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Who is Your Man?
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace, allowing you the chance to look around, and see others need for that comfort and peace!
Who is “this man”… for you?
As they settled down for dinner, all attention was on Jesus, the “honored” guest.
I say “honored” that way, because the Greek is clear, they were on guard, not sure about what he was going to say. They had heard cool things about His ministry, the miracles, the crowds. But they also heard about the concerns, that people had claimed he was a blasphemer, that there had been mobs that had tried to stone him, and that many of the pharisees stood against them, perhaps even the one who invited him this night!
and off in the back, was a man no one noticed.
How he had gotten there, it doesn’t say. The pain levels he was encountering were severe. Whether the swollen legs were cause by heart failure, or by blood clots, or diabetes, we don’t know. But they didn’t have water pills in those days, and his legs were many times larger than they should be.
Even still, he was there, this man that was overlooked, and not one noticed.
Except Jesus. He did, and despite the opposition, he performed a miracle, and healed this man!
Which brings us to
my sermon question for this day.
If we apply this passage to your life, who is “your” man? Who is the person in need that you are overlooking? Who is in need? Into whose life had God drawn you, so that you could help them?
The Parable and the Man
After Jesus heals the man, he sends him off. Then he talks to the pharisees and the experts in religion about what He had done and whether it was kosher to do it on the Sabbath. They had a paradox to work through, an ethical dilemma. Minister to someone in need, and break man’s interpretation of God’s law, or obey God’s law and leave the man in pain and in danger of dying?
They can’t answer.
So Jesus tells the parable, and gives them direction. We need to realize that Jesus wasn’t changing the subject, this is the same context, the same conversation.
So who is the more distinguished person Jesus advises everyone to leave the best seat for?
Looking at the text of the entire passage, I think it is the man who is hurting, the one whose body is broken. The reason I say this is the words from verse fourteen,
Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
The most distinguished people in God’s way of thinking, are those in need. Whether it is because they are physically broken, mentally broken, or spiritually broken by sin and its partners, guilt and shame, these are the people that have value in God’s mind.
For when you care
for them, you are caring for Jesus
I mentioned those broken by sin, by guilt and shame. I think we need to examine how we treat those people. I am not just talking about sinners like murderers and rapists, I am talking about those who have trouble with envy, or gossip, lust, or using God’s word in the wrong way, to curse or swear. We can add those who don’t use God’s name to praise or pray to Him as well, or who run to other gods, like drugs or sex or work, rather than depend on God to bring healing to their brokenness.
They are the people, these people that are broken and crushed by the weight of sin, that we need to be aware of, that we need to see, that we need to serve. They are the people that we need to invite to feast, and it was for such people that this place, this altar was put here.
Not for people who think they have a right to them
But for those who are broken, for those who are sinners
For you and I…
The Gospel – for Jesus, “this man” is for you
You see, you and I can have several roles in this story. Far too often, we are like the ones who try to get the best seats in the house. That needs to stop! We can be like Jesus, seeing those who need to see and hear and find healing. That should be our goal, and every single one of us needs to become accustom to seeing and inviting those God is preparing, those who God would see us help.
But before we are ready to imitate Jesus, we all need to see our role in this story as being the man with the swollen arms and legs, the man who is broken and needs healing.
The sinner who Jesus comes to and says, “Friend, we have a better place for you!”
We have to realize that is where we start, and as you come to communion this morning, hear Jesus’s voice calling to you, bringing you here, and remember that He is healing your brokenness.
For that is why He died on the cross, to take than sin from us. That is why we united to His death and resurrection in baptism. That is why the book of Hebrews echo’s Jesus invitation,
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)
My friends, we need to think through what He’s done, to remember this death we proclaim every time we commune, to remember the forgiveness that is ours because His blood was shed for us.
As we look around this room, and around our community, looking for these broken people God values, may we never forget He looked around, saw us broken, and invited us to dine with Him. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (TEV)
Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.
Even more upsetting, the devil can take your best works and reduce them to such dishonorable and worthless things and render them so damnable before your conscience that your sins scare you less than your best good works. In fact, you wish you had committed grievous sins rather than done such good works. Thus, the devil causes you to deny these works, as if they were not done through God, so that you commit blasphemy.
That is why it is important to learn and practice all one’s life long, from childhood on, to think with God, to feel with God, to will with God, so that love will follow and will become the keynote of my life. When that occurs, love of neighbor will follow as a matter of course. For if the keynote of my life is love, then I, in my turn, will react to those whom God places on my path only with a Yes of acceptance, with trust, with approval, and with love.
In the movie Jerry MaGuire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character lashes out Tom Cruise’s character with the phrase, “show me the money!” Except it is not about money. It is a plea for Tom’s character Jerry to show how important the relationship is, that it isn’t just about the money that can be made from negotiating a deal.
Inside the Christian faith, our actions often speak louder than our words. They testify as to whether the words we say are true, or whether we are those who call out “Lord! Lord!” and yet don’t have a solid relationship with the Lord, in fact,t hey don’t have a relationship at all.
It is not about our works, it is not about the obedience, it is about the relationship. Works simply testify that the relationship exists. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, we think with God, we feel with God, and love follows as a matter of course! That love causes action, it creates the work, but the work is never apart from the presence of God.
We know we aren’t saved by works (the Lutheran phrase based on Ephesian 2:8-10) and there is nothing we do that merits salvation, it all depend on the grace of God which precedes anything (which is the way the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent put it in Session Vi chapter V)) Yet the faith that depends on God for salvation will result in praise and worship – the latter being what we do with out lives.
Luther’s concern in the green text above must be heard, if we are to understand his version of “Faith Alone.” He isn’t denying the believer can do good works, or encouraging them to not even bother with the idea. Our good works, done in communion with Jesus Christ, are to be encouraged, extolled, and the glory given to God, whose light we are simply reflecting by those works. An attitude that denied this, that caused us to view the our good works with disdain Luther considered influenced by Satan!
As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession puts it, these works are the result of the impulses the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. This doesn’t sound like we are denying that the Christian can do good works, does it?
And that is the point we need to clarify, that we need not be afraid of trying to do something the Holy Spirit is driving us towards. It my be simple, like holding the hand of someone struggling with old age and being feeble. It may be sitting and reading the catechism with a child, helping them to know God’s love. It could be something different, like heading to Africa or Asia on a mission trip. It could be… well, you fill in the blank. What is God calling you to do?
Then do it, and we can both rejoice in the faithfulness of God, who is close enough to you to put that idea on your heart, and give you the desire and ability to see it through! AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 124.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 212–213.
Joseph Ratzinger, 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), 276.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. 2 The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’S splendor, see his greatness and power. 3 Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. 4 Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…”
Isaiah 35:1-4b (TEV)
At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things. Yet, not knowing them even now, they go to baptism and the sacrament and use everything the Christians have, even though those who go to baptism should by right know more and have a more complete understanding of all Christian teachings than children and pupils chasing their ABC’s. To be sure, for the common crowd, we have not gone farther than the three articles,16 which has been the custom from ancient times in Christendom, but seldom rightly taught and practiced.
Once when I arrived at a new mission, fresh from experience of painful and humiliating failure, feeling heavy and useless; on the first day my Superior introduced me to a man we were caring for. He immediately took my hand and led me to another, who was dying. He said; ‘Norman, we have a new Sister and she understands us’. In that moment, I became aware of how my own personal sufferings bonded me to them in their suffering. I saw the cross as precious, a sign of greater love. Miracles happen in the times of our greatest sufferings. This is true even if we do not suffer well.
As a pastor, I love what Luther encourages (the purple quote) that the head of the household invest time in building up the faith of those in his care. Not only those who are his children, but those he works with, who are his “employees”. He does so, not by lecturing, but by questioning them, helping determine the places where they need to grow.
It is a different form of “teaching” a form that must be different, for what is being taught is different. It is not doctrine that is being taught, but faith. It is not data, but that we can trust and depend on Jesus, and on the Holy Spirit who is active in our lives. It is something that is experienced not just memorized, it is something that is shared with those we love, not just drilled into them.
It is what Isaiah refers to, the lessons of faith that enable us to see the Lord’s glory, which is actively giving strength to the tired hands, and the trembling weak knees, It is the life lived within the truth that discouragement is not conquered by determination and inner-strength, but rather in the fact that God has come to rescue us.
That is what the young nun realized, as she went to minister to those who were suffering. That is what the moms and dads, the employers, the teachers are called to “teach” by asking the questions that reveal the lack of knowledge of God’s presence and His work in our lives, for that is what is revealed in word and sacraments. It is that work, that love that causes us to trust, to depend on, to have faith in God.
Is this what we teach? Is it what we work and guide people in developing? Is it what those we count as mentors and pastors, teachers and “fathers” in the faith give to us? Will we/they walk alongside those (including us) understanding the broken, for we have seen God work in our brokenness?
Will at the end of the day, and at the end of life, they know they can depend on God, for they know His presence?
If they do, then we have taught them well…
Lord Jesus, help us to teach those who are part of our “homes”, the people who are family by blood, and those who are just family. Help us stimulate their trust in You, asking them the questions that help them find themselves in Your presence, and rejoice in Your caring work in their lives. AMEN!
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. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 185). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Here on Mount Zion the LORD Almighty will prepare a banquet for all the nations of the world—a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine. 7 Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow that has been hanging over all the nations. 8† The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The LORD himself has spoken.
9 When it happens, everyone will say, “He is our God! We have put our trust in him, and he has rescued us. He is the LORD! We have put our trust in him, and now we are happy and joyful because he has saved us.” Isaiah 25:6-9 GNT
Though we cannot fix anything, the presence of Jesus lightens the burden of the Poor and gives them strength. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to approach the Poor with the gentleness, mercy and delicacy of Jesus Himself. We need humility to listen, lest we go to them with ‘solutions’, having no idea what pains and wounds are in each heart. Our every word or gesture can bring light and joy into a heart, or they can increase the darkness and pain. That’s why we need Jesus!
We do fail, and I never stop placing all my failures into His Sacred Heart and plunging them into His precious wounds where He alone can redeem and make all things new.
At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things.
There is a part of every person that longs to be a superhero, a crusader to fix that which is wrong, and make it right. Sometimes that aspecto of our personality is dimmer and even blotted out by failure. Other times, the crusade we choose is too large, and we learn we can’t fix the world.
Other times, we try to lead the horse to water, and make it drink, but it will not do so, and that frustrates us. We do everything right, we assume, but it doesn’t work. Sometimes that is because the horse is stubborn, other times it is because the horse isn’t thirsty, but rather it is hungry, or it needs rest. An example, often as a hospice chaplain, I watched doctors try to find cures for people that were terminally ill. They never gave up trying to cure them. However, if they were able to help the person cope with the pain, often the person would die in great peace, and sometimes, their bodies would do what the doctor couldn’t. With all the good intent and sincerity, their hope
It is as the nun wrote above, we need the humility to go and listen, to go with an attitude of gentleness and mercy, and with great delicacy. For there are often far to often, wounds and pains which we cannot see, that need to be addressed before we can address the problems we see.
So how do we overcome this crusading mentality? How do we find the patience and the humility to allow the brokeness, that poison that destroys souls to be drawn out?
I think is starts with remembering the end game. To recall the promises Isaiah wrote down, inspired by God. We need to remember that not only does he dry away the tears and provides, but He is the one who delivers us. Depending on that leads us, eventually, to realize that Has this day, and the person we hope to help, in His glorious loving hands.
Often our best option is simply to do as Luther advised, to share with those we are responsible for (great question there) the love of God revealed in the basic creeds, to reveal His presence, to reveal His care, His mercy and His delicate patience in bringing s to wholeness, and to health. In the process we help them discover it, not forcing it, but asking the questions that will lead them deeper into a relationship.
As this happens, we find out how to address their poverty, whatever that poverty truly is, as we see God already doing this. We simply learn to walk with them, addressing where we can, but primarily serving to remind them of the presence of God.
If you want to change the world, this is how it is done, by being there as God changes their world, and yours.
Lord Jesus, give us the patience to see that the issue we want to help with isn’t always the issue that they are ready to see You bring healing to in their lives. Help us to realize as well, that all “fixes” are actually your responsibility, and our role is to remind them of Your presence, Your love, and that You are at work in their lives. AMEN
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 183). 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. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ.d God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
6 In our work together with God, then, we beg you who have received God’s grace not to let it be wasted. 2† Hear what God says:
“When the time came for me to show you favor,
I heard you;
when the day arrived for me to save you,
I helped you.”
Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; today is the day to be saved! 2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 GNT
13 Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. 14 As a matter of fact, it may save their lives. Pr. 23:13-14 GNT
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
As I read the words from St Paul that are the first quote above, the words of Shakespeare’s Henry 5th came to mind. From readings about Sir Horatio Nelson, who had his band of brothers who stood by him, and later in the annals of the Star Trek: The Next Generation, as a Frenchman mouthed those words to an American #1, a Klingon Security officer, a Blind engineering officer and.. an Android named Data.
While I am not sure of the romanticized brotherhood of Henry V, or of Nelson, and certainly Picard’s is fictional, I have seen sch brotherhood in action. In the Marines I have known when I served near 29 Palms, in the Sherriff’s Deputies who I have had the blessing to stand beside while they pick up the pieces after a suicide, or a officer involved shooting. I have been there as our hospice team took the time to finally grieve, having set it aside to deal with others facing death. All of these groups share in a
There is one other group, the men who serve as pastors and priests and deacons, especially those in sacramental brotherhoods. It is not that we are holier than the rest, far from it. But we have faced the challenge of being “there”. In the moments where life just really… sucks. In the moments where eternity hangs in the balance, and when spiritual warfare is overwhelming. Rarely do we stand in the same “there”, yet we’ve all been there. Been there to see the spilled blood of Christ cover sins. Been there as mercy conquers the sin which so ravages our people and our land. We’ve been there, and some have given so much, and battled so often, sacrificing their lives to serve..
Over the weekend, I attended three churches, two Roman Catholic and one Lutheran. Two priests, one pastor, and a deacon. Two other deacons cared for my people back home and I thought of them, not running into each other, but sharing God’s love. I think of others I have been mentored by, and mentored. Each a little different, each a little… well wacky… each bearing the scars of ministry, of having to discipline children, and the blessing of seeing them come home. Each one hoping that this week, some will receive God’s favor, that some will be saved…
We band of brothers.. not holier, not more special or talented, often far more scarred…but we’ve been there. So hear us, as we don’t tell tales of our heroism, but rather His. And if we have to discipline you… please know the goal is to help you see that God would befriend you through Jesus, transforming you from a sinner/enemy, to the beloved saint and friend.
We just get to be there.. and see the glory in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. Romans 12:1-3 GNT
The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”
for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)
Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.
Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)
But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.
Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?
It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.
Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?
I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.
We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.
It is about the stuff of life.
It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.
It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.
It is what being a pastor and priest is about.
It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.
So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”
And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)
Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. AMEN!
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. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thoughts for the Day:
Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:20-21 GNT
because they have sinned against you and then when they turn to you and come to this Temple, humbly praying to you for forgiveness, 25 listen to them in heaven. Forgive the sins of your people 2 Chron 6:24-25 GNT
O LORD, listen to them in heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, the people of Israel, and teach them to do what is right. 2 Chron. 6:27 GNT
…listen to their prayers. If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, 30 hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven and forgive them. You alone know the thoughts of the human heart. Deal with each of us as we deserve, 31 so that your people may honor you and obey you, 2 Chron 6:29-31a
If there in that land they repent and pray to you, confessing how sinful and wicked they have been, hear their prayers, O LORD. 38 If in that land they truly and sincerely repent and pray to you as they face toward this land which you gave to our ancestors, this city which you have chosen, and this Temple which I have built for you, 39 then listen to their prayers. In your home in heaven hear them and be merciful to them and forgive all the sins of your people. 37b-39 GNT
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 GNT
So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect James 5:16 GNT
Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.
Nevertheless I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can do for him except one who has struggled often and long with the devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession had not sustained me. For there are many doubtful matters which a man cannot resolve or find the answer to by himself, and so he takes his brother aside and tells him his trouble. What harm is there if he humbles himself a little before his neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks for a word of comfort from him, accepts it, and believes it, as if he were hearing it from God himself, as we read in Matt. 18 [:19], “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them.”
A lot of reading accompany this morning’s thoughts. Most of them from one chapter of 2 Chronicles 6. I broke the reading into segments for a reason, to highlight a concept over and over, to help us understand what a priority it holds in scripture, at the very dedication of the Temple, and the place it should hold in our lives.
I have yet to see a Christian church, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran that doesn’t talk about confession at some point in the life of its people. But far too often, once mentioned, it disappears, and with it, the incredible gift of forgiveness, of being forgiven.
At the dedicaiton of the temple, time after time this pattern is seen, we pray, God hears, and forgives.
Not just once at conversion, not just as a rote practice and prayer as part of a worship service. But to confess in a way where we don’t just hear we are forgiven, we depend on it and base our lives on it..
But what if we struggle to believe? What if we hear these words and just can’t get our minds to accept that God forgave this sin that haunts me, that I cannot escape the feelings of guilt and shame about? That no matter how many times I pray in a church service, or on my own, or at the altar, I wonder if I am forgiven of it?
That is where what is called “private confession” or in other churches , “the ministry of reconciliation” comes into play. Confessing those sins to another believer, a pastor or priest who has been tasked by GOd and the church with comforting you, with providing to you the words of forgiveness, on the behalf of God himself. This is what James 5 speaks of, and promises (you can also check out JOhn 20 and Matthew 16 for other places where the church is given authority to forgive sins on God’s behalf)
Over the years as people have spoken of their sin, the most remarkable catharis takes place, as they see God break the hold that sin has on them. As they hear and experience that God has forgivenes them of the darkest sins, as God heals them and makes them whole, as He reminds them that they are His holy people. James doesn’t used “healed” for lack of a better word, it is truly what happens.
It is an incredible blessing, it is a most amazing thing to observe, this transformation that occurs.
Please my friends, don’t let the darkness of sin consume you, rather confess your sins, and find the Prodigal’s Father embracing you, and restoring your life with Him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 53, p. 117). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, p. 98). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)
The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.
From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.
A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)
Those were the priorities of the early church –
A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?
Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.
The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?
How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.
Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!
Be a good steward of his life… and time.
The blessing will be yours!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9-10
Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.
In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”
In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.
In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.
Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.
One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.
I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.
Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.
Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…
Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.
So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.