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Why I Don’t Consider Myself a “Confessional” Lutheran…

Devotional Thought of the Day

16  You do not want sacrifices, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt offerings. 17  My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. Psalm 51:16-17 (TEV)

Legalism claims that overt actions in conforming to rules for explicit behavior make us right and pleasing to God. It’s as if we believe that power resides in the words or in the rituals themselves. Jesus called legalism the “righteousness . . . of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20 NRSV).
Legalism and superstition are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events through little rules, bypassing the realities of the heart and soul from which life really flows. That is why Jesus tells us we must go beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees to heart-and-soul transformation if we are truly to enter into life.

Disclaimer – if you aren’t a Lutheran, some of this may not make sense. But other groups have modifiers as well, Examples of this are “Evangelcial” Christian, or “Conservative” Baptist, or “Orthodox” Presbyterian, or “King James Only” Believers, or Traditional Catholics. Consider what words modify or assist to “truly” define your trust in God.

There are a lot of denominations out there, and some have taken their denomination name out of the name of their church. You don’t know what they believe, or what their history is, because they have hidden it from plain sight.

I am a Lutheran, the theology and practice that has been passed down I find consistent with scripture and the early church. The somewhat simple way Luther and his peers dealt with being severed from the Roman Catholic Church was not perfect, and yet, what they laid out in documents like the Augsburg Confession clearly reveal the love of God, poured out on us through the word and sacraments by the Holy Spirit.

So, here I stand, and until proven otherwise I don’t have much of an option!

Yet in my brotherhood/denomination which we call a Synod (which means, ironically – to walk together) there are those who would modify the term Lutheran with different words. Confessional is one of those terms, one that is used as a badge of honor, and which draws a vague line in the sand. There are others, that take a further stand, and I would list them as well, and those inside my little section of the family of God know them well enough.

The problems with these labels, no matter where they are on the spectrum is that they divide us based on legalistic standards, rather than on how Christ defines us, they separate us from those that cling to the Lord just as we do. They attempt to clone the people of God, rather than realize the diversity that comes within a family or within a body.

The idea is the line in the sand becomes a sense of pride, a sense where I can say, “my sacrifice is more appropriate than yours, and therefore I am more blessed, more holy,”

And that is where I struggle, with this idea that any label (including our denomination labels) make us “more holy” or that our worship of God is more acceptable (more Orthodox) is about as close to heresy as you can get. I am not saying we shouldn’t seek to refine our beliefs and practicesi to make them more consistent with scripture, but to claim our position is more holy, our worship more acceptable is wrong, dead wrong.

We need to approach God in a way that is both humble, recognzing our brokenness and yet bold, depending on His invitation and HIs making us acceptable and welcome. We need to recognize our brokeness, and rely on His transformation of our heart and soul and mind, rather than parade around, touting that we are the best of His chosen people.

So I am Lutheran – using that title to describe the beliefs I have, that I hold to, that I teach…. that I depend on only because they reveal to me and help me explore the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love, and through God’s word, and the sacraments, I experience that love, which is too great to understand.

You have a different label? Let’s sit down and talk, praying and relying on the guidance of God, who loves us, to make His will known, and His love revealed. But let us depend on Him for that journey, and never boast of our own reason or strength.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Making the Sign of the Cross…A Confession to Remember

Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)
1 “Our Father who art in heaven.”2
2 What does this mean?
Answer: Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.
How often have we made the sign of the Cross, invoking without really adverting to it, the name of the triune God? In its original meaning the sign of the Cross was, each time it was made, a renewal of our Baptism, a repetition of the words by which we became Christians, and an assimilation into our personal life of what was given us in Baptism without our cooperation or reflection. Water was poured over us and, at the same time, the words were spoken: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The Church makes us Christians by calling on the name of the Trinitarian God. From her beginning, she has expressed in this way what she regards as the truly definitive mark of our Christianity: faith in the triune God. We find that disappointing. It seems so remote from our life. It seems so useless and so hard to understand. If there must be short formulas for expressing the tenets of our Faith, then they should at least be attractive, exciting, something whose importance for men and for our lives is immediately apparent.

Moving your hand from your forehead to your head to your stomach, from one shoulder to another, these simple movements are far too often done without thought, just a memory-driven motor response as we walk into a church, or start and end of a prayer, or see something tragic or traumatic.

For Lutherans, and Catholics and some Anglicans and others, it is a practice that we are very familiar with, even to the point of proving familiarity breeds contempt. Too other Christians, it may seem empty, a repetitious vanity that has no apparent benefit. (maybe their estimation is based on our attitude doing them?) These movements become too remote, redundant, lacking attractiveness and excitement and apparent importance.

Unless the movements are tied to understanding, unless we recognize the truth we are confessing in making the sign of the cross, we will do them in a vain and worthless manner.

But if making the sign of the cross reminds us of the gifts of God, they become something that causes us to pause, that makes our entrance into a church a point of transition. A point where we remember why we can approach God boldly.

Because of the Cross, because of the name of God which became what identifies us when God cleansed us of our sin. As Pope Benedict reminds us, we didn’t have anything to do with it! (see Titus 3:3- or Ezekiel 36:26ff) This simple act reminds us of God’s simple but profound act in our lives, beginning the change that is promised to be completed as we see eternity revealed to us.

Perhaps the simplicity is as undramatic as it is, because nothing could adequately signify the incredible blessings this act reminds us of, the guarantee of what awaits us. Nothing could explain the reality that we now can know. Immanuel, God with us, the Incarnation that occurs in each of us, as we are marked by God with His name.

And that the Holy Spirit is working even now, quietly conforming us into the image of the Lord who gives us hope. who loves us more than we can imagine, who brings us into the presence of the Father ( See Colossians 3:1-3)

This simple act reminds us we belong there, with God, for He has made us His.

So slow down, say the words thinking about the promises, the forgiveness of sin, eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that He will never ever leave or forsake us. These movements reveal who we are, the children of God, the ones who can boldly enter His presence, and confidently ask for His blessing….

Lord, have mercy on us

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
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. 163–164). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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.

500 years since Luther, have we forgotten…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13  Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14  Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (TEV)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

3 Although the people are supposed to be Christian, are baptized, and receive the holy sacrament, they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten commandments, 3 they live as if they were pigs and irrational beasts, and now that the Gospel has been restored they have mastered the fine art of abusing liberty.
4 How will you bishops answer for it before Christ that you have so shamefully neglected the people and paid no attention at all to the duties of your office? May you escape punishment for this!
5 You withhold the cup in the Lord’s Supper and insist on the observance of human laws, yet you do not take the slightest interest in teaching the people the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or a single part of the Word of God. Woe to you forever!

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the start fo the reformation, or at least one of the events that gave it some traction, the posting of an invitation to a discussion about practical theology.

What the host had thought to be a discourse that would make grace real, that would help people grow in faith; that would help them live in the peace which God had promised them.   What he hoped would unify the church, shattered it.

Luther’s words in blue, from the introduction f the small catechism, a book for dad’s to teach their family about God, show the damage to the church then.  Damage we see in the church at large now.

For our people are more focused on things of human invention than in the peace that comes from understanding the way of God, a way detailed in the Ten “Commandments” (the way we are described when we live in fellowship with the God who saved us) , the Creed, (the way God revealed Himself to us, that we may trust and depend upon Him) and the Lord’s prayer (the way we communicate and what we desire to know God is doing, that He promised).

Some of our people may know these from repetition, but how many know them.  How many rejoice in this, and it drives them to know more?  How many know these things so well that they are internalized, and affect their very lives?

We see the damage in the ways that people are blown about by every change of doctrine; we see it in the fact that they cannot teach why they trust in God to a neighbor over coffee. This problem isn’t new – the apostles dealt with it, (obviously) and so did Luther.  They saw the imbalance between what was verbalized and what was confessed.  What people said out of habit (or listened to) and what they knew.

In this day where the church, whether contemporary or traditional, missional or confession (terms  used to distinguish the extremes in my movement) or however else the church can be divided is battered and broken, we need to return to the joy of our first love, to plunge into exploring the dimensions of God’s love, of how He reveals it, of how we live in it.   For that changes everything, including how we look at one another.  Including how we find ourselves reconciling rather than being divisive forces.

So let us pause, and think about how great this salvation is, how great it is that Jesus delivers us into the presence of the Father, who fills us with the spirit, and makes us His own.  And let us rejoice in how he does that, even as it confronts us in our sin,  brings us to faith, and to know He is with us.

AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 338). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Reason the Church is Here….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  When they saw him, they fell at his feet in worship, even though some of them struggled to trust Him. 18  Jesus went to them and said, “I have been given all responsibility in heaven and on earth. 19  You area going disciple people of all cultures: by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and instructing them to treasure this covenant relationship I committed to with you! And I am with you ever day, for forever.”   Matthew 28:17-20 (parker’s paraphrase)

To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.

I have to start with a disclaimer.  I want to write nothing about this post, save what you see above.  The charge for us to disciple the world, by helping people enter into a relationship as part of the people of God, and then to teach them to treasure this covenant relationship, this relationship based on God’s plan, on His terms, for Hs is God.  That is the work of the church that is how we are to love our neighbor; that is the work of God, or as my favorite pastor/author noted, the Opus Dei.

These words of Cardinal Ratzinger in blue (later Pope Benedict XVI)  are an incredible description of that relationship, this discipling process.  Go back and read them again.  Go ahead, go do it.  And again, savor the words describing your relationship with God, as you are pulled into this incredible.

But is this what we are about in the church?

Is this what we value in our own lives personally? Do we understand this incredible, blessed fellowship we have been brought into with the Father, Sona nd Holy Spirit?

We need to, and we need to get that this is far more than obeying laws and commandments (though that is part of it).  It is, to use the Old Testament prophecies, the very “being” that is knowing that we God has made us HIs people, and He is our God.

This is what is revealed, from the very beginning to creation to each time someone is baptized or is revived as their sins are forgiven, or are renewed as they take and eat the Body broken for them, the bloodshed to bring them into this covenant relationship.

This is what we treasure; this is what we guard, (which is what tereo means – not just obey/observe) This is what we reveal to the world, it is how we disciple, this is how we live.

Even when we struggle, or doubt, for Jesus is our Lord. And He is with us.

AMEN!

(1)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Conversion of Faith and The Transformation of Our Works

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day
18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” 19  Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe—and tremble with fear. 20  You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless? 21  How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his actions, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. 22  Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions. James 2:18-22 (TEV)

10 For, as Luther writes in his Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, “Faith is a divine work in us that transforms us and begets us anew from God, kills the Old Adam, makes us entirely different people in heart, spirit, mind, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Oh, faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good.
11 Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active.

This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God’s love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ. For, by the workings of divine grace, the new convert sets out on a spiritual journey, by means of which, already sharing through faith in the mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, he passes from the old man to the new one, perfected in Christ (cf. Col. 3:5–10; Eph. 4:20–24). This bringing with it a progressive change of outlook and morals, must become evident with its social consequences, and must be gradually developed during the time of the catechumenate

It is seen to be one of the most divisive arguments in the history of the church, and it has been since the days of the Apostles.

It was one of the core issues that resulted in the Reformation, and in the Counter-reformation.  It is more than semantics, yet there is a part of the argument that I am not sure is always necessary.

For what God has put together, we cannot divide.

The quote in Green above is from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.  A document that is part of the confessions of the Lutheran Church. The underlined verse is clear. One who has been given life by the Holy Spirit, converted from death to life, does work.  They are not optional, even as they are not always willed.  They occur in the nature of the one who depends, who trusts, who has faith in Christ. They occur just like breath in a mammal; they are life. This is not debatable, it is not an option.Faith cannot be separated from works.  So confident were the early Lutheran scholars that they followed that quote with this.

Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works.

That doesn’t quite sound like works are non-essential to the Christian life, but then scripture doesn’t claim that either.

This is the journey that the quote from Vatican II’s Ad Gentes (the mission of the church) discusses.  The works, affected, no transformed by the Holy Spirit, cause a change in how we view life and the world, and the moral system by which we live in that world.  Again, it notes that while works are not the cause of conversion, conversion results in the journey being taken, and Spiritual growth occurring as a matter of the life of the believer.

This is of course what James is talking about, and the pattern of Paul’s letters.  The need for conversion, God converting, quickening bring us to life as we are united to Jesus, and then the impact of that on our lives.  An impact the empowered, guided and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, as it works in the community of believers.  And good works become as undeniable as the breath we breath.

My we rejoice as God works in the lives of His people, as the Holy Spirit empowers us to do and will what brings joy to our heavenly Father!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 552–553). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Why I Believe “The” Church MUST Strive for Unity

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22  I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23  I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me. John 17:20-23 (TEV)

9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:9 (TEV)

20  Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21  Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)

19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:19-21 (TEV)

546      Pause to consider the holy wrath of the Master, when he sees that the things of his Father are badly treated in the Temple at Jerusalem. What a lesson for you! You should never be indifferent, or play the coward, when the things of God are treated without respect.

Dustin, as a Lutheran pastor you know very well the theological gulf that exists between Rome and the BoC.  Why do you continue to flog this very dead horse?

A few days ago, I was asked the question in green above, on a facebook forum. In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a man, a pastor who I admire, even as I note we don’t agree on a few important things.
And the four quotes have been swimming through my head since I was asked the question.

The four quotes from scripture are why I must “continue to flog this very dead horse”,  The quote from St. Josemaria is the reason I will do so with a lot of energy, put into prayer, into study, yes and into writing blogs and having conversations with friends across denominational lines.

A comment about each of the passages, might help.

John 17:  I don’t think we can read this prayer without seeing the desire of Christ and the Father.  Read it carefully, our unity ( real unity) is sourced, not in compromise, but in the love of the Father. Even by praying for it publicly, Jseus is noting that it is going to require supernatural influence. (deistic cessationists might have a problem with this…)  Yet it is in the very deep, personal, relationship we have with Christ, that we find ourselves in a relationship with each other.

2 Peter 3:9  Last I checked, God wanting all to come to repentance (to have the mind of Christ) is also a supernatural manifestation of His presence. All means all, it doesn’t mean “us, but not them”.  This isn’t something you can try once, grab a t-shirt and give up on.  This call to repentance is not something we can dismiss by saying, “they aren’t of our brand” or “we are an immigrant church and can’t reach out to other ethnicities.”
If God wants all to come to repentance, if this is His desire, then we will begin to desire that, the more time we spend in His presence.
On further thought.  It doesn’t say God is patient with them…but us.   Think about that.  (Go – do it!

(no, I mean it – take 2 minutes to think that through)

(that was 10 seconds – go do it some more!)

2 Cor. 5:  We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (that’s what “Churchese translations” do for this passage) Simply put, God desires greatly to reconcile with mankind, to restore a relationship with Him, a friendship, a deep, permanent, relationship where love and mercy are the norm.
Mathematically, if a=b and b=c, the c=a.  Or, if you are reconciled to God, and “they” are reconciled to God, the you and they are reconciled.  That can’t be denied.  If they aren’t reconciled, your work, done in faith, is bringing this message of reconciliation to them, to give them this hope and celebrate it with them.  Either way you are stuck, you are reconciled with them, or your vocation is reconcile them to God.  This isn’t law, this is the work of God’s gospel in you.

Unless, of course, you need to be reconciled to God yourself….. in that case… let me let you know, God will remove every sin and all injustice that separates you from Him, and He desires to be in a relationship with you, and has made it possible.  Enjoy it!

1 John 4:  If this doesn’t provide the icing on the cake, I don’t know what does.  We must continue to work that people would be reconciled to God, and the goal of any unity discussion or work starts and ends there. At the altar of God, in His presence, God and His people.
Working for unity between the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran Synods and churches is as much included in this as working to reconcile with that obnoxious person in the pew behind you, or the neighbor next door.  If we don’t work for such, if we don’t care whether they are reconciled with God, how can we claim to love them?  If we don’t love the, can we really claim to love the God who loves us?

Some may read this, and say I am a dreamer, that the RCC and Lutherans are both so stubborn that they will never change. If so, that is sad. As I am reading through the Book of Concord and the works from Trent and Vatican II, I see a lot of areas we can find enough common ground, to strive together toward unity in Christ.

Even if our leaders are afraid to breach these conversations, it is the vocation of pastors and priests, those who pastor the people of God and the people themselves to bring this message of reconciliation to God to the world.  That will produce unity, even as we struggle with how that can be expressed, (and we should struggle with that, not just dismiss the differences)

And by the very word, and the promises given to us in the sacraments, this should become more and more part of our spiritual DNA.  It should be part of our vocation, part of our prayers, striving to bring this message of reconciliation, which will reconcile us, even as it’s heard…..

LORD HAVE MERCY!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2055-2057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Augsburg and Trent, A Journey Through Both…. but to what end?

Discussion Thought for the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

3  Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. 4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (TEV)

2 The desire was also expressed for deliberation on what might be done about the dissension concerning our holy faith and the Christian religion, and to this end it was proposed to employ all diligence amicably and charitably to hear, understand, and weigh the judgments, opinions, and beliefs of the several parties among us to unite the same in agreement on one Christian truth, 3 to put aside whatever may not have been rightly interpreted or treated by either side,1 4 to have all of us embrace and adhere to a single, true religion and live together in unity and in one fellowship and church, even as we are all enlisted under one Christ.  (1)

For, whereas we saw that there was need of peace to deliver and preserve the commonwealth from the many impending dangers, we found all things replete with enmities and dissensions; above all, the princes, to whom well-nigh the whole direction of matters has been intrusted by God, at enmity with each other. Whereas we deemed it necessary that there should be one fold and one shepherdc for the Lord’s flock, in order to confirm the integrity of the Christian religion, and the hope of heavenly things within us; the unity of the Christian name was well-nigh rent and torn asunder by schisms, dissensions, heresies. Whereas we could have wished the commonwealth safe and defended from the arms and insidious attacks of the unfaithful, yet, through our transgressions and the guilt of us all,—the wrath of God, forsooth, hanging over our sins,—Rhodes had been lost; Hungary harassed; war both by land and sea had been intended and planned against Italy, Austria, and Illyria; whilst our impious and ruthless enemy, the Turk, was never at rest, and deemed our own mutual enmities and dissensions his fitting opportunity for carrying out his designs with success  (2)

 

I was messing around with some changes in my Logos Software last week, and I came across a crazy idea.

You see, my Bible software can take any of the thousands of texts and break them up into chunks.  You can read them over a week, a month, 6 months a year or more.

So I figured I would use it, starting November 1st, to read through the Bible again in a year.  While I was at it, it updated some of my books, so I thought about adding the Book of Concord, and just reading a small section of it over the next year.  (Not academic reading, just a light survey.  And for some reason, I then decided to add another work.  Looking through the works, I saw various works of Luther, and Melancthon, of other works ranging from Martyn Lloyd Jones ( a famous British preacher) and Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI.)

For some reason, my mind kept coming back to The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.

For those who are not theologians, putting the Book of Concord (which is the Lutheran accumulation of Doctrine in its early days) and the works Trent (which was somewhat written to counter the Lutherans, Calvinists and other early reformers) is like putting a Oklahoma and a Nebraska football fan in the same room.  Or a room with a Red Sox and a Yankee Fan…. or splitting an atom.  The two schools of thought are diametrically opposed to each other on many items (though on some they aren’t.)

They won’t match up, point against point, but this is not going to be an academic exercise,  I am thinking of it more as a devotional exercise, a way to go back 500 years and see the heart of men who professed to follow God, and struggled to put what that means in writing.  They were under pressure, both had an added incentive of trying to appease Kings so a war could be fought together against the Turks.  They both had stubborn folk involved. Like I said, these documents were written back when wars were waged, and people killed over differences in doctrine.

What will come of it?   I don’t know,   Probably a few dozen blogs, probably some shaking of heads at my silliness.  Maybe more confusion on my part.  Hopefully some great discussions….

So far, one of the things that amazed me was the desire for the church to be one, they both shared that in the quotes above.  I think they said it, hoping to convince by scripture and logic, and if not by force, the entire church to be one. Yet, that goal at least will be the same.  They see the unity of the church as the basis of the survival of life as they know it, the ability to stand together.

Five hundred years later.. we still stand divided.  I don’t commune with my friends who are Catholic priests, they don’t commune with me.  Some of peers rejoice in this, some of our peers, like us, weep that a church could be so broken. But rarely do we sit down and strive for unity, rejoicing in the Christ who died for us, who on the day of His return will unify those He has called His children.

Maybe I am a hopeless daydreamer to think anything will come of this… then again…we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation, of healing brokenness as people are drawn to Christ Jesus. So a little time spent pondering our common doctrine, and our radical differences, may be beneficial, if not, it should be at least interesting.

I would ask people who read this, and if any follow, over the next three years, to pray for all the people of God, no matter the name of their denomination, brotherhood, synod, or even the name of their church sign.  Pray that we could find healing for our broken church in Christ and that brothers could eventually break bread together, or at least look forward to the day we can, as we stand before His throne, at the wedding feast of Jesus, and His Bride.

God speed,

and Lord, have mercy on us all…..
 

 

(1) Tapperrt, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 24–25). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Buckley, T. A. (1851). The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (pp. 1–2). London: George Routledge and Co.

 

Struggling with your past and present? Something that will help!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9  On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 (MSG)

 16  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 (MSG)

22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23 (TEV) 

The priest mentioned the sacrament of confession. That was new to me. The confessional in our parish church had been transformed into a storage room for buckets and brooms. I had always thought that confession had been abolished in the sixties. That evening, I asked the Carmelite sister about it. “On the contrary,” she said. “Confession has not been abolished at all. It’s one of the most beautiful sacraments there is!” “So… um… how does it work?” I asked. “Do you just tell the priest all your sins, and that’s it?” “It isn’t just about listing your sins,” she answered. “Confession is first and foremost an encounter with Christ. He loves you more than you know, and when you truly meet him, you start to discover what in your life stands in the way of that love. So you entrust all those obstacles to his mercy, and he takes them away.” “If that’s the case, I would love to go to confession,” I said. After all, I did like Jesus. I also knew that there were many things in my life that still needed to change to be able to deepen my friendship with him. “Just go see the priest, and ask him to help you. He will guide you through it. Don’t worry about a thing.” That evening, I made my first confession. The priest was friendly and listened to me with his eyes closed, as if praying. I do not recall what he said to me afterward, but I do remember vividly the moment he stretched out his hand and told me my sins had been forgiven. It was as if a ton of bricks just had been zapped to another dimension. I felt like I was walking on air— I was so light, so relieved, so incredibly happy. That night, I hardly slept. I felt overwhelmed by God’s love for me. My doubts had vanished. I didn’t just believe in God on an intellectual level— I sensed that I had just met him personally.  (1)

As I was reading this book, I came across the above passage, and though a little long, it talks so well of something so needed.  There are too many of us dealing with the repurcussions of sin, the guilt and shame from doing what we know we shouldn’t.  The confusion we get when the games we play to avoid that shame come crashing down, and even the stress caused by the way we react to others sinning against us.

Roman Catholics call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we use a more common term, Private Confession and Absolution.  Basically, whether very formal at the altar, or in my office, someone comes in, and shares about the guilt they feel, or some area where they know they’ve done wrong. As this happens, it is awkward, both for the person coming to me and for me.  We talk, the person and I and God, and then a time as precious as we get occurs.

But I love Fr. Roderick’s description of what Lutherans call Private Confession above  (see the 5th section of Luther’s Small Catechism) …and what Catholics call The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or commonly Confessin) that I had to share it.  For even with our differences in our practice and application of this, the effect is the same.  As God and the person and the pastor/priest are talking through the sins that afflct them, there is some holy and sacred and freeing that happens.  As a pastor I see the burdens lifted, when I get to pronounce them free of the chains by wihich sin oppresses them.  There is a great sense of joy and freedom.  It’s hard to describe, either from the point of view of the person confessing, or as the pastor (and I think priests feel the same way) who speaks forgiveness as God has commanded us to speak.  Even though I don’t get to serve people this way as often as they need. need,

Let’s face it, we all have a past, and we all still live in the present.  We deal with sin daily, our own, the sins of those close to us, the sins of generations passed, as the divisions they cause impact our lives still.   Too often, rather than obeying God and giving these heavy, heavy burdens to Him, we bury them and stew over them.  The anxiety, confusion and grief burdens us more, divides us from others more, and can crush us…

If you are in that situaiton, I beg you, on God’s behalf, let God reconcile you to Himself. (2 Cor. 5:20) Come to one of us, those who know God’s forgiveness.   With the Catholic Church and with some Lutheran churches- they often post times the priest/pastor sets aside for this.  Others of us have an open policy – just call, drop in and let us know you need the peace and rest this sacrament brings.  You will not be imposing… matter of fact, you will make our day. Don’t worry about us being shocked – St Paul has a good point when he says if God can save us, you guys are a peace of cake!

Dump that guilt and shame, be rid of that burden of grief, trust God as His word!  And realize the depth of Christ’s love for you, that He would restore you and show you His love.

If you

Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 658-674). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

The Core of Pastoral Preparation: The Cross (Evangelical Catholic XVI)

Devotional thought of the Day:

15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV) 

For unless a man is a radically converted Christian disciple— one who, in gazing upon the Cross, knows himself to be looking at the great truth at the center of human history— he will not be able to bring to the world, through his ministry, the truth that “God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” [John 3.16].

As I continue reading through Weigel’s Book, Evangelcial Catholicism< I am once again both pleased and disturbed by what I read.  ( I am disturbed because one again, I find him so in agreement with Luther – and yet we are still divided )  

English: Christ on the Cross

English: Christ on the Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The quote above comes from the section on the priesthood – how the movement that started to reform the church and resulted in Vatican II and is still trying to come to its fullest fruit.  Weigel shows the idea that the priesthood is not some kind of clerical caste, some kind of special profession – but it is above all, focused on the cross – and therefore missional. (I’ve written about this elsewhere – numerous times – we are not, pastors and priests – professionals…. we serve alongside our Lord.) 

Everything changes because of the cross – everything in history focuses on that point.  

And its that which is the center then of our ministry – as we bring people to Christ’s cross – so that the sin in us can be killed off, so that we can be brought to life in Him (again – see Ezekeil 26:25ff and 37, Romans 6 and Colossian 2-3)  That is the core of our ministry, whether we pastor a church of 10,000 with a television ministry, or we pastor a church that is simply a few families.  The only thing we can offer people is simple – it is the love and mercy of Christ that meets them where they are at, and transforms us.  Anything else but that at the center of our ministry is simply unacceptable.   It is not the calling that has been placed n our lives – the calling we have is to reveal Christ, to make Him known, to show the cross as the way in which He brings us to share in His glory.

As we prepare to preach and to hear our pastors and priests preach this weekend… may we remember why we do what we do… that all would come to know God, and be transformed by His love! Amen

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 140). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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