Devotional Thought of the Day
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene* was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”
42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too. (Lk 18:35–43 NLT)
914 How pitiful are those crowds—high and low and middle-class—without an ideal! They give the impression that they do not know they have souls: they are a flock, a drove, a herd. Jesus, only with the help of your merciful love will we turn the flock into a legion, the drove into an army, and from the herd of swine draw, purified, those who no longer wish to be unclean. (1)
27 The need which ought to be the concern of both ourselves and others is quite amply indicated in the Lord’s Prayer. Therefore it may serve to remind us and impress upon us not to become negligent about praying. We all have needs enough, but the trouble is that we do not feel or see them. God therefore wishes you to lament and express your needs and wants, not because he is unaware of them, but in order that you may kindle your heart to stronger and greater desires and spread your cloak wide to receive many things.
As I hear the words of the gospel, as I picture the blind man there, I would hope to be him. I would hope my church would be like Him as well. I would hope that when we need healing, that nothing would stop us from calling out to God, that nothing would quiet us, that nothing would stand in our way, until was are sure He heard us, and we were confident of the answer. Such is Luther’s point about prayer. God wants to hear them, even if we are the flock that St Josemaria talks of, and we are simply praying that we would no longer be unclean.
I fear that the Church (not just my congregation – the Church as a whole) is often like the crowd that surrounded the poor blind beggar. Rather than hear their cries and carry them to Jesus, we tell them to shut up, to be quiet, to not cause trouble with their cries for help.
Maybe it is because they seem like poor broken beggars, and we forget it is for such Jesus came. (and that we are no better)
Maybe it is because we don’t recognize their cries as cries for help, or that the help they need is something that God can help with? In those cases, we try to drown them out, rather than hear them out, till we see the brokenness and can offer them help and hope.
Maybe it is because we are afraid that if we are called to help them, to bring them to Jesus to be healed, that will somehow require us to reveal our own brokenness, the things we are still struggling to see completely healed.
Maybe it is because we forgot our call is to be pastors, shepherds, ministers, servants, priests. Instead, we may have thought we are executives, entrepreneurs, ranchers, consultants and motivators
We have to stop silencing their cries. We have to have the compassion of those who would point them to Jesus, and point Jesus to them. We have to want them to know the healing we are experiencing.
Even if their brokenness is a threat to our own lives.
We need Jesus to kindle our hearts, to reveal His merciful love through us, to see all of those who are blind to it healed. We need for them to catch the kind of fire Luther so eloquently talks of, as he shares about the Lord’s Prayer. They need to spread their cloaks out wide, to receive the presents that come with His presence. We need to help them..which means we too need to spread our cloaks wide, to call out to Jesus to heal us.
Such is our vocation, not to quiet them from crying out to Him, but to encourage, lift their pleas even louder, to help them know the God, who hears… and heals.
Lord Have Mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 424). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. The Large Catechism
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. 37 “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! 38 On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” Matthew 9:36-38 (MSG)
277 Practise the virtue of hope and, with God as your motive, even when you find it hard, persevere at your work and try to finish it well, convinced that those efforts of yours are not useless in the Lord’s sight. (1)
I learned last week that another one of my students in my lay ministry classes has been accepted into a seminary program. It is a humbling thought, to realize how many guys I have taught over the years are now preparing to be ordained, or are in seminary. Three of them will be ordained in the next 6 months, another went home before he made it. These men all have left careers and embarked on a journey that is harrowing, that will result in being set apart for a life that will demand great sacrifice and large time investments.
Somehow, I was involved in helping them to make such a huge division. ( Of course it might just be, hey if he can do it… we can as well!)
Not only will this vocation demand sacrifices, it will also demand patience, and the wisdom it takes to not only be patient, but to envision the benefit of patient endurance. I put as the title of this blog, a geeky Star Trek reference. But it is one I think both young pastors (and seminarians) and the churches they work with need to understand.
For the churches, a pastor isn’t the transporter tech, as if we can push a button and we can send you to a place where everything is perfect, and you will find happiness and health. For the pastor to help you, you have to let him do more than press a button, or say a prayer during church. Our work is by your side, helping bring Christ’s healing to your lives. Helping give you hope, assuring you of God’s mercy and love. You need not fear us, for unlike the transporter tech we aren’t going to hand you a red shirt and then push the button. (That’s a geek reference – the guys in the original Star Trek who wore red – they never came back, except for Scotty)
For the pastors, you can’t shepherd at a distance, you have to be there with the sheep. You will get dirty, your time won’t be your own, you will worry about these people. You’re time will not be your own, you will spend many hours in study for the joy of seeing people amazed by God’s grace. You will be in the mud of politics, you will see the human spirit broken and crushed, you will deal with self-righteousness, and people who will set themselves over God. You will witness them determining what is good and right in their eyes, despite God calling it sin. You will wish for that transporter/time travel button at least once a week, and phasers set to stun (and sometimes kill!) You want to help, but you have to realize, that we call it spiritual growth, spiritual development for a reason.
We have to be there, shepherds called and set in place by God. Given this responsibility, and the work to do will demand more than we are capable of, save that God is the one empowering us, and guarding our hearts and mind, even as He does with out people.
There is a reward though, when we see them baptized, when we nourish them with Christ’s body and blood, when we see them rejoice as the incredible measure of God’s love is seen, even in part, by His people. For our efforts aren’t useless in the Lord’s sight, for He assures the work of His word.
It is an awesome thing to see men answer the call, to see their hearts’ break, as the they go to work in the harvest and care of souls. May many many more come…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1129-1131). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion Thought of the day:
5 I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6 an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7 For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8 He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it. Titus 1:5-9 (TEV)
George Weigel, in the book I am finding more and more remarkable, continues on his list (which I commented on 2 points of last week) for the standards for priests:
3. If this priest has been primarily engaged in parish work, have his parishes grown through his ministry? If his principal work has been in a seminary, college, or university, have his students flourished under his guidance, spiritually as well as intellectually?
4. How does this priest celebrate Holy Mass, in specific and concrete terms? Does his liturgical ministry lead those in his pastoral charge into a deep experience of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension? Does his manner of leading the Church in liturgical prayer honor the baptismal dignity of his congregants? Is he regularly found with his people in Eucharistic adoration?
5. How many men have entered the seminary under this priest’s guidance? How many women have entered consecrated religious life through his influence? Does he foster holy marriages and stable Catholic families that are themselves “little churches”? Does he encourage lay movements of Catholic renewal? Does he guide popular piety well? Does he promote frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance, and does he devote significant time to his ministry as a confessor? Does he encourage his people to read the Bible daily? Is he, in other words, a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself?
Obviously, there are a few differnces in terminology and practice between men who are Lutheran pastors and Roman Catholic Priests. (for example – while many of us will meditate on the passion of Christ and confess it is Christ’s Body and Blood, we don’t have a service of Eucharistic Adoration) this lists thrills me, and yet… well…. let’s just say I am convicted by it – especially point 5.
But a pastor/priest of whom these things are true, is one people will entrust their souls to, as the one appointed/ordained to care for them, a call of God, recognized through the church. They will confess their sins to him, and receive absolution ( I do need to devote more time to make myself available for this) I love the prahsem, “a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself.” Such a man is one whom can be what old Lutherans calls a seelsorge – the caretaker of the soul.
We desperately need that, these days. Recent events and conversations in my life more that confirm it, and to me it ticks me off, until I ask the same about me. Are my people willing to let me care for their souls? Have they grown to know I will be there for them, that I will speak to them God’s mercy – with more zeal and energy and desire? Will they also be encouraged to walk with God, forsaking all that would be the world’s preference? Will they lay down their worries, their burdens and concerns as I encourage them? They need it, we are the ministers of the gospel, the good news… need to provide these encounters with Christ where they will see His love revealed to them….
Will they grow in trust of God, will their dependence on His love and mercy and presence deepen?
It’s not all up to me, I know this… and God will work, even through my errors. (although that is no excuse)
But do i desire to see my people know what I’ve known?
Yesterday, a dear friend came and spoke to some pastors in my area. He talked of coping with a family member who was significantly challenged. And he spoke of his own battles with darkness. In the middle of his self-disclosure and hope in Chirst, he quoted this passages.
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT)
Lord, Have Mercy on us, that we might show that comforting mercy to others….and have mercy that they will desire it more and more! AMEN!
Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 122-123). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me…so Why?”
† In Jesus Name †
As you give your lives as a living sacrifice to God, as you are equipped by the Holy Spirit’s gifting in your lives, never forget that for you as well is the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Burden of the Call
We So want to see the evidence – to know it has been fulfilled!
It always amazes me, how the man made schedule of readings God is able to use. The Sunday I am preaching to those apostello’d – those sent not just by the LCMS but by God to share His message – the gospel reading is about Jesus taking up the burden of His being apostello’d – of His being sent.
Not that you and I have the same burden as Jesus did – or even that of the original 12 plus Paul – but we do share in that burden – you are as surely sent here as God sent them. Whether you are GEO’s or doing life… err lifetime missionaries or accompanying spouse – or the children – you are all here because God has brought you here.
We look at Jesus taking up His burden as the primary, the first apostello. As He reads the prophecy that points out this very thing in Isaiah – hear these words, not just descriptive of His call – but of your call – because you are united to Him.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The year of the Lord’s favor – the year, when God descreed every debt cancelled, that every bill was paid in full – that everything is restored to its rightful place- including us. The year of jubilee.
I know when I left the University I worked at – to enter “full-time” ministry, I thought of all those things happenin – all the people that would come to know Jesus, all the wonderful – even miraculous things that would occur – and how God’s people would praise Him… as they saw His love.
But then the questions arise
Who are you – anyway?
We even may think they are out to crucify you
If they are – so what?
That was 15 years ago – nearly 20 if you count my time as a “part-time” minister. Gonna be a little honest – I think more of my time has been like Jesus’ first service and sermon. So excited to share God’s call to everyone to enjoy the freedom of Christ.. and I quickly fade as people start questioning me – and while they haven’t picked up stones yet……
It seems like that sometimes – not enough eyes that are blind to the gospel open them – or those who hear that they are free from the bondage of sin, stay in the familiar cells that they have become comfortable to – afraid of venturing out into the reality of God’s love. Some have questioned me – not the – “aren’t you Joseph’s son”, but the same question, who are you to tell me I am a sinner in need of God’s grace?
I have to admit – I look at myself far more often than the message I am entrusted to bear. I don’t always hear it for myself first, and so I find myself condemned in the eyes of those I am called to bring it to, those who it is so evident that they need it.
I end up feeling crushed – I end up wanting to go home – to find a little cabin in the mountains of new Hampshire, on a nice quiet lake with a awesome internet connected, and finish out my life canoeing, playing piano and guitar and World of Warcraft.
IT is then, that the law has afflicted me… and I need to be comforted by the very message I bring. Having talked to a number of folk since I landed in Asia ten days ago, I am not the only one.
We have to know the news we bring… just not know – but know. We have to hear it from Him!
As good LC-MS Lutherans – we may have heard the phrase once or twice about proper Law and Gospel tension – Afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin.
I get the feeling that most of you are as in need of that comfort as I am. Ou wonder why wasn’t there 100 baptisms or even ten, or just one, to witness recently. You want to blame someone, lest you have to blame yourselves. Our “Leaders” are really easy targets. If only they would… then I could see the kinds of results I thought I would.
We who serve in the temple – so need to stop and remember that we are the temple – that God’s spirit is with us here – wherever here is. The love we want people to know – we need to meditate on it, dwell in it, rest and be strengthened by it.
When we want to go on our way – to escape the crowd as Jesus did we need to realize He went on His way for us, and indeed through us! As He walked through that crowd, the way He went, the way He chose to go on, was to that cross to did for us, that we could die with Him in baptism, that we could rise with Him.
That is why I am so greatful to end my stay this way – serving you – calling you to remember what I have failed to remember so many times. That while we share Christ’s calling, we aren’t Christ. The work doesn’t depend on us, or those holding us back. No one can separate us from His love, for we are His called one, His loved ones.
When I proclaimed your sins forgiven, and when you proclaimed mine forgiven, did you hear that? That you are cleansed of all your sin and all unrighteousness?
When we pray together the Lord’s prayer – do you hear yourself correctly addressing God as your Father? Do you hear what Jesus has taught you to ask for, to pray for, knowing it is the Father’s will to give you all these things?
When you hear the words “for you” during the words of institution, do you get that it is for you… you?
Know this – you have been called and sent into… called and apostell’d to this place. But you haven’t been sent alone, you have been sent with Him – not just His message – but with Him.
For you are His, as the song said – bought with the precious blood of Christ.
So as you serve – as you are tempted with loneliness, know that is never true… but you are in Christ… with Christ…
And he is keeping, guarding your hearts and minds in the glorious peace of God, the peace that goes beyond understanding, the peace that is the Father’s.
The peace that is yours.