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The Blessing of Being Served… It Changes Things!!

the second devotional thought of this day….

24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Hebrews 10:23-24 (TEV) 

This inner life allowed him to experience the divine everywhere: the dentist’s waiting room, traveling around the city on public transport, enjoying a get-together. He sometimes said in Italian, nel bel mezzo della strada—in the middle of the street. “The street is our cell.” One day in 1960, when the alterations in Villa Tevere were finished, Salvador Suanzes, nicknamed Pile, asked, “Father, which of the oratories in this house do you like best?” “The street!” Pile looked astonished. Monsignor Escrivá smiled. “I love all the oratories in this house. But I prefer the street. ‘Our cell is the street’ is not just a nice phrase. And you, Pile, my son, and so many sons and daughters of mine, will often have to make your prayer in the street. And it can be done really well there too! Although, whenever we can, we do it in a church or in an oratory, before our Lord who is really present in the tabernacle.” (1)

I’ve been in a funk, this last week or so… drained of most of my energy, and to an extent, my novel outlook on life.  Seems like the life has been zapped out of me.

I’ve tried to write it off as simply the amount of trauma that I’ve had to deal with, and to be honest, that has been the most I’ve endured since I started serving in churches.  The burdens of grieving over my dad, of friends overwhelmed with financial problems, some with medical problems, some with marital problems.  Watching my right hand in ministry, or maybe I’m his… (sort of like the excellent guitarist he is, we work together like his right and left hands.. not completely aware of the others thoughts and actions.. but boy does it work well!)  go through trauma with both his parents.  Watching two other friends I care about – dealing with addiction issues… the list keeps going… and going…

Until lunch.

Everything changed then.

One of my usual places, where the older hispanic waiter (maybe a few years older than me) always calls me “Father”, because he’s seen me wearing my clerical collar.  He knows I’m Lutheran – but says it doesn’t matter, I am a man of God. (Sometimes I think – boy do I have him fooled!!!  okay more than sometimes!)   The restaurant was busy – they had coupons for “bosses” day, and it was buy your lunch the boss eats free.   They were very busy and short staff.

And so my friend, he couldn’t give me the attention he usually gives.  Running and trying to help the other staff, trying to care for people, trying to manage large groups, I felt bad for him.  Even more when he realized I was in the corner, in his station, and no one had brought me something to drink until I was almost done with my entree.  Later he realized no one brought me chips and salsa ( I had the lunch buffet)  Despite his busyness, he took great pains to apologize, and the hurt of his failure was clear on his face.  He thought he let me down, had not done his best by me.  Even as I admired him out-serving those younger than him.

About that time, i was reading a book about my favorite Catholic theologian/pastor/lover of God.  (yeah it’s a little odd for a Lutheran pastor to admit he really likes a Catholic priests work…but I think there is a lot in Escriva’s work that is Lutheran in theology! Or maybe we are more Catholic than we want to admit) and I ran into the above quote.  I actually downloader twitter to my phone to tweet a summary of it.

As tired as I am, as broken as I feel,  I started seeing Christ’s heart in the heart of a waiter, who hated not being able to care for me.  Not that Jesus ever fails to care for us, but I wonder how our His heart feels when we don’t realize His presence, and how He serves us.  I saw this man, who makes his vocation caring for others, feeding them, nourishing them, making sure they know they are cared for, and that they are welcome in his restaurant.

And I changed.  I am still exhausted to some extent… these last few weeks have been a physical drain as well.  But my attitude is quickly changing, as what I know, what I’ve been preaching about this fall comes fully into focus.  We can’t minister to others, until we let Christ minister to us.  We can’t serve, share, bring healing to others, reveal to them Christ’s love and the peace which He desires to bring Him, until we experience it ourself.

Until we let ourselves be served, cared for, nourished.

My friend will get a copy of this blog tomorrow I think – though I scribbled the thoughts out on the bill… so he could know how he served me – exacrly what I needed… (far more than my diet coke!)  Out there on street, I encountered Christ’s love and care… I saw His heart in work that most overlook.  And in a very quiet way… that has brought joy to this wearied heart.

A good lesson – and I pray.. the begining of a new season of rest…. and serving others!


The Laity and the Clergy – proclaiming the gospel together! Evangelical Catholic IX

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, A...

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, Article VII, “Of the Church”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day:

Thus the priest, like the bishop, is first a preacher, teacher, catechist, and sanctifier before he is an administrator. Priests are leaders of their parishes, as bishops are of their dioceses. But in a fully embodied Evangelical Catholicism, deacons and other qualified lay members of the Church will handle more and more of the routine business of parish and diocesan administration. The pastors— bishops who are true successors of the apostles, and priests who form a presbyteral college with and under the bishop (as the bishops form an episcopal college with and under the Bishop of Rome, the pope)— have more urgent matters to which they must attend. Yet the lay vocation, as understood by Evangelical Catholicism, is not primarily one of Church management, in which only a small minority of laity will be involved. The lay vocation is evangelism: of the family, the workplace, and the neighborhood, and thus of culture, economics, and politics. As Evangelical Catholicism rejects the clericalism by which the lay members of the Church were simply to pray, pay, and obey (or, as a nineteenth-century aristocratic English variant had it, to hunt, shoot, and entertain), so it rejects a clericalized notion of lay vocation as primarily having to do with working in the parish office or diocesan chancery. 34 There is important work to be done in those venues, and lay Catholics can and ought to do more of it, thus freeing priests and bishops for the work they were ordained to do. But the primary lay vocation, as John Paul II taught in the 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, is to bring the Gospel into all of those parts of “the world” to which the laity has greater access than those who are ordained: the family, the mass media, the business community, the worlds of culture, and the political arena, for example. (1)

I’ve mentioned before that I am sort of reviewing this book – Evangelical Catholic – slowing – digesting the differences between how its author describes the changes manifesting now in Roman Catholicism – and what I see in the present and in the hsotiry of Lutheranism – which was originally called – “evangelical catholic”.    Not as a devotional persay, but it ends up being so for me.

Today is no different – as I think about the deacons I train  (historically assistants in the college – as they were/are ordained )and about the work of the people here in my church.  Wiegel’s point about their having a primary vocation of evangelist is an awesome point – I highly agree – and it is their primary vocation, as they bring the gospel into their homes, into their friends homes, into their workplaces and the conversations they have out there in the not so “real world”.  

Some would argue that the proclamation of the gospel is the role of the clergy and indeed it is.   But it isn’t only the clergy’s work – it is the work of the family of God – YHWH & Son’s (and daughters!)  The pastors and priests (and bishops and deacons ) preachin a way that the laity comprehend the grace of God, which the Holy Spirit actively embodies in every moment of their lives – bringing joy and peace into some of the most challenging situations that they, and those around them, encounter.   It is there – that the gospel is shown through their lives, through their loves, through the hope they have – even in the midst of situations that would be considered hopeless.   Places that wouldn’t necessarily be a place where my black shirt and collar are welcome.   

But that is a harder calling for the priest and pastor, to preach in that way.  It is a more demanding way, is a sense from the people who sit in the pews.

It is, and isn’t. 

For Evangelism isn’t a duty, it is an act of love.  It is realizing that what has brought healing and peace to our broken lives will bring healing and peace to others lives.  Such healing and peace – in the midst of such brokenness, that we cannot bear to see those who are broken in such a way continue in it.   In love we come to them – to help them with their burdens, to calm their anxious souls, to bring healing to shattered lives and shattered relationships.  That means – that most of the time – it is the laity that see it first – that come alongside them – that bear them to us, were we continue the word and sacrament minsitry together.  

It’s not the laity or the clergy – it is the people of God – as He has called and equipped and sent us…. to bring His love. 

This is a good thing!   A very incredible thing!  God using us all…. how awesome!

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 80). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

evangelical catholic – pt. 3 – An interesting comment on fellowship/communion

Not quite a devotional but….a good thing to discuss!

I mentioned before, in pts 1 & 2 that the Lutherans were once callled “evangelical catholic”, so the title of this book by George Wiegel intrigued me, when I saw a friend reference it.  It isn’t about Lutherans, or Lutheranism, but a look back at the last centruy of the Roman Catholic Church, looking at a change in the nature of ministry, a re-focusing.  As I have read the first few pages and chapters, I realized that processing it might be better done in writing – as I see somethings incredibly… well “Lutheran”… and part of me wonders about how Luther would fare in today’s RCC.    At any rate – since I am processing it, I suppose that some of you might enjoy the thoughts, or even better, engage in discussion.  So here goes part 3.

Thus evangelical Catholics who adhere to the Gospel— once again, the truths that God has revealed for our salvation in Holy Scripture and the apostolic tradition— are in fuller communion with evangelical Protestants who affirm classic Christian orthodoxy than they are with prominent Catholic theologians such as Hans Küng, Roger Haight, and Elizabeth Johnson, despite being, canonically, in the same Church with the latter. (1)

The context of this quote, comes from a discussion about the church’s doctrine – and unity within the doctrine.  It notes, fairly, that not all that claim the title of Catholic (we could add/substitute Lutheran or for that matter  – Christian) do not agree with the teaching and/or practice of the church.   There is obviously some flexibility in practice, the Franciscans/Capuchins do hold everything in common with the Dominicans  or the numeraries of Opus Dei.  But there are those who specifically break with the church.  A great example would be Hans Kung, or the politicians who are pro-abortion, or pro-women’ s ordination, and yet claim to be good Catholics.   The author notes a desire for people to be honest – if they have another faith, or even another god, just admit it – and follow that god and its teachings to the extreme.

That is another discussion, but it  gives context.

What I am surprised at, is the idea that a catholic author would dare write that there are those of us out in the protestant sphere, who affirm classic Christian Orthodoxy, that closer in communion to those “evangelical catholics”  – because of our focus on the gospel, and the task we’ve been given to plead with people to be reconciled to God ( II Cor. 5).  It is something I’ve been wondering about for about 2 and a hlf years – whether our affiliation to our denominations is based in culture or ethnicity, rather than doctrine.   That our battles within denominations are more about our preference of practice, than actually being consistent to the faith delivered to us.

Let me use an example.

A regular attender at one of the churches I pastored was an 88 year old lady – an incredible lady who was an active participant in the life of our parish.  She went through the new members class with great joy, as she finally had answers that puzzled her forever. But when it came to the end of the class, she and I had a conversation- because while she wanted to be active in everything (except congregational meetings) and she loved the doctrine that she was taught, loved the service, loved the sacraments and the promises they gave her, she had called herself a Presbyterian all her life.   It was hard to give up the word, and the fact that it made up so much of her identity, and she struggled with becoming a member – just because of a strong tie to the word…..

Kung does this – as do other theologians and even writers – look at all the catholic journalists who now are writing that the new pope must change this, or bring the church into the present by removing the restriction on “that”.

And we find ourselves – no matter the title, in fellowship with people who are different in their core beliefs, their core practices, while the people we have far more in common…we are separate from, standing across the road, as it where – able to see and wave and talk… yet….   It’s no wonder that many young people don’t grasp why the denominations are necessary, when they really aren’t united in doctrine.

I think ultimately, there are two options.  Will we further dissect the church, creating smaller and smaller denominations and synods – niche marketing the faith as it were…

Or we will simply run to the cross, and pray…. for our unity – in Christ.

(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 38). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Millions of Churches or One…His?

Devotional/Discussion of the Day:

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”   Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT)

“Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6.”    — Augsberg Confession, The

I am in on ongoing discussion, that concerns me greatly.  It is about the church and how it ministers in a community that is diverse. both in terms of ethnicity and in terms of generations. As I occasionally do, I challenged the unexplored presuppositions, and commented about whether the church has to focus ministry one way, or the other – why can’t the church just reach out to everyone, and what you end up with is a multi-cultural church, one that very well may resemble the church described in the red letters above. 

I was surprised, because of the push-back I got.

It’s only experts who can pull that off,  it can’t be done, the big churches have tried, etc, etc. etc.  They talk about the nature of a church denomination  or the, “it was tried once”, or “the people have to have that call” and a number of other things that I disagree with, simply because there is no scriptural basis.  Indeed, the early church was multi-cultural – because their communities were.  And the zeal to see people freed from the bondage of sin, the oppression of satan, and the anxiety of death is overwhelming, when we actually realize it ourselves.

The answer isn’t in planning to have a monoethnic church, nor is it to plan to be multi-cultural.  Simply put, the plan is to be the church – the CHURCH described in the founding document of the Lutheran Church – the Augsburg Confession.  Interesting that we usually think of  the CHURCH as in denominations finally getting their act together, finally uniting in mission, in the apostolate given to us by God.  But the CHURCH is a body that transcends everything that could describe us, as we are united in Christ.  Our people have to realize that – the grace of God is communicated through the church, through its members/the priesthood of all who trust in Christ.  It is heard as the scriptures are explained, as we witness people receive God’s grace through the sacraments God ordained.

It’s His church, His people, and the way to be the church is not to plan which group we are to reach out to, but to reach out to the people that are around us, realizing their need to know Christ.  To get to know them, to show them the love of God.

George Wiegel, in a book on the changes in the Roman Catholic Church wrote this… which still sticks with me…

What is at stake in the demand for doctrinal clarity (and for the clarity of Catholic identity that follows from doctrinal clarity) is not a matter of winning an intellectual argument, which is how self-absorbed intellectuals often understand it. Rather, doctrinal clarity is a matter of equipping “the saints,” the men and women who have entered into friendship with the Lord Jesus, to become his witnesses in the world and the servants of those who most need to see the face of the Father of Mercies.  (from Evangelical Catholic)

For a parish, for a congregation, it is essential that they grasp how incredible this message of God’s love is, that God will remember their sin no more, that He has freed them from guilt and shame… and as they do – as they begin to treasure that their sins will not be remembered anymore, as they begin to explore the breadth and depth, the width and hight of God’s love, revealed in Christ – they will reveal that – as those God sent into their neighborhoods, and their businesses, into the places they shop and eat….

And the church, if in a multi-cultural area, will become multi-cultural… it cannot help but to do so…

Lord may we see the mercy that you have for us, as you reconcile us to you, that we may plead with others to become reconciled as well….

Evangelical Catholicism – an interesting read..

Devotional/Discussion point of the Day:

A friend on Facebook recently put a couple of quotes from a book he was reading on his feed, noting the title. Looking at the reviews, the book intrigued me, and I started reading it yesterday at lunch.  Technically, it seeks to document how the Roman Catholic Church is negotiating between the rock and hard places in the last century.  The Rock being the counter-reformation and its simplistic catachesis and demand of obedience, and the modern progressive views which would demean and dismiss scripture in view of modern philosophy and practice.

It is a similar path to that which some of us navigate in my own denominaiton – as on one side legalism, and the other the extremes of Church Growth theorists.  In my opinion, which isn’t much, I see the same issue on both sides – they would reduce the walk of faith with Christ to a simple programmatic practice. I’ve been on both sides.

I am probably going to go through this book slowly – much slower than others, trying to see how much is applicable.  After all, Lutheran theologians and the Lutheran Church was originally known, as “evangelical catholics..”  I will probably have to sift a bit of this book – as I do with those from evangelical proteestants, but I have a feeling it will be..beneficial

At any rate – here is the first quote that really stood out:

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth. Paul, Barnabas, and all who have been truly converted to Christ— such that friendship with Christ and extension of the possibility of friendship with Christ to others has become the basic dynamic of their lives— have become something different. Radically converted Christians have become men and women marked by tongues of fire, animated by the Spirit, whose abiding presence they recognize in the liturgy by their common prayer, their exchange of the peace of Christ, and their common reception of the Lord’s body and blood.” (1)

I like this statement, especially the italicized portion.  It seeks neither to dismiss our liturgy and those communal, sacramental, incarnational practice, nor does it diminish our intimate dance with the Holy Spirit in them.  (I use dance purposefully, for dancing uses our hearts and minds and bodies – all at once – which the Holy Spirit does engage.)

I also resonate with the three specifics mentioned

– a life of prayer – together – as the early church did. (see Acts 2)  From the cry for forgiveness, to the Kyrie, to the prayers of the church and the prayer Christ taught, the church comes alive when in conversation with God.

– the exchange of the peace of Christ – what a way to describe this!  (much stronger than the passing of the peace!)  This has become a hallmark of my present congregation – the point in the service, where assured that the peace of Christ is with us, we confirm that it is also among us, that God’s peace is… uniting us, breaking down the walls – infusing mercy, and the desire and act of reconciling us to each other.  This is not just a time for a casual greeting.. but a time where tears of joy, and sorrow are shed, where peace is created by God among us in a powerful, transforming way.

and lastly….

their common reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood!  Do I have to explain how the Spirit revives and renews us, in this simple act of incredible…significance?  To know we are welcome to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice – realizing we are welcomed at this table, that together we are having a feast that is the most significant meal of our lives?  The words can’t express what it means to partake of the Lamb of God, to see and taste salvation…

Occaisonally, I will add a post to my blog about the book – not replacing the devotions, but perhaps helping navigate these waters, as we try to be neither legalists, nor faithless moralists.


(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (Kindle Locations 489-494). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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