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.
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.
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.
Devotional 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.
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.
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.
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He also broke in pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made, which was called Nehushtan. Up to that time the people of Israel had burned incense in its honor. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; Judah never had another king like him, either before or after his time.
2Kings 18:4-8 GNT
14† As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15 GNT
Very well, let it happen in God’s name, except that I make this friendly request: if you want to have my books at this time, do not, on pain of death, let them hinder you from studying the Scriptures themselves
The Bronze Serpent, once a tool crafted and used by God’s command to bless the people of God, to provide them a source of healing, this incredible, miraculous tool had turned into an idol. People worshipped it, prayed to it, honored it.
And for the sake of the people, Hezekiah destroyed what had become an idol.
Luther saw the same potential in the books he had written, that people would take those books and value them above scripture itself. He feared the idea that people would spend more time in his books than in scripture. It terrified him.
I think today he would either be the first to burn the books which bear his name, or rejoice that they are gathering dust on the shelves.
Things that are supposed to point us to Jesus, that are simply signs or foreshadows of the Lord coming to us, loving us, cleansing and healing us from the damage sin has caused in our lives.
And w become dependent, we place our faith in these tools, rather than in the one they point to. It may be a building, a pastor’s blog, ( or the pastor himself!) a youtube channel of sermons, or books. In some cases, it might be a translation of the Bible, or a collection of hymns we have grown up with, or even the liturgy. It might even be the denomination that you thought was as Biblical and orthodox as it gets.
These things point us to Jesus, they can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, but we can’t depend upon them, we can’t make them our life.
It is that point when we being to depend on them more than realizing that they only point to God, that we’ve turned them into an idol. ANd that is when, like the bronze serpent, or Gideon’s ephod, they need to be destroyed.
What will help is realizing what the item or person did in the first place. They focused our attention on Jesus, they informed us of God’s loving care for us. As we look to Jesus, as we find peace as we realize the dimensions of His love, these idols will fade away.
As they should.
And realize this, even in the moments you miss your idols, the Lord is with you.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 121). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the day:
26 Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourself. 27 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
James 1:26-27 (TEV)
907 They spread slander and then make sure themselves that someone comes along immediately to tell you: “It is said that…” No doubt that is villainous, but don’t lose your peace; the tongue can do you no harm, if you work honestly. Consider how silly they are, how tactless, humanly speaking, and what a lack of loyalty they show towards their brothers—and especially towards God!
And don’t go and fall into slander yourself, through an ill-conceived idea of the right to reply. If you have to say anything, make use of fraternal correction as the Gospel advises us.
Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.
Often, sinning is like a Olympic Sport.
We train for it, we cheer on when someone excels in it, and rarely do we offer real critique… even when they are our adversary there our critigue is meant to hurt, rather than help improve.
And yet we call ourselves Christians, belivers, we claim to strive for holiness, to be imitators of Christ.
Check out a basketball court, or hear the comments made among friends during the NFL draft, or get a bunch or religous folk in the room, and bring up televanglists, theoligical liberals or legalists.
We greet the news of someone falling with cheers, and cries of”they got what they deserve” as if we were the judges that condemned them to their fate, as if we knew all that led to their brokenness.
Our slander may even be in response to their attacks on our charachter, our personality, even our ministry, and so we react in kind, not seeing why their attack is so brutal, so negative, so deriding.
We just defend ourselves, and want to show them as more frequent and worse… sinners.
God calls us to live in a life of grace, to live a life that is beyond such pettiness, such gossip, such slander. We don’t have to defame that politician, or that sports team, that actress.
We don’t have to do that because we don’t have to prove ourselves better than them, we don’t don’t have ot be better, we can simply relax knowing that God loves us.
You see, whether it is trash talking on the basketball court, talking about the president or congress, or talking about our obnoxious neighbor, the bottom line for doing it is that we think we somehow gain something, whether it is self-esteem or revenge,
Which is why the Biblical letter of James helps us properly define religion, It is why Luther tells us to avoid judging and condemning others. It is why St Josemaria warns us not to fall for the same temptation.
We fine our identity in Jesus, we find true justice there as well. As we do, that person we once trash talked and gossipped about becomes someone else God would save, someone else He would transform, someone else He loves. They are someone God would have us love, not from compulsion but from realizing what God is trying to do in their life.
So think before you speak, and if your thoughts aren’t nice… we need to pray before speaking, asking God to help us know His presence, and His love. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3689-3694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT
The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in
First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.
This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.
Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.
And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.
There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.
Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?
It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.
You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.
Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.
That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.
The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.
It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.
Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.
That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.
Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.