Devotional 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!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 553-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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.
Devotional Thought for our Days
Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. 4 Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. 5 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. 6 These things make God angry. n 7 In your past, evil life you also did these things.
8 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. 9 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?
Answer: 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!
 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.
Devotional 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!
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.
Devotional 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?
† 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!
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)
(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.
Devotional/Discussion Thought fo the Day:
7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)
7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)
1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)
1 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.
1 Peter 1:1-2 (NLT)
356 The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)
In Lutheran Theology, the Article of Justification has a primary place. Indeed, some call it the chief article of the faith. But that doesn’t mean that it is the only article of the faith
It is a genesis point, a point of beginning, and God’s declaration of our righteousness is something that continues in our life. It is hearing this declaration that enabled the disciples to walk away from family and work, and follow Jesus. His call to them, even as He calls us. But even in Luther’s explanation of the Creed we see that it is a beginning point, that God works something more in us.
But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. (2)
It is work, the enlightenment, the sanctification and preservation that brings Paul and Peter to describe the people of God as holy, as saints (the same thing in Greek) Were they perfect from our perspective? No, but God was sanctifying them, and creating in them a perfection that no one can deny.
While we don’t make ourselves holy, there is the nature of self-examination that helps us realizing that the Holy Spirit is at work. As the Spirit confronts us, illuminates those things which our heart could easily turn into our idols. It might not be something that people would normally think of as an idol, but what do we trust in, what can we not live without. Where does our hope balance upon, and if that is threatened, we react strongly, even vehemently, to protect it. Do we believe something may make a difference, that only it can make a difference? Then we have made a god and idol and given it a place in our heart that need be reserved for God.
And it is as we examine our conscience, as we look for that which is not set apart from God, that we can cry out like the blind man, “Lord have mercy!”, “Lord, Son of David, Heal me!”
Faith is the confidence it takes to ask God to remove it, to remove that which mars the holiness He has declared to be true. Faith means we depend on the Holy Spirit to create in us the repentant spirit that is part and parcel of our being declared righteous, being declared justified. Faith realizes that we’ve been united, that we are in communion with Jesus. That his incredible union, our baptismal gift from God, is strengthened as we spend sacred time, participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist, hearing we are absolved of our sin, reading and hearing scriptures and meditating on all these things.
This is our life saints… to cry out for mercy, and to trust God as He purifies our lives, a work that is brought to completion in the day of Christ.
Justification is primary, yes, as in the beginning. It is not all the work of God in our lives, just that which begins and makes the rest possible including the amazing fact that we can love God, and He would know that love. For this purpose we have been created… to love our God, and to know His love for us, His people.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 From the very beginning the Word was with God. 3 Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. 4 The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. 6 God sent his messenger, a man named John, 7 who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light. 9 This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on all people. 10 The Word was in the world, and though God made the world through him, yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own country, but his own people did not receive him. 12 Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. 13 They did not become God’s children by natural means, that is, by being born as the children of a human father; God himself was their Father. 14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.
John 1:1-14 (TEV)
“Our desire to advance in theological knowledge, in sound, firm Christian doctrine is sparked , above all, by the will to know and love God. It likewise stems from the concern of a faithful soul to attain the deepest meaning fo the world, seen as coming from the hands of God. “( St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is passing By)
I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. (Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism)
Theology has the hardest job of any science.
Yeah, you read that right, I called theology a science. It is a logos; it seeks to exist in the world of logic and reason, of in-depth study and observation. It is full of hypotheticals, and that which is proven, though we argue about which things fall into which categories.It has to balance general revelation with documents which claim to be specific revelation from a divine, omniscient source. It is up to us to discern which books are divine, which are simply good, and which are absolutely false. Just for clarification sake, “us” is inclusive of people of every time, and of nearly every culture, from every continent, with no special wisdom given to those of any particular heritage.
The problem is that Theology has failed miserably, because theologians on every part of every spectrum have forgotten the basic reason for the existence of theology. Some still get it, but they are marginalized, more about them later! Unlike other sciences, theology has long ceased to benefit humanity; it seeks simply for a truth divorced from meaning.
The reason for this is that theologians distance themselves from the objective, expressed by St. Josemaria Escriva as to know and love God. This should be the Theologian’s greatest joy, to do what Paul prayed for, for all the people of God.
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)
This is where a theologian lives, it is where a theologian would thrive, and it is as the theologians share the wonder and joy of knowing this love, that a theologian learns to know and love God, and where the theologian begins to understand the deepest meaning for this world. It is where John 1:1-14 goes from being nice philosophy to something that is mind-blowing and life-altering.
It is where theology becomes the science which benefits people, those who hear and listen and end up becoming the children of God.
That is what theology is for, that is why we preach, that is why the church sacrifices all it has to make known the love of God.
May theologians from every culture, every language remember why they are called to this task. Our existence is predicated on knowing and loving God, and as we return to that, knowing His love for us, may we see the Breath of Life empower and guide our efforts.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 “I have been the LORD your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior. 5 I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. 6 But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me. Hosea 13:4-6 (NLT)
Being wise with someone else’s head … is, to be sure, inferior to being wise oneself, but it is infinitely superior to the sterile pride of one who does not achieve the independence of being wise himself, yet at the same time despises the dependence of one who believes on the word of another.” The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility. (1)
When we read something brilliant, and quickly begin to use ti to judge and condemn others, I pray we begin to first use the same standard to judge ourselves.
As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, (those are the ones in green) I immediately thought of those who dismiss scripture. Some of those are outside the church, who look at stories of miracles and cannot believe them. Others are those inside the church who examine scripture with a scientific mindset, looking to judge whether this passage is valid, or that passage is not really accurate historically. `Both place themselves as the final judge and jury over the word of God.
But that is a temptation for every person, conservative or liberal, confessional or missional. We see it when we apply the text to others, and not to ourselves. We see it when we treat the scriptures from a perspective that is academic, as if it is the greatest theological treatise. When we want to create a system out of the scriptures and use it to put God in a box.
I see this in myself all too often, as I approach the incredible wealth of the scriptures, mining it, being in awe of the words, and forgetting their purpose, that they are the means, not the end. For it is easy to focus on the study and not the prayer and times of intimacy with God that reflecting on them should create. We can, in the name of God, studying His word, become proud, and forget Him, even as we study His revelation to us.
It is when we forget that He is revealed, His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people that we end up being proud, that we see ourselves as the authority, not the supplicant.
Luther catches us when we get to this point and reminds us of what it means for God to be God. He tells us we can creep and cling to God, that we can approach Him in the sure knowledge of the hope He has given us, that He will respond, that He will love and cleanse, that He will heal us.
That’s the ends, for us to realize that He is our God, that we are His people. In Him we find rest, and that is what the scriptures are there to teach us, to reveal to us, to assure us of. That is what the covenants describe, it is what Law and Gospel drive us to, it is the reason for the cross. There is no other end of the discussion that is valid. For here is our hope:
We are His people. HE is our God. And as scripture tells us,
“But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. “ John 20:31 (NLT)
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 166–167). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(2) Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Part First: The Ten Commandments”.