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Luther: You MUST experience Jesus to Have Faith in Him.

Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to His cross

Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Yes, Teacher,” he said, “tell me.”
41 “There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42Neither of them could pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.” Luke 7:40–43. GNT

Then he said to the disciples, “Where is your faith?”  Luke 8:25 GNT

A “mystery” is a hidden secret that is not known; and the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” are the things in the kingdom of God, as for example Christ with all his grace, which he manifests to us. He who knows Christ aright understands what God’s kingdom is and what is in it. It is called a mystery because it is spiritual and secret, and it remains so where the spirit does not reveal it. For although there are many who see and hear it, yet they do not understand it. There are many who preach and hear Christ, how he offered himself for us; but all that is only upon their tongue and not in their heart; for they themselves do not believe it; they do not experience it.

The Truth was hunting for those who would receive it, and relatively few did, for “many are called, but few are chosen.”

When I first started listening to language with these discriminations, I realized how thoroughly culture-conditioned I was. Talk about being conformed to this world! My use of language in the community of faith was a mirror image of the culture: a lot of information, a lot of publicity, not much intimacy. My ministry was voiced almost entirely in the language of description and of persuasion—telling what was there, urging what could be. I was a great explainer. I was a pretty good exhorter. I was duplicating in the church what I had learned in my thoroughly secularized schools and sales-saturated society, but I wasn’t giving people much help in developing and using the language that was basic to both their humanity and their faith, the language of love and prayer.

I think we need to spend some time thinking through Luther’s idea that people (and some preachers) do not believe the gospel we preach (and preach clearly and well) because we have not experienced it The faith remains mysterious to them (ok, us) because we are so caught up in the details and questions, that we fail to simply be in this intimate relationship with the Lord who died for us.

Jesus’ interaction with the “used-to-be-harlot” and Simon the Pharisee demonstrate this all too well. Simon doesn’t understand the gratitude of this lady who knows the depth of her own sin, now forgiven. But she does, she has experienced Christ offering himself for her, even before the cross. She is being made whole, she realizing that her re-creation is God re-creating her in His image once again. At least she understands this in her psyche, and the gratitude–well that is an unprovoked response to His love, to His care, ot he intimate relationship she found herself in, so different from the physically intimate relationships she surrendered herself to. Simon doesn’t think he needs to be as forgiven, so he receives little forgiveness. And the disciples in the boat, haven’t experienced it either, for if they had, their faith would be automatic, and they would be at peace!

This is what Peterson is getting at with his use of language–he elarned it was time to stop talking about Jesus, but time to demonstrate and live talking to Jesus, and hearing Him. THat’s what this pastor’s people needed, it is what my people need as well.

Experience is what Tozer is getting at, as well. Jesus didn’t say I will teach the Truth, the Way and the Life. He said He was the Truth. The Truth that frees us, the Truth that changes our lives. the Truth that is our life, as we live in Him. That is the experience that causes our faith, our trust in and dependance on Him to grow. FOr faith is not a group of beliefs, faith is a relationship you know you can invest in, because you have experienced that the other Person has done just that. Jesus is the Truth that hunted us down, and we are thankful He did!

Heavenly Father, please send the Holy Spirit to cut through our hearts and minds, cutting away all that is not of You. Help us to rejoice, to celebrate, to be in awe of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives, and then guide our lives lived in awe and gratitude. We pray this in Jesus name! Amen!

 

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 51–52.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 99.

Is It That Obvious? Romans 3:19-28 – A Reformation Day Sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church

Is it that Obvious?
Romans 3:19-28

 

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace, peace, and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in your life be…obvious.

Hook: Oblivious to the obvious

It is very clear that the very first word in the first reading this morning was not needed!

It shouldn’t have to be used!

It is completely understood!

Everyone can see the point without explaining it!

It is so simple, and everyone should “get it”

At least, people should be able to understand it.

The word obviously can only truly be used where it is unnecessary. Because, if it is that obvious, do you really need to tell everyone it is obvious?

I mean if you ask me what’s wrong when see me rushing towards a restroom with a plunger in my hand, do I need to waste time saying, “Obviously, a toilet’s overflowing!?”

Or if you ask Bob what’s wrong when you see Bob kneeling by his left rear tire with another tire and a lug wrench in his hand, does he need to really say, “OBVIOUSLY, I have a flat tire!”

Or when the Sherriff pulls you over, and do you have to ask him if there is something wrong? “Obviously, you were going 85 in a 30 mile per hour zone!” (Or was that me?)

We should know those things—just like Paul and Luther and everyone else in their days–would understand clearly what was obviously wrong.

  1. Luther’s Obvious Problem

Here the scripture again,

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

This part of the passage, was indeed quite obvious to young pastor Luther. Nothing bothered him as much sin, and it haunted him. It caused him great distress. He would recount many times this story,

When I was a young man at Isleben, I went with the rest in procession, on the day of Corpus Christi, and had on my priest’s attire: it happened that I was in such sort affrighted before the Sacrament, which Dr. Staupitz carried, that I thought I should have fallen down stark dead. Now when the procession was ended, I confessed, and opened my grief to Dr. Staupitz. He said, ‘O! your thoughts are not Christ’s[1]

Obviously, Luther felt that he had no excuse, he knew he was guilty before God. And God’s word did indeed show him how sinful he was…

Just as it shows me how sinful I am, and how sinful each one of you is.

Obviously, if I am that bad, that horrid, I don’t belong up there.

If all there is, is the law which condemns us, if all we know of God is the judge who shows we are guilty of sin, and deserving of condemnation, we are without hope.

I should also note that while we may deny we are sinners, or deny our thoughts, words and deeds are sinful.

Usually, we go one way or the other… we fight and deny that our thoughts, words and actions are sin… or we look at them and condemn ourselves in disgust.

This should be obvious, left on our alone, life is shattered, broken, and the thought of being in God’s presence should cause us to experience terror.

  1. Paul’s point..But now….

Paul’s word “obviously” is going to be countered by something…but before I get to them – I want to share a little more about Luther and his mentor. Luther wrote,

Staupitz used to comfort me with these words: “Why do you torture yourself with these speculations (about your sin and damnation)? Look at the wounds of Christ and at the blood that was shed for you. From these (your eternal destiny) predestination will shine. Consequently, one must listen to the Son of God, who was sent into the flesh and appeared to destroy the work of the devil and to make you sure about (your eternal destiny) predestination.

What Staupitz was trying to show Luther was what Paul talked about in the Romans passage,

25  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. Romans 3:25 (NLT2)

He goes on to write,

27  Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28  So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. Romans 3:27-28 (NLT2)

We are made right, by God. We just need to trust Him at the promises he always made in the church.

For someone so haunted by his past and present sin, this news was radical. We are fully forgiven, fully cleansed, declared as righteous and holy as Jesus is, because Jesus was our sacrifice. Jesus’ body shed for us, His blood spilled out for us, as the sacrificial offering.

The word there is a very special word – it talks of the sacrificial blood poured out on the Ark of the Covenant, once a year – which covered all of the sin of all of the people of God, covering it for a year… til the next sacrifice would do the next for the next year’s sins.

Christ’s blook cover’s all sin, for all time.

  1. It Is world changing…

This is what changed Luther from a guilty, shamed crazed monk into a pastor who wanted everyone to know that Christ has set them free.

Luther would struggle with a lot of the other stud in the church, both with the Catholics, but even more with reformers like Zwingli and Kaarldstat – men who would dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit.

But his core–and you see this in the Small and Large Catechism – is what Jesus does to cover the obvious problem of our sin, to bring us clean and holy to the Father, where something becomes even more obvious… God Loves us.

and we are His, for God gives us the ability to depend on Jesus’ love and work in our lives.

Knowing this , we experience the peace of God, which passes all understanding, as our hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Table Talk:.

Temptations and Trials are…. Beneficial?

Thoughts which drive me to the cross….

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24  Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT2)

The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.

751      Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.

I came across Luther’s words first this morning and thought that the words for those enduring temptations apply to those facing trials. A long theological discussion could be had on linking the two, but they both are thought to challenge our ability to remain closely intimate with Christ Jesus.

The irony is that the benefit is exactly the opposite of the goal of Satan. Rather than break us away from Christ where we can be devoured, the trials and temptations of life should drive us ever more to the cross where we were crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

The challenge, whether trial or temptation, is the realization that God is at work in our lives, that we benefit from these assaults when we realize God uses them (not causes the) to draw us back into His care. That is why the Psalms are filled with words like refuge and fortress and sanctuary, for that is who God is! He is our fortress, our refuge and sanctuary.

This is a mystery, how things Satan and his minions use to set in our path God will turn into blessing beyond compare, as we find ourselves hidden in Christ Jesus (Col. 3:1-3). While we can’t explain the mystery, we live and experience it, some of us over and over.

This then leads to some of the most powerful ministry in our lives, for while suffering is beneficial, the lack of it may not be. That is why Paul talks about freedom in view of its benefits. His bottom line is sacrifice for others is beneficial, and focusing on what we think is good for us. This is the same thing St. Josemaria speaks of when he suggests we pray “use me as you wish!” No matter the cost, for as we grow in Christ we are sure His benefit outweighs what we must endure.

God is with us. We come to know that more, when He opens our eyes in the darkness, and shatters it.

Undergoing trial and temptation? Run to God, and give thanks when you find yourself in His care. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 182.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Purpose…

Thoughts to encourage us, as we are drawn to Jesus..

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. 12  With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, 13  for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death. Psalm 86:11-13 (NLT2)

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17  asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. Ephesians 1:16-17 (NLT2)

2  God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.

I show them (the sacraments) due honor when I believe that I truly receive what the sacraments signify and all that God declares and indicates in them, so that I can say with Mary in firm faith, “Let it be to me according to your words and signs” [Luke 1:38].

King David, the writer of the Psalm above, found his identity so enveloped in his intimate friendship with God. So much so that he was called a man whose heart resonated with God’s, for that was his goal. As the church fades in American, we struggle to find to resonate with things. The next book that is right on, the next new believer’s course, the next mission statement, the next strategy of consolidation or repurposing.

Without resonating with the heart of God, none of those options are worth the outcome of a bowel movement.

From his intimate conversations with God, David learns so much of God’s love that he automatically responds with praise. He realizes what God has done, far more than you learn from a theology text, or the latest book written to motivate us to keep trying to do things that are beyond our comfort zones. We see the same heart in Luther’s thoughts on the sacraments. Meditating on them leads Luther to accept, as Mary did, what God has planned and promised. St. Josemaria encourages such meditation as well, as he concludes that when you realize the divine madness that is the love of God, you will never let go of the hope it gives.

You don’t find such love by reading—you have to experience it. That is the idea of knowledge (epiginosko in Greek) . Study alone does not impart such knowledge—it comes by experiencing God’s presence as God reveals and enlightens our hearts. The Apostle Paul, another brilliant man, desires this for his people, and that is what he asks God for, for them.

The purpose of this all – to intimately know God. We all need to experience His presence and love in a way beyond description, but in a way that teaches us.

It is what I desire for myself, as David did.. and what we need to learn to desire, not just for our friends at church, but for all people.

Lord, teach us Who You are… and who we are in Your sight. 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 101.

The Ministry of Theology

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Thoughts that I pray cause you to adore Jesus, your Savior…

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”* She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:13-14 NLT

Rector Bernard von Dölen,142 minister in Herzberg, complained bitterly about his arrogant auditors who despised the reading of the catechism. Dr. Martin [Luther] was greatly disturbed and fell silent. Then he said, “Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here143 I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they, too, need to understand. If the others don’t want to listen they can leave. Therefore, my dear Bernard, take pains to be simple and direct; don’t consider those who claim to be learned but be a preacher to unschooled youth and sucklings. (1)

Nonetheless, for Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there. (2)

The pastoral care that is provided to Hagar never ceases to amaze me. She is not the one through whom the promise is given; that is Sarai, her mistress, the one who has the power of life or death over her. And yet, God takes the time to
visit with her. He cares for her, ministers to her, and cares for her son (who will be a challenge.) Finally, God restores her to her former place.

It works with the two readings I had this morning, which talk about the ministry of theology. Usually, seminaries and universities studies in scripture and ministry describe that the other way, with courses on the Theology of Ministry. Rarely do you hear people talk about the ministry of theology. People will talk about types of theology, Systematic, Exegetical, HIstorical, and Pragmatic, but rarely will there be a focus on how theology is supposed to be used to
minister to the church.

Those readings talk about it in Luther’s usual blunt style. Theology is not primarily an academic topic to be studied and dissected, according to Luther. Theology has a particular role, to be used to help man deepen their dependence
on God, to encourage spending time meditating on the move and mercy of God, to experience His love and presence, in a way that the Apostle Paul said was beyond words. (see Ephesians 3:17-19) This is the chief function of theology,
which seems all but lost these days.

Consider the advice to Bernard, who talked with the arrogant visitors he had, nitpicking on everything. Luther’s direction is to ignore them and preach the gospel to the hundred or thousand people who need to know the gospel and understand why hope is found in Christ. (this is Peter’s idea of apologetics, when he writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT2)

This is what we are here to do, to use the knowledge and understanding that studying the word of God gives, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus and brings light into their lives. This is not only the role of theology but also liturgical worship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is the focus that all those who lead in the church are called to do, to work with all we are, and to present everyone perfect in Christ. ( Colossians 1:28-29) For us Lutherans,  this is what the 6th article of the Augsburg Confession is about, as our good works are the fruit of our faith.

May Theology be restored to this glorious ministry, of causing others to grow deeper in their dependence/faith/trust in God. And may the church ever see it as a tool dedicated to that purpose.

(1) Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 235–236.

(2) Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), x.

What We Need in Order to Pray

Devotional Thought of the Day:

The LORD is our God, bringing justice everywhere on earth. 8 He will never forget his agreement or his promises, not in thousands of years.  Psalm 105:7-8 CEV

But the efficacy of prayer consists in our learning also to say “Amen” to it—that is, not to doubt that our prayer is surely heard and will be granted.

We see this principle reflected in Scripture. The bridegroom in Solomon’s Song of Songs is traditionally interpreted as God the lover of our souls. We are His bride. But this divine Bridegroom says to the human bride: “You are all fair, my love” (4:7). God says this to us!
But how can it be true that we are “all fair” when we still struggle with sin? Is God blind? If not, then what He says must be true. It is true as prophecy, a prophecy of our eternal identity and destiny. Christ refers to this when He says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). God speaks from eternity and sees us as we are eternally before Him. To us, this “all fair” perfection is only in the future. But to God everything is present. For that is what eternity is: not endless futures but all times actually present with no dead past or unborn future, no “no longer” or “not yet”.

Everyone, at some time in their life, struggles with prayer.

I think Luther has it right when he says it is because we struggle with honestly saying “Amen!”

Perhaps we’ve lost the meaning of AMEN< but it is a declaration of faith, a “this is true” when we ask in God’s name. Itis a statement of dependence, of trust, of faith. It should be said with great confidence, always followed by an exclamation point!

Too often, doubt creeps in, s Satan tries to convince us that our prayers are empty, or vain. If Satan cannot try to convince us God doesn’t exist or at least have us forget God exists, He will try to convince us that we aren’t worth God’s time. He will try to cause us to believe that God will not waste His time on us.  Satan and His demons will try to convince us…

…that we are too insignificant,

… that we are too broken,

… that our sin is too great, and we are too evil.

This is were Kreeft’s reminder that we are the Bride of Christ needs to be heard. We need to hear that God, beyond time, sees us one way – beautiful, holy, His beloved.

When we realize it is how God sees us, now and in the future, that prayer becomes more effective. We begin to realize God listens, and in all of His wisdom He does answer those prayers.  W just begin to see it, and count on His love to answer it, not just in view of today and tomorrow, but eternity as well.

For as the psalmist rights, God will not break HIs promises. Learn them, know them, but more, know the one who makes them, and as you cry out to Him, as you offer Him your burdens, say AMEN – knowing He is with you.

Marting Luther – The Large Catechism,  found in  The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.Theodore G. Tappert, ed., (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 436.


Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 32.

What Should Make Christianity…. different?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on.  Mark 12:43-44 CEV

By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”

The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”

172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”

The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.

This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading.  I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.

They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there.  In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.

What an incredible concept, this salvation.

But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?

I do not think we do, at least not always.

How about this explanation.  We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.

Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.

The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.

We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.

She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…

May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.

Pastors and Priests are not Holy Pez Dispensers!

Combined 1
Devotional Thought of the Day:

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. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

In the sacrament Christ is received. However, this would not happen if Christ were not, at the same time, prepared and distributed through the Word. For the Word brings Christ to the people and acquaints their hearts with him. The sacrament in itself does not transmit this knowledge.

And even if there is some preaching, the mass may be of Christ but the sermon on Theodoric of Bern or some other story. God punishes us in this way because we do not pray for our daily bread. The venerable sacrament finally becomes not only a vain and empty custom but also an object of contempt. After all, what does it profit us if Christ is present and has prepared bread for us, if this bread is not given to us and we do not delight in it? That is just as if a delicious meal were prepared and no one was there to pass the bread, bring the food, or pour the drink, and all were expected to have their hunger appeased by the odor or the sight of the meal.

You might think that this post is going to laud the preaching of the word over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  I mean, after all, Luther’s words could be interpreted that way.  Luther makes it sound like the sacrament is completely dependent on the word, that without it, it, it is vain and worthless.  It would be of no profit to our bodies and even less to our souls.

Theologically, that may sound right, but I do not agree with that interpretation.

I think it is that we can’t separate what God put together, the gift of hearing the word and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood.  We need both, and we need them together.  They need to understand the experience they have, as they take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

As I said in the title, pastors and priests (Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other sacramental groups) are more than spiritual Pez dispensers.  Our role is to reveal to you Christ, to ensure you understand the grace that you are being given in the sacraments, to make sure you understand that grace is Christ’s presence in your life, and how that transforms who you are, it results in a change to your very identity.

That is why we see this Communion Feast so important, and the words that prepare us for it critical.  This time, not just about our sins being forgiven, but the time we know we dwell in Christ, and He dwells in us.

We need this, and we need to remember, to understand, to savor this moment.  So to preach on something else, to not focus on Christ crucified for us, to make sure you understand this and treasure it, and to give you the time to think and work through it, this is our calling.

For your benefit.

So let both people and their clergy, work together, and rejoice together, as God provides for us.  Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 57–58.

God, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14 The LORD says, “The time is coming when people will no longer swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. 15 Instead, they will swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of a northern land and out of all the other countries where I had scattered them. I will bring them back to their own country, to the land that I gave their ancestors. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jer. 16:14-15 GNT

Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. Col. 4:2 GNT

How would our magnificent castles, houses, silk, satin, purple, golden jewelry, precious stones, all our pomp and glitter and show help us if we had to do without air for the length of one Lord’s Prayer?
These are the greatest gifts from God and also the ones that we deride most, and, because they are so common, we do not give thanks for them. We take them and use them each day so thoughtlessly, as if it had to be so and we were entitled to them; thus, we do not need to thank God for them even once. In the meantime, we tear off and care only to worry, quarrel, wrangle, strive, and storm after unnecessary money and goods, honor and luxury—in short, after something that cannot hold a candle to the blessings mentioned above. Worse, it hinders our joyful and serene use of the common gifts, such that we do not recognize them as such, nor do we thank God for them. Behind all of this is the devil, who does not want us to use and acknowledge all of God’s gifts to us and thus be happy.

When Luther explains the passage from the Lord’s Prayer about “give us our daily bread” he gets passionately pragmatic! We see that in the words above as he talks about our concerns that things that cannot hold a candle to the real gifts God has given us.

And yet, we let those things rob us of our peace, of our serenity, and our ability to use those things that God has given us!

I think it starts before that though.

In the passage of Jeremiah, he notes that there will be a point where Israel now longer looks back to God’s deliverance in the past, but rather, looks at their deliverance, the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. God’s presence, God’s work is no longer something He did for someone else, in a far distant time. It is something that presently affects them, that proves He is not some distant God, but a God who will allow us to be disciplined, and yet, restore us.

It is one thing to appreciate what God has done in the past, to those whose steps we walk in. We should appreciate these things and learn from them, for they reveal to us the character of God. It is another thing to realize He is here now. Delivering us from the bondage of sin, delivering us from guilt and shame, healing u of the brokenness that is all to common now, just as it was during the captivity. He is here! Providing for us all the things we need! Yes, life and daily food, Oxygen and gravity, To thank Him for giving us a new life, and walking with us through it, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

For all this, it is a simple thing to stand back in awe, and to Thank God.

We need to thank Him and that includes knowing we can ask Him to help us when we don’t understand, trusting Him to ensure all things work for good, for those called according to His purposes. Giving thanks for what He has and will do for us, now and until the day we join before His throne, there for eternity.

Lord, help us, when we are struggling, to remember and be thankful for the thousands of thing You have given and done for us, from the air we breathe to the food and drink, houses and homes, even the jobs that can stress us out. Lord, help us be most thank for your deliverance of us from our enemy, sin. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 206.

We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT

To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)

The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.

For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.

There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!

But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”

It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.

The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.

It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.

For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.

Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.

This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.

And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….

Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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