!

Girzone, Joseph F.. The Homeless Bishop (Kindle Locations 4381-4389). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.

Do we care enough to ask?

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional thought fo the Day:
19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.    James 5:19-20 (TEV)

Anyway, I would gladly know how things are with your soul. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.

What a question for Martin Luther to ask his friend George!

Can you imagine me, or any pastor, or any friend asking that question of you?  What would be your response?  How would you respond?

Maybe I should ask you!

Or perhaps it is isn’t as questionable as “maybe”.  We need to ask this question of each other.  We need to care enough about people to ask them this, to genuinely care for their souls, for their spiritual needs.

And while I am not exclusively talking about pastors, elders and other church leaders, it starts with us.  We are the ones tasked with shepherding souls, with reconciling the broken.  This job belongs to the entire church, the caring for souls, whether they are members of our church, or atheists, whether they are our family and friends or our nemesis.

The words of James’ epistle strike this home. if someone wanders away, we bring them back, we cover a multitude of sins, and we save them from death. 

As hard as it sounds, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters, to lovingly help them bring their sins to Christ, to let Him remove and annul them.  Not just to look the other way, not to just say, “well, really, except for this or that, Joe was a good guy, good enough to get to heaven.”  That is easy, but really, it isn’t loving, it doesn’t call him back to God, it lets him wander through this life. It leaves him bound to self-righteousness, or to the guilt and shame he dwells in. 

The church, you and I, have the ability to be there, to assist the prodigal on the way home, to help them know what we should know so well, the words of God declaring we are forgiven.  We need to help them do as Martin Luther encouraged his fried George to do, to take a  “deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.”

Lord, help us not to hide our sin, help us encourage others to be drawn closer to You, to receive your promise of absolution, and to live lives free and forgiven.  Help us to be one people, united together in Your presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 3). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Is “Love Thy Neighbor” simply Law, A Commandment, Or it is something more?

Featured imageDiscussion Thought of the Day

 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27b (NLT)

9  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. John 15:9 (NLT)

16  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:16-17 (NLT)

21  When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:21 (NLT)

In a recent blog, I made mention that loving our neighbor is not just law, it is always gospel.  The contention was over evangelism, when I said doing such was an act of love, that love compels us to work for reconciliation.  But what compels us is not the law, but the love that is the effect of the gospel.  And to not love our neighbor, by sharing the greatest treasure we have, the love and mercy of God, is sin.

SO I was asked to clarify how “love thy neighbor” isn’t just law, but the purest of Gospel. Because of that, we have a blog about it.

The simple truth is we aren’t capable of loving each other as God commands, in the midst of our sin.  Therefore, a directive to love our neighbor is the law, and we can be judged by it. For most Lutherans (who the discussion seems to be between) this is normal use of the law, it guides our actions in community, and it reveals our need for God.  It also shows how we should live, (what it called the third use of the Law)

But it is more than just a command, it is a commission, a way of life God prepared those of us in Christ to walk in,  (see Eph. 2 10. )  It is who we are in Christ, formed by Him, transformed by the Holy Spirit.  It is the effect of our reconciliation, our redemption and sanctification, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

It isn’t about living within the confines of the law, the don’t touch, don’t do, type of law.  It is more than the third use of the law – because it isn’t about obeying, it is about being in Christ, about the Holy Spirit’s work.  If it is the only law, it is about us.  But loving God and loving our neighbor is more than that.

It is the freedom of living and abiding in God’s love. That is where the commission to love comes from.  It is the encouragement to live within the reality of your salvation, As we look to Christ, as the Spirit transforms us, it is indicative of who we become, of who we are in Christ.

If loving our neighbor is only law, it is not an indicative state, it is not that which the Father commissions and makes happen  as we are raised with Christ. We are no longer Christ’s masterpiece, the work that He is glorified and raised above all others for accomplishing.

But love is not just law.  It is life, in communion with God and all of His people, all of His creation.  It is indicative of the eternal life promised and given to us, as the Spirit quickens and transforms us.

AMEN.

You are a light shattering others darkness

Devotional thought of the Day:

You saw it quite clearly: while so many people do not know God, he has looked to you. He wants you to form a foundation stone, an ashlar, on which the life of the Church can rest. Meditate on this reality and you will draw many practical consequences for your ordinary behaviour: the foundation stone—hidden and possibly rather dull—has to be solid, showing no weakness. It has to serve as a support for the building… If not, it remains isolated.(1)

It sometimes seems like the world is darker than it has been in a century, that immorality and unethical behavior are now the norm for life,   It perhaps isn’t, for the time when St. Josemaria ministered in Spain had its times, as of course did the Vietnam Era.  Yet when you look at Southern California, and the amount of people in churches, one begins to wonder how few people truly know and rejoice in the love and presence of God.

There is a tendency to bemoan our condition, to think that we have been defeated, that our generation will see more and more churches close, as our part of the world sees the light of Christ snuffed out.  After all, most of the pastors I know are not incredibly powerful evangelists, most of us are common, ordinary, bland types.  We try hard, but we don’t always see the results, in fact we rarely see them.

That is why I like the quote above.  For our work isn’t necessarily to be the beautiful marble of huge temples, we are not the beauty of Roman Basilicas, or English Cathedrals.  We are the foundations, those who point solidly to Christ, those who have been strengthened and bear the weight, those whose trust in God is revealed in a faithfulness we may not even realize people observe in us.  And such lack of self-awareness is not a bad thing – our awareness needs to be focused on the cornerstone. – the one we take our lead and line from.

The people then, that understand we (and I am not just talking about pastors and priests, but about all those using their gifts to serve others) are like the stones that build up the building, the stones that do gather attention, the lives that are radically changed, the ones who are lifted up, the ones who testify of God’s love… because we were used to reveal it to them.

Not doing something spectacular in the faith – that is okay – be faithful in looking to Christ – love Him, adore Him, find yourself, int he midst of that love, loving others… and you will find with that simply done… not just a church being built up around you, but the church being built in the world.

Remember to look and cry… Lord have mercy… and rejoice as that mercy is revealed in your life and others…

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1804-1808). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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