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The Substance of our Message, our Ministry

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: 29  for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 (ASV)

1   I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul! 2  Wake up, my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun. 3  I will thank you, O LORD, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 4  Your constant love reaches above the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies. Psalm 108:1-4 (TEV)

A woman phoned our convent in Vancouver and said ‘I am a Witness of Jehovah and lately I am getting a strong interior message to go inside a Catholic Church; can I come to see you?’ She came. As I walked into the Church ahead of her, towards the tabernacle, thinking of how to explain the red candle, etc. Suddenly she screamed loudly and ran out of the Church. I also ran to see what was happening and she shouted: ‘God is in there! God is in there!’

Never, ever, should they think that they have completed learning these parts of the catechism or know them well enough, even though they think right away that they know them all too well. For even if they learned and knew all these things perfectly (which is, of course, impossible in this life), they would still, in any case, find it useful and profitable to read it daily and incorporate it into their meditations and conversation. For the Holy Spirit itself is present during such reading, conversing, and meditating and always gives more and new light and devotion. Thus it tastes better and better and is digested, as Christ also promises in Matthew 18[:20], “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

He points the way to Holy Scripture and reveals it as the center from which every perplexity of interpretation is to be resolved. He points the way to the word of God, to the primordial words that are preserved in the third and fifth books of Moses—words about the love of God and neighbor. When we hear these words, we observe first of all that they begin, not with a commandment, but with a profession of faith in something that is already known. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mk 12:29). It is the core of Israel’s belief, and Jesus makes it the fundamental core of Christian belief as well. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Every one of these words is important. Before doing comes hearing—comes acceptance of reality. Man is a being that answers. If we are to act rightly, our gaze must first be pure and our ear open. It is impossible to act rightly without truth.

I wonder, if after our church services, our people reflect the attitude seen in Psalm 108. Do they have confidence in God, are they desiring to praise Him more, to lay all of their burdens down and trust in Him.

If they aren’t, we have to re-examine the words of our sermons, the songs and hymns we sing, the way we worship, the way we teach our Bible studies, the way and the amount of time we spend in preparation, and more importantly, prayer.

Do people run from our sanctuaries, from our Bible studies, from our prayer meetings, screaming that God is “in there.” (Hopefully from joy!)

Or do they come, week after week, finding some rest, but not finding out they are loved by God, not experiencing the love that is too great to understand, that they can barely begin to explain?

As Luther points out, do we think we know it all, that they have learned the curriculum? Or are they, like the old hymn noted, “hungering and thirsting to hear it (the new of God’s love, of His presence) like the rest?

We need to teach this with authority, not from the point of observation, but from the point of experience. To be able to share that our God, the Lord, is One, that He is here. As Pope Benedict urged, we need to hear, before we can work. For that leads to an eye witness testimony, that leads to hearts that actually adore the God we sing the praises of, that leads to beginning to be overwhelmed by the love.

Whether we are the pastor, or the person who cleans up communion, or the visitor who doesn’t have a clue about the service, each person who walks into our sanctuaries needs to encounter God. As we leave those holy places, the people we encounter need to see the glory of God, reflected from us. They find that encounter, as they encounter those who have encountered God, rather than just learned about Him.

That is why the sacraments are so essential! That is why our sermons have to expose God’s grace, in all its beauty, in all its unbridled power, in all of the holiness. This is why spending time with each other, caring more about each other, comes more naturally after encountering God. As Paul shared,

Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. Colossians 1:27 (MSG)

We need to help each other see this. That is why we gather…this is what we do… and then watch as people run screaming for joy, as they encounter God.



Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 180). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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.) (pp. 186–187). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist 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.) (p. 239). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Billy Joel’s Piano Man: A Parable of Ministry.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
25  God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26  This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:25-29 (NLT)

4      Christ, who went up to the Cross with his arms wide open, with the gesture of the Eternal Priest, wants to count on us—who are nothing!—to bring to all men the fruits of his Redemption.

It always has been my favorite piece of music, more than any classical piece, more than any hymn or praise song.  It describes the joy of musician doing what he does best, in the words of the manager, “he knows that it’s me that they are coming to see, to forget about life for a while…”  ( I would make the point that it does not forget about life, but finding it, that makes the piano man’s music draw them)

It starts with an old man’s request, “son, can you play me a melody, I’m not really sure how it goes, but it’s sad, and its sweet, and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger man’s clothes.”

I think much of what we do as pastors, as preachers, our ministry to those already in the church is that very thing – bringing back into people lives the melody of the gospel, something they knew well, but that life drowns out.  For the people who sit in our churches need to hear that gospel just as much as the person in the bar listening to a man play piano.

Of course, this preaching and teaching goes beyond our church doors, as St Josemaria tells us, we need to bring this message of the fruit of redemption to every man and woman.  The one in church, the crowd around the bar,  the one in the hospital or jail, the one in boot camp, or in a refugee camp, or even in the terrorist camp; they all need to hear of this hope, the hope of glory found in realizing Christ lives with us, in us.

It is this message that makes the difference; it is the message that brings to them life, that will present them perfect to God.

So why do we mess around with other messages?  Why do we throw them back to the world without the hope found when we realize the life we have Christ?  Why do we put our hope, not in Christ but in the latest theories about how churches can be successful?  Or in the latest thing that gives our people a sense of peace financially, or as a family, or who to back in a political election, as if they will make the changes that will make life alive.  Those theories are nice, and have their place, but they will be found to be empty in a year or two, or at least within a decade or generation.

There is only one melody, one message that will bring the comfort and peace….to the bartender, to the sailor, to the waitress practicing politics, to the business trying to get stoned…

The message of Christ,

May we struggle as Paul did, to teach and preach this Christ, working with all that we have, depending upon Christ whose power works within us.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 246-248). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ministry in the Spirit

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

” I pray every day with all my heart that God may give us the gift of tongues. Such a gift of tongues does not mean knowing a number of languages, but knowing how to adapt oneself to the capacities of one’s hearers. It’s not a question of “saying foolish things to the crowd so that they understand”, but of speaking words of wisdom in clear Christian speech that all can understand.” (1)

Yesterday, my sermon talked of how we boldly and with confidence enter the presence of God Almighty.  How we go there, without division – and how this incredible plan of God – to make us all HIs people, is something that it is a privilege to share.

Whether you completely agree with the concept above, in this day where language barriers appear to be broken ( how much of the world speaks either Spanish, Mandarin or English?) the language barriers aren’t as broken as we think.   It still takes, not only translating the Bible out of Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic/Latin, but also into a language, the language that people speak, the language that they really hear. Such is the challenge of a multi-cultural society – one that is different, not just based on ethnicity, but also economic, regional, age, musical (yes I believe this is a major aspect of culture that divides us) etc.  Our language, though it may seem common, is loaded with words that have different meanings.

I think most of us struggle with this, when it comes to personal conversation – we just assume people know the words that we have used for so long – words like redemption or faith, or baptism, or who Jesus is. ( most people think He came to show us how to live…) There is a lot to “unpack” for the people we minister to, those inside and outside (for the moment) of the church.  We need to assume that people don’t know our language.  But this is true for our gatherings as well – we need to ensure people feel comfortable with asking questions, and we need to continually, whether we have more traditional worship and Bible Studies, or more contemporary styles of worship.  ( people even then don’t know what to do, or when… they can feel out of place there as well!)

We have to remember, that this freedom, this grace, this mercy we live in, is so incredible, and so open to all!  And we have the great privilege to see God’s work, amazingly, through us – as we trust in His guidance, and rejoice in His presence… as we invite others to come with us. Paul talked of this plan of God – to bring us into the presence of God… Peter did as well..

 9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

May we this week – consider how we pray, that not only would God have mercy on us, but on those whom we encounter, and may we be instruments that communicate His word, the revelation of His plan for them in Christ.

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2334-2337). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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