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Making the Sign of the Cross…A Confession to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, have mercy on us

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 163–164). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Do We Have To Talk about the “S” Word?

pexels-photo-279991.jpegDevotional THought of the Day:
16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)

18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.

531    “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!

The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”

It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason.  It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.

And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex.  For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.

Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.

So it is one we need to have.  Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.

We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.

but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them.  To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.

We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use.  I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us.  They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.

This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.

This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others.  Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.

This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Their words hurt you? Here is how to survive it.

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

18  A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 (TEV)
38  “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39  But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NLT2)
15
 See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, Hebrews 12:15 (NAB)

63 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.

442    Never think badly of anyone, not even if the words or conduct of the person in question give you good grounds for doing so.

There will always be people we struggle with, people whose actions and words we don’t understand, and often, those words and actions seem to attach or denigrate or embarrass us.

Sometimes the original intent is harmless, like the joke that struck to close to home. 

It is hard not to react.  Some would say impossible. 

They’ve given reason to think badly about them, to gossip about them, to strike back with words that would hurt them, and perhaps those around them.

Scripture pleads with you, as does Luther and a Catholic saint, don’t say, it, don’t think it. Don’t let your words add to the catastrophe that is occurring. Don’t let the bitterness rise up within you, and spread out like poison.  DOn’t get involved in backbiting or slander. Don’t try to justify it, don’t try to 

Just don’t. 

Your words will simply cause more damage, they will tear more people up, as the Psalmist says, these words are weapons, they do an incredible amount of damage, even to the point of killing.

So someone’s words hurt, they stung, they damaged you.  How do you respond?

Prayer is the place to start, asking God to remind you of and reveal His grace to you.  The grace that will remind you of your forgiveness and the promise to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  Prayer is the place where you can ask God to give you the strength not to respond. 

It is when we are secure in HIS peace that we can love past the pain, that we ae assured His cleansing of our lives includes the injustice, the unrighteous acts committed against us.  It is there then, with Christ bearing all the sin in our lives, that we find hope, and the possibility of grace. 

This isn’t easy, it takes the spiritual maturity of a saint. 

That’s okay, God made you to be a saint…

So think of His love, and rejoice, and share that blessing with those whose words hurt. 

The Lord is with you! 

Sources

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 400). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1087-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We Still Need Reformation, (perhaps more than ever!)

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought for our Days:

6 “This may seem impossible to those of the nation who are now left, but it’s not impossible for me. 7I will rescue my people from the lands where they have been taken, 8and will bring them back from east and west to live in Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, ruling over them faithfully and justly.  Zechariah 8:6-8 TEV

96      Discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance, and then, from everything that happens, you will be able to draw more love for God and a greater desire to respond to him. He is always waiting for us, offering us the possibility to fulfil at all times that resolution we made: Serviam! I will serve you!

One of the books I am presently reading is Metaxas biography of Martin Luther.  It is more than a bit distressing, as constantly Metaxas points out that what happened was out of control of everyone involved, especially Luther.

Why couldn’t the church simply reform?  Why did the leaders not listen and discuss things like the Church did at the Jerusalem council?  Why was the division and later shattering of God’s family so unavoidable?

As I read Metaxas account, it seems like the reformation was a huge tidal wave, that consumed all in its path.

So where was God in it all?  Can we, as another Catholic Priest/Reformer of the Church advised, “discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance”?   

Personally, I find this difficult, I get overwhelmed by what seemed impossible to stop, Much like the people of Israel in the time of Zechariah.  It was impossible for them to even think of the restoration of the people (not the nation) Israel.  The people of God who struggle with Him (that;s what Israel means), yet are His people, for He is their God.   Yet the prophet assures them that for God this is not impossible, but it will happen.

God will restore His people, He will call them to His side,, He will call them home together.   It is God’s plan, His desire, His will, that we shouldn’t perish, and that He will call all His people home, together.

So how to grow in faith, in confidence that what God has promised, God will deliver? Even when the darkness seems to overshadow life?  How can I trust, as Joseph did, that God means all of this for good?  From the reformation which shattered the Western Church to arguments which threaten my own denomination today, that God will use these storms to bless those who love Him?

I have to look to the cross, the place where God seems the most vulnerable, even more, vulnerable than when He was in utero in Mary. To look to the cross as Jesus, fully God and fully man, is murdered by those who found God’s inconvenient and bothersome. As He died for all of our sin.  The sin of the Catholics, the Protestants, even the Orthodox.  s He died to cover the sins for those who do not know Him yet, but will as we reveal Him to them.  It is there- when even nature went dark and shook with fear, to realize even in the dark moment, God was at work.  Using the greatest evil Satan could ever con man into doing, turned out to be the greatest of blessings.

As God proved He is Immanuel, God with us.

As I look at a broken and fractured church, on his the supposed anniversary of the Reformation, my hope is in God’s promise, that not one of those in Christ will be lost, that He will call all of us home, and that He will continue to make us a holy people.

Lord, have mercy on us!  Help us to see You in everything we encounter, and in all of History!

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 553-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Still Hear Jesus As We Walk With Him?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
But now in these last days God has spoken to us through his Son. God has chosen his Son to own all things, and through him he made the world. 3 The Son reflects the glory of God and shows exactly what God is like. He holds everything together with his powerful word. When the Son made people clean from their sins, he sat down at the right side of God, the Great One in heaven.  Heb 1:2-3 NCV

I conversed recently with a pastor who was agonizing over the conflict between his head and heart. Even though this person is a well-trained seminary graduate with an appetite to know and teach the Scripture and has a comprehensive view of the Bible, his heart feels empty and dry. “I’ve even attended to the disciplines of spirituality,” he said, “but they don’t do anything for me. I can’t seem to feel what my head knows.”
Eventually this pastor put his finger on the real problem. “I’ve done everything I can to make myself spiritual,” he said, “but nothing seems to work.”…. (a couple of great paragraphs then this critical one:)

I think this pastor and others like him have a hard time connecting head and heart and, as a result, experience the contradiction between what they know and what they feel for two reasons. First, they situate spirituality in something other than God’s embrace. Second, they look for spiritual nourishment outside of the church and its worship.

Martin Luther, in ch. 2 of his commentary on Galatians, says of this argument, “I believe that if believing Jews had observed the Law and circumcision on the condition which the apostles permitted, Judaism would still stand and that the whole world would have accepted the ceremonies of the Jews. But because they argued that the Law and circumcision were necessary for salvation and established their worship on this basis, God could not endure this and therefore He overturned the temple, the Law, the worship, and Jerusalem.”

To walk in hope is to walk next to Jesus in the darkest moments of the cross when things have no explanation and we do not know what is going to happen next.

With the exception of Pope Francis’s account, I could have quoted the entire readings I had today in the other selections. ( Maybe I am sill to put my words beside theirs – but I need to process these things in my own words, which is the real reason I write these words)

I know all too well the danger Luther speaks of, where we take our practices, the rituals and observances we practice and use them to justify our solution.  Hey, I go to church, therefore I am a Christian!  I study the Bible, I spend time in prayer, I even teach others.  That should get me the deluxe mansion in heaven right?  Or at least make sure I get in the door?

THat leads to the burnout that Webber talks about ( I highly recommend his book The DIvine Embrace – probably 50 times he put into words that which I struggle with experiencing, never mind describing!) in these two excerpts from a conversation with a fellow pastor.  I have been there as well – looking for ways to be more spiritual – pushing myself with devotions, punishing myself with the reading of Leviticus, trying to spend hours, (okay half hours) on my knees in prayer.  I know Paul’s misery in Romans 7, and what is worse – when I did do the things I longed to do, they didn’t sustain me, they didn’t make me stronger in my resistance to sin, they didn’t create in my a super preacher that everyone longed to come hear.

When we try to become spiritual on our own, we will fail, because spirituality isn’t the goal, it is a result, really a by-product of our walking with Jesus. Being spiritual is not about our behavior, it is about hearing His voice, of accompanying Him to the darkness of the cross, because there, our darkness is nailed to it, as we are united with His death, and with His resurrection. That is the point that Pope Francis makes, that Webber shares when he encourages his pastor-friend this,

I counseled this minister whose heart felt empty and dry to cease striving to be spiritual and see spirituality as a gift to contemplate. “Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”

This is why Luther could say that if the Jews didn’t count on following the law for the salvation, Jesus and the apostles wouldn’t have taken it away from them. They mistook things that would help them see Jesus, things that could help them walk with Him, for that which proved they were okay with God.

And we do that today, all the time. That’s why some who observe us find our religion empty but still want to know Jesus. The Jesus we know, but try to impress.  We simply need to walk with Him, to delight in His role in our lives, to realize the work He is doing,

For He hears your cry of, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”

And I can tell for sure, His response is heard well in these words, “The Lord IS WITH YOU!”  Amen.

 

 

 

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

 

Setting Aside Sin Evil – Such An Easy Task? Why not?

Devotional Thought for our Days

 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. n In your past, evil life you also did these things.

But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God.   Colossians 3:3-10 NCV

3       My Father—talk to him like that, confidently—who art in heaven, look upon me with compassionate Love, and make me respond to thy love. Melt and enkindle my heart of bronze, burn and purify my unmortified flesh, fill my mind with supernatural light, make my tongue proclaim the Love and Glory of Christ.

“Hallowed be thy name.” 
What does this mean?
A
nswer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
5 How is this done?
Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

Paul’s words are difficult in verse 5, these words we hear as commands, as Law.

Put all evil things out of your life…

This sounds easy – that is until Paul defines it, then defines it more. 

How are you doing with that?  I pray you are doing better at it than I am.

It is a battle. A battle not between Good and Evil with Evil being those opposed to us, it is a battle inside each of us, to turn away from the evil we, to embrace good.  But even this battle is a paradox, for we cannot do this by our own strength or will-power.

When we believe we are the masters of our spiritual development, when we believe we can put all these things out of our life by ourselves, we’ve fallen back into the trap of the evil one. Yet that is what we hear often when we read this passage, it is what our pride focuses upon. 

What does it miss… the embrace of Christ as He died, that embrace that continues through His death to the resurrection.  The beginning of life in Christ, and the being MADE NEW AND ARE BECOMING LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE YOU. 

This is what St. Josemaria is talking about, as he points out a part of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is God who makes us new, it is God who changes us, it is God who separated us from evil and our sin, and is our hope for staying disconnected from it.  (that is not to say He is responsible if we return to it!)  Therefore it is our prayer, our begging God to do what we cannot, even as we realize that He has not only promised this, it is His desire. 

It is our need.

And it is how we let go of the evil that has bound us, as we adore our Lord for what He has done and is doing.  We don’t actually create the separation, we don’t broaden it even, we just leave it behind as the light of the glory of God. His love revealed and realized draws us away from the life we had before.  

We can pray for this, that God would do His work.  Not that He wouldn’t do it if we don’t pray, but that as we pray we would realize God is at work, already doing this to us.  This is what Luther was getting at in the small catechism. We pray this to know what God promised to do, and so we can realize it is being done.

It is being done, let us continue to pray we see Him doing it! 

AMEN!

[1]  From the Small Catechism: edition from Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 242-246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Words That You Need to Hear Me Say, but “I” dont say them.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21  (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” John 20:19-23 (NAB)

So rejoice my friends, based on your confession and your faith in Christ hear these words. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the  † Son and of the Holy Spirit.  adapted from the Lutheran Liturgy, Confession, and Absolution 

22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.

It is necessary to discover anew the meaning of the scandal that enables one man to say to another: “I absolve you from your sins.” In that moment—as, for that matter, in the administration of every other sacrament—the priest draws his authority, not, certainly, from the consent of a man, but directly from Christ. The I that says “I absolve you …” is not that of a creature; it is directly the I of the Lord. I feel more and more uneasy when I hear the facile way in which people designate as “ritualistic”, “external”, and “anonymous” the formerly widespread manner of approaching the confessional.

It does seem scandalous, every Sunday as I stand in from of my parishioners and guests, and dare to forgive their sins.  Who am I to have just a great task.  Or worse, in those times where people aren’t repentant, to hand them over to Satan for a season.   ( 1 Cor. 5:5,  1 Thes. 1:20)  

But who am I to dare tell Joe that his sins are forgiven?  What if he is a man who cheats on his wife, or is verbally abusive toward his co-workers?  What if he’s been stealing and breaking into houses, or cheating on his taxes?  What if he constantly gossips about political figures?

How dare I stand there, look at him, and say, “I forgive your sins…”

Luther has it correct, the focus is not on me, but on you hearing what God desires you to hear.  You are freed from the bondage you put yourself into by sinning.  The eternal consequences have been transferred to Jesus on the Cross, they are not yours.  You need to cherish these words,  value them as life-giving, life-restoring.  It is a spiritual form of CPR and first aid. 

Pope Benedict seems to resonate with these words as well, as he discusses the delegation of Christ’s authority (see Matthew 28:18) to forgive sins is given to the pastor to use, for the benefit of God’s people.  THe “I” there is no longer dustin the sinner, but it is Jesus speaking to you.  

His authority, His message, His decision.

You are forgiven.

It is finished.

For by the stripes Jesus bore, you have been healed!

Rejoice!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

A Forgotten Prayer? A forgotten desire?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
10  Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11  Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12  Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (TEV)

326      Invoke the Holy Spirit in your examination of conscience so that you may get to know God better, and yourself also. In this way, you will be converted each day.

71 The old man therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of his nature if he is not restrained and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he is finally destroyed. This is what it means to plunge into Baptism and daily come forth again.

The words sound familiar, they have been part of the liturgy for centuries,  They were sung over and over in the 80’s and 90’s, as they were one of the beloved praise songs.

Yet I wonder if we’ve forgotten the words, forgotten the consuming desire to be holy. We’ve forgotten the fear and the wonder which comes from finding ourselves on Holy Ground.  

We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not just so we can see miracles and manifestations that are supernatural, but because we need the Holy Spirit to make us Holy, to cut away the shame, the grief, the hatred, the anger to remove from our hearts the sin that so easily oppresses us and robs us of life.

This isn’t something that happens in the theological classroom, it happens in the midst of brokenness, as we realize that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are hopeless.  It is the cry of a heart weary from injustice, from the weakness of our heart in regards to temptation.  

It is both a cry of despair and a cry of that keenest faith.  Despair because we realize what we’ve let fade away, and faith, because we know, to see our hope and joy restored.

The church needs this, each one of us who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ needs this,  More than just a quick prayer at the beginning of our services, or after a sermon that tugs on our heart strings.  Escriva and Luther tie this into the work of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our Baptism (also see Titus 3:2-8), a work that goes on every day of our lives.

That is critical to know and understand – this work of transformation isn’t a simple snap of a finger, although the promises are ours.  This is why Paul tells us to strive, to work out our salvation, why Peter warns us to be on guard because the Devil is wandering about trying to find someone to devour.

Even as I write this blog, names and faces come to mind, people who need to see the Spirit working in their life, bringing them to the point where they are cleansed, where they are healed of their brokenness, where they are comforted because the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming their sin.

SO let us pray, asking God to renew our hearts, asking Him to cleanse us, asking Him to remind us of His presence.

And let us rejoice in our salvation!


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1296-1297). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.  LARGE CATECHISM 

499 Years Later How is YOUR Re-formation Going?

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

499 Years Later
How is YOUR Re-formation Going?

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the mercy of God our Father, poured out on us as we were untied to Jesus in Baptism, be as real, as reforming our lives and God’s church.

Does History Guarantee our Reformation?

There was once a group of people who thought themselves good, who counted their spiritual heritage back across the generations, for they knew God had worked across those generations, and had often preserved His people. They did what they were told would make them holy, they regularly met and celebrated the promises of God. They ignored their sin, often while condemning the sins of others.

It sounds like the descendants of Abraham, doesn’t it?

Could it be said of Lutherans, even Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Lutherans, Even the people that gather here at Concordia Lutheran Church, even those here right now?

I think Jesus’ answer to us would be the same to those Jews who needed to be freed from sin, as He calls us all to be disciples, to remain in the truth He instills in us, to celebrate the truth that indeed sets us free!

To put it in another way, to be able to answer the question,

“499 years later, how is your re-formation going?”

Or do we know that the Holy Spirit is at work, reforming us!

Are we still enslaved to sin?

Jesus told them and told us, that if we are sin, we are enslaved to it, in bondage to it, that it set a trap and caught us in it, a trap we cannot easily escape.  That’s why you can’t escape it at times, or the guilt and shame it can cause.

Ever lay awake at night, wondering why you said or did something, or have it come back to haunt you?  Ever feel the suffocation of shame, as you think, if they only knew how bad I was, they would never forgive?

One article I read said that Luther had an over-active sense of guilt, a by-product of depression, and a burdened soul that created the Reformation to find comfort for his broken soul.

Would we all have souls so hungry to be found righteous, and haunted by our own unrighteousness! Would we all seek out the comfort God offers to those who are broken, and would we all point others, in need of us, to the comfort the cross offers!

For we need relief of being ensnared by sin, we need to hear that we’ve been freed from it, we need to know, in the midst of broken lives and a broken world, that there is peace!

That’s why Jesus points out that in their slavery, they may seem to be part of Abraham’s family, but they are slaves, people without rights, who aren’t part of the family.  They lived in the illusion of it, while still in bondage.  But if they would follow Jesus, if they would walk with Him, learn of Him, and find their place in Him, they would be free.  They would be transformed.

We need to be transformed, which was the hope both the Reformation and the Restoration movements offered.

We need to see our reformation and restoration both personal, and permanent.  To declared us free from the power of sin, freed to become the children of God!

We are part of that family

That was the freedom, the comfort, the relief Luther, and so many before and after found.  In being a disciple, not just someone who learns by sitting in a classroom, but one who walks with Jesus in every aspect of life.  Where we let God form us, even disciplining us as the Holy Spirit works to reform and transform us.

This is what happens at the Cross when we are united to Christ’s death and His resurrection, that is where our personal reformation begins, ever as Paul wrote to Titus.

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—

That is us, back when before this happened>0

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT)

This is the teaching a disciple of Jesus remains in, the fact that He saved us, baptizing us in water and the Spirit, cleansing us from all sin.

That is where our confidence in being part of God’s family comes from!  Not from anywhere else!  That is where our reformation happened, even as it is revealed throughout the rest of our lives, and completed on the day of Christ.

And knowing that leaves us in a place of peace, A peace that is found as we remain in Christ Jesus.  In that peace, we find the stillness needed to know He is God, and we have not only been freed, but we’ve become part of the family.  AMEN!

Prayer: The Required Grace…?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  Just as [under] shorts fit tightly around the waist, so I intended all the people of Israel and Judah to hold tightly to me. I did this so that they would be my people and would bring praise and honor to my name;  but they would not obey me.” Jeremiah 13:11 (TEV)

To pray, as the Second Commandment teaches, is to call upon God in every need. This God requires of us; he has not left it to our choice. It is our duty and obligation to pray if we want to be Christians, just as it is our duty and obligation to obey our fathers and mothers and the civil authorities. By invocation and prayer the name of God is glorified and used to good purpose. This you should note above all so that you may silence and repel any thoughts that would prevent or deter us from praying.  (1) 

For those familiar with Luther, and the Lutheran understanding of Law and Gospel, the words in blue may sound strange and confusing.  This sounds like a harsh use of the law, something that would lead to condemnation, something that is so demanding that all it can lead to is guilt and shame.

For many do not pray as they should! It is overlooked, dismissed as activities that are based in pietism. And if these words were not in Luther’s Large catechism  they would be dismissed.  Instead, I think they are simply ignored.

There is a part of us, the part that doubts God is listening, that doubt God cares, that finds prayer, whether prayers  laying burdens down or hearing from God as we listening in prayer, as we meditate on His word, as burdensome and boring.  We see them as something that saints might do, but by no means required beyond the prayers that are read at church.

Luther realized the necessity (so did Melanchthon – see his comments in Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession! ) of prayer.  But that necessity isn’t borne just of pleasing God.  God didn’t commission us to use His name just so He would be glorified.  The glory comes when we respond to His hearing, to His answering the prayer.  Praise issues from our lips when we realize the comfort and peace the world cannot give, the comfort and peace that is possible only as we realize the merciful serenity that can be experienced in the presence of almighty God.

It is the answer to the cry of our heart that brings us to worship.  This is why prayer is a requirement – because we need this means of grace, we desperately need what it delivers.

It is serendipitous (always wanted to use that word) that on the day I encounter Luther’s words, I encounter the words of the prophet Jeremiah.   For indeed God wants us to know how close to us He is, how close to Him we are!  This is the life of prayer – to cling to God like we are his underwear, as bizarre as that metaphor sounds!  (and oh the comments that could be made…)

We need to be that close, we have to, in order to survive mentally, spiritually, even physically.  For our life begins to spiral out of control as we separate ourselves from our Lord who is our life. We  replace knowing God with knowing about Him, then we replace that knowledge with our own speculation and desires, as we make an idol in our image.

Cling to God, stalk Him, be persistent, wrestle with Him.

For He is our God, our Father.

And a great place to begin is with this little prayer of St Josemaria…..

383      Dear Jesus, I do want to correspond to your Love, but I am so feeble. With your grace, I will know how to!  (2)

AMEN!

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 421). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1501-1503). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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