Thoughts which draw me closer to the cross, and to Jesus.
My people are like sheep whose shepherds have let them get lost in the mountains. They have wandered like sheep from one mountain to another, and they have forgotten where their home is. 7They are attacked by all who find them. Their enemies say, ‘They sinned against the LORD, and so what we have done is not wrong. Their ancestors trusted in the LORD, and they themselves should have remained faithful to him.’ Jeremiah 60:6-7 GNT
14But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 3:14-15 GNT
Segments of Christianity have made every possible concession in efforts to win young people to Christ; but instead of converting them to Christ they have “converted” Christianity to them. Too often they have come down to the modern level—playing, teasing, coaxing and entertaining. In essence, they have been saying to them, “We will do everything as you want it,” instead of giving them Christ’s insistent word, “Take up your cross!”
The Jews were stubborn and depended on God’s promises. They vainly thought they owned the temple, and that God dwelt there; besides, they thought they had mighty men, money and treasures enough to defy all their enemies. They trusted in their own glory and built their own confidence on a false delusion, which finally deceived and destroyed them.
Jeremiah, Luther and Tozer, from different periosds in the story of God and His people talk aof the same problem. One which I hear people in the church complain about, a lot, today. A world without direction, devoted to compromise and self-determination. Therefore, both on the liberal and legalistic sides of the journey, they sin.
That sin is easily is described in the words of Luther, people think “they own the temple.” THey think they are in charge and whether it is a progressive agenda or Chirstian Naitonalism, they seek to remake God and the relationship He’s created with us according to their thoughts. Tozer calls this converting Christianity to them, as their wander aimlessly, either encouraged by those originally taksed with shepherding them, or just ignoring the Shepherd’s existence. The church is even mocked today for not following God, and deserving the redicule they earned, by creating visions that are not faithful to God.
This would be a very negative post, except that it points out our need to be freed from the false delisuion, to be converted (transformed) into the image of Christ, to hear and to treasure what the Shepherd and His shepherds teach about the cross, the grave. and the resurrection… and the life found there.
This is what Paul is telling Timothy to focus upon the truths which he learned from those who taught him from the scriptures. The message that teaches us how Christ saves us, and that is the message we can and must depend upon. THis is the message that matters, This is the truth that will guide our lives, and bring us home, rather than leaving us wandering around.
This is our hope – so look there.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 317–318.
That’s Not Necessary!
(but compassion is!)
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ become how you live and breathe, resulting in compassion that is miraculous!
What is necessary….
There are times i our lives where the Lord’s lessons are subtle, where He sets the example of what living in a relationship with God and with God’s people should look like, and we completely miss it.
That’s what happened in the gospel reading this morning, as Jesus sets and example of servant leadership, and the apostles are given and opportunity to imitate that example, and fail to learn the lesson—and so Jesus has to point it out a little more clearly…
Most of the time, we fail to see the lesson as well, because of the miracle of seeing 5 hamburger bun sized pieces of bread and a couple of tilapia, That is an amazing miracle but the lesson in compassion that Jesus lived out before their very eyes.
A Little Background…
Just before Jesus and the apostles try to escape and find some time to relax and pray, two things happened – two devastating things. The thing right before their trip was to hear the news that John the Baptist was executed by Herod – his head chopped off to make his wife and daughter happy.
Still not sure why flowers, or chocolates or a nice dinner at Carl’s Jr. wouldn’t have worked, but Herod messed up – and had to make up for it with John’s head.
The other more devastating thing that happens in chapter 13 is that Jesus was rejected in His hometown by all his family and friends.
Between the grief of his cousin being killed and his own people rejecting him, trashing him, dismissing the very things they were praising God for – until they realized it was him… that was brutal, it would drain all the energy from him, and so he wants to escape, and tries…. But cannot.
And he sees people, and they are looking for hope. One of the other gospels has Jesus describe them as sheep without a shepherd.
And He sees us, and He can’t go on without us…so he sits on the hillside and has compassion and taught and heals us. That is what scripture says,
“14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As physically, emotionally and spiritually tired as he must have been, as filled with grief. He took time to meet people where they were.. were we are.. and give them more than a quick word, he gave them himself.
We Fall Short – but why?
Compare that to the apostles, After a day where Jesus met their needs, and the needs of these people and then scripture tells us,
15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Matthew 14:15 (NLT2)
Now while they see the needs of the people, they don’t have the compassion that Jesus demonstrated—and they definitely weren’t will to give away their filet-ed fish sandwiches!
Whether it was a lack of belief that they could do anything, or simply that they didn’t want to, they wanted Jesus to close up shop, and tell them all to go home.
That is where they missed the mark, that is where they failed to care for their neighbor. It was where sin entered and they became more self-centered. “Tell them to get – lost – to go care for themselves—it doesn’t even matter that it’s already late and even the 7-11 and Denny’s will be closed by the time they get there!
We do the same thing at times – when we see people in need – and we decide not to help…or even to help them find help.
Can we help everyone? Probably not – but to ensure they find the help – we can.
That’s why Jesus says…”16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” Matthew 14:16 (NLT2)
That brings them back to Jesus, for they have no where near the food they need!
That’s the point—with us—there isn’t enough to feed anyone—spiritually or physically – Jesus must supply it all – and He always pulls it together!
If we have compassion for people—if we see their needs and brokenness, our job isn’t to meet every need on our own but to bring them to where Jesus provides for them.
“Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
We should know this – for His compassion is why we are here!
We can take that comfort and compassion and shown to us and pour it out on others, bringing them to Jesus, getting them to sit and take their rest, while God multiples whatever we have to help them.
Even it it’s a can of tuna fish and a bagel,
Or a piece of round bread, and a 10th of a sip of wine—that is, by His declaration – His body and blood!
That is necessary – getting them to realize they are in God’s presence, as it is necessary to help us know we are. That is what is required – and even was in the Old Testament, where Micah wrote,
8 No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT2)
And if we are walking humbly with Him, that means this – that the Lord is with you! AMEN!
20 You have nothing to do with corrupt judges, who make injustice legal, 21 who plot against good people and sentence the innocent to death. Ps 94:20-21 GNT
Yet popular Christianity has as one of its most effective talking points the idea that God exists to help people to get ahead in this world! The God of the poor has become the God of an affluent society. We hear that Christ no longer refuses to be a judge or a divider between money-hungry brothers. He can now be persuaded to assist the brother that has accepted Him to get the better of the brother who has not!
Too often, individuals and organizations look to get the best deal. How can their actions benefit themselves, or the group that they owe allegiance too. Even within orgranizations, there is competition between divisions and departments. It exists in churches and denominations as well. We want ours to get what it needs, even at the cost of others. Even if it means they shut down.
There is a name for this in scripture,
We can justify it all we want, but covetousness is contagious. It starts out small, like the man who tells the pastor that he doesn’t care what happens to the church – as long as it is their to do his and his wife’s funerals. There is little care for the people around him. It then extends out to churches and denominationals that see other churches as places to prey on – and so welcome and recruit people from other churches, offering them “more” of this, and ‘more” of that–to meet their perceived needs. It can go on, to people pushing agendas that prey on needed ministries to fund those agendas.
THis isn’t new, Tozer’s words acknowledge it 30 years ago.
You see it in the scriptures as well, as people go against the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, as the Kinsman passes his right to Boaz (who gets to slap him in the face with a sandle!) so his son gets the full inheritance. In the apostles who are jealous of others ministering in Jesus’ name.
Here is the option.
The word cHesed in Hebrew, often translated as love, loving-kindness, has the sense of loving loyalty. It is the word used in conjunction with a covenant, to express the attitude that one should do everything in their power, not only to keep their end of the covenant, but to help the other party keep their end of it.
Even if it means death.
This is what compelled Jesus to die on the cross, the promise ot help mankind receive all the promises made to Adam, and to Abraham, and the promises given to all naitons through Moses.
This is the heart of the matter in Luther’s understanding of the 7th commandment as well. In explaining it to dads, so they can explain it to their children, Luther wrote, “but help him to improve and protect his income and property.”
To do otherwise is to disobey God by stealing from one’s neighbor.
But when we do help them, when we invest in them, when we strive on thier behalf, we see God at work in them and we see God’s blessings upon them, and we get to share in their joy.
Is such easy? no!
Is such perhaps met with suspicion and reluctance? yeah… because of past history.
Is it worth it? Was it worth it to Christ.
Our being in Covenant with God means we are in covenant with all of mankind, and so cHesed – this loyalty/love/kindness compels us to these kinds of actions. May we welcome such compulsion, and turn our back on coveting that which God gave to someone else.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism: The Ten Commandments”, Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.
Thoughts driving me to Jesus, and to the Altar/Cross:
For seven days all the people of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 18Since the days of the prophet Samuel, the Passover had never been celebrated like this. None of the former kings had ever celebrated a Passover like this one celebrated by King Josiah, the priests, the Levites, and the people of Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem 19in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign. 2 Chron. 35:17-19 GNT
True penitence or contrition flows out of love for God and righteousness. Without such love it is impossible for man to hate and detest sin and to repent of it. An important problem in the doctrine of repentance, therefore, is the question of the origin, or creation, of such love in the human heart. Is it the result of man’s own efforts, or is it the work of God?
Staupitz answers the question by saying that such a love for God and His will is the product of two factors: (1) the revelation of the love of God in Christ and in His suffering for men, and (2) the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man. “The love of Christ kindles the spirit of the bride (that is, man).” “Love for God is created by the revelation of the love of God toward us.”56
The event that resoluted in the marvelous celebration of the passover was the finding the word of God, reading it, and realizing not only that the people of God were guilty of sin, but that there was a way that resulted in the people being free of the bondage created by that sin.
A freedom that was foretold in the story of the passover, a story that Israel was commanded to keep, that they would remember the love of God that assured them of His work in their lives.
It is with this hope, that they celebrated the freedom won for them, and the ultimate freedom that would occur when the Messiah came. And even only with hope of the future, the people of God threw a party that would be memorable throughout history!
How much more should we, who have that hope fulfilled in Jesus, celebrate the love of God, show to us in Christ Jesus? We have the two things necessary to love God – His love fully revealed, and the love of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts! We should be as excited to see God at work in our lives as the bride is, as she looks down the aisle to see her about to be husband.
The key to worship is not found in the band or organ, the type of music or when it was written. The key is the gift of repentance, the work that the Spirit does in transforming us, as we learned we are love, as we learn to love. The result is worship like hasn’t been experienced before, for it changes from being based on the future, to being based in the present.
It all boils down to the relationship and realizing what God is do in this relationship…
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 22–23.
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the presence of the Holy Spirit which fills your hearts kindles in you the fire of God’s love, as you learn to love others by showing them God’s love!
- Do you like waiting?
You are sitting in the drive-thru, and you realize there is a mini-van in front of you, full of kids in uniform…
Or maybe you are at Ralph’s or Trader Joes, or Costco – and the lines stretch down the aisles…
Or maybe you are waiting for that package from Amazon, and they text you at 9 o’clock on Friday that they are delayed and won’t deliver that package you needed until Monday, maybe!
How many of us like waiting?
Frustrating, isn’t it?
I mean, at least we are not like Moses, who was waiting 40 years to see the promise land, and then wasn’t able to, because of his sin. Or David, who had to wait for years to become King, waiting patiently for Saul to be removed, as God promised!
Or the apostles, who had to wait for Christ’s Kingdom to be established, and then had to wait with no hope for three days… and then an undetermined time after the Ascension, for Jesus’ promise for the Spirit to come…
As John’s said, ‘But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.’
And they had to wait…
I don’t think that they were any better that we are, and they were waiting for something far more important!
- Do We Live Like the Spirit is Here
So here is the harder question of the day.
Are you living like you are waiting for the Holy Spirit to show up?
Are we living like we know God is present in every moment of our lives?
Are we living in the age prior to Pentecost?
It’s a hard question…one I don’t want to answer…
Because I live more like I am waiting for God to show up, then living like I know He is here. It’s not just acts of sin that show this, but it is the loving others, sacrificing for them, that is challenging.
I mean, is there anything more important in life than seeing people come to know God loves them? And the only way they will know, is if we depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us to them, and empower us to share with them that love.
So often sin is described as doing this which God said not to do.
But sin is also not loving our neighbor, which includes no loving them enough to want them to live in the presence of Jesus, both now and for eternity. Sin includes not sharing with them the gospel and the freedom from guilt and shame which comes with sin.
I don’t want to give us an excuse, but the reason we don’t share Jesus’ love with others is because we are living as if the Holy Spirit hasn’t come…yet. We are waiting around for God to make a move…
Forgetting He has…
- No – Jesus is in His glory therefore
Hear John’s comment again,
39 When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.
During Easter we proclaim that because He has risen, We have risen. That means this has now happened as well,
That Jesus has entered His glory, and He has given us the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean?
First, “25 “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)
This is everything from the day Jesus told Peter that Jesus would cause him to be fishers of men to the very words at the Ascension. Where He said,
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT2)
If we are looking to grow the church, the preschool—the other ministries we may start on this campus—it depends on us doing what Jesus taught us to do, to love each other, to care for those around us—physically for sure, but also spiritually. To make sure their burdens are lifted, that they are free from oppression, to continue to the work Jesus gave to all of us..
To lift Jesus up, that He may draw all men to Him.
Not to argue with them – that’s worthless, not to debate with them, that will only result in winners and losers.
As we realize the Spirit is with us, we come to rely on God’s lead more and more. As we encounter people in our lives that need to know His love and His mercy.
Evangelism and Discipleship aren’t programs of the church, they are the side effects of walking with Jesus, of the Spirit comforting us, freeing us from sin,
This is how Paul told a young church leader
4 But—“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 3:4-8 (NLT2)
This is what started at Pentecost… it will keep going on in our lives, for Jesus not only is risen, He has been glorified, and given us the Holy Spirit to comfort, sustain, guide and empower us, as we share with people why we have hope.
Because Jesus loves us all.
It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon’s house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?” Acts 10:3-18 GNT
St. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was a master wordsmith, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. It comes as a surprise then that he vacillates so much on St Peter’s name in this passage. Talking to others, the angel uses his full name – “Simon Peter.” Yet when addressing the the Lord in a vision, the Lord only uses the name Peter was given by God, “Peter.”
Is it only a curiosity? Is it only something with a hidden message, that only those who have been introduced to the full mysteries of the faith are to understand? Or is it a message to Peter, to prepare him for a lifetime lesson?
For sure Cornelius’ men don’t know – all they have been told is to fetch Simon Peter.
But for Peter to hear Simon again, the name he had before he encountered God, should have shaken him. It would be like me calling one of you Saint and Sinner, identifying the before Jesus you and the you who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. But identifying you as well as the Saint you are becoming… and are.
For Peter it is the lesson in a microcosm – the vision retold, personally…
God declared Simon Peter clean.
And as Peter hears the voice from heaven speaks, it addresses him… not as Simon Peter, but simply as Peter.
Peter the cleansed, Peter the one restored to ministry after he denied Jesus 3 times. (John uses the same Simon/Peter description on the seashore in the same way)
Peter will go and minister to those God would declare clean – even though the world sees them as sinners. He understands what Luther noted,
“Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, in as much as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other. Christ also pleased not himself, hence we are to do as he did.”
As we look at equipping the saints in the churches we serve, understanding the sinner-saint dynamic will be important. We aren’t any better than Peter as we judge what we see in the brokenness of the churches and the schools we serve. We need to consider the work God can do with those who are broken, as we bear their infirmities, as they see God at work in our lives, so that they know that God can work in theirs.
We talk about the fact that we don’t have authority as ministers of the gospel. We only have the ability to influence people. And the greatest influence we can have… is helping them see how complete the work of Jesus is, in those weak enough to depend on Him.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 169.
10 And then he said, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king.
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:10,21-23 GNT
It is in the intimacy with God that we develop a greater intimacy with people and it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that we indeed can touch the heart of the human suffering to which we want to minister. Do we really believe this? It often seems that our professional busy-ness has claimed the better part of us. It remains hard for us to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed, in order to be with him from whom all good things come. Still, it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that the minister becomes minister. There we remember that if anything worthwhile happens at all it is God’s work and not ours.
Something happened to King Josiah as the gospel, contained in the word of God was read to him. It went far beyond doing church, “right,” and being good, ethical stewards of the money entrusted to their care.
He didn’t have a time of silence and solitude as we normally think of it, but as the gospel was read to him from the word of God, the miraculous happened.
The Holy Spirit created the intimacy with God which made King Josiah unlike any other king, including Hezekiah and David.
He became a king who was also the pastor of his people. He realized part of his work was to free them from bondage to false idols, to bring them to the point of celebrating the Passover–something long forgotten among the people.
They celebrated it, in a way that reflects on their hunger and thirst for the presence of God, and to see and celebrate the work of God in their midst…now!
The people of God came back to life, they realized again what God was doing! Revival broke out–not because they were running the business of church right, but because their time was dominated by God’s revelation of His presence and care.
Nouwen is correct though, it is not our work that makes us pastors, priests and ministers. It is not from our agendas that we find the strength and ability to minister. It comes from the time when our darkness was invaded by the glory of God’s love, where His comfort and peace sought us out to heal us.
It is time, to gather around the gospel, to hear it–to realize the intimate presence of God–who loves us, cares for us, comforts and heals our brokenness..and then uses all of that, as we serve and minister to those around us…. as we guide them to the Altar– to our Passover…
Lord, may it be said of our time, that our moments of being gathered together and celebrating Your work in us is unlike any other, as You revive Your church as you did the people in Josiah’s day!
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 51). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Jesus answered, “All those who drink this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life.” John 4:13-14 GNT
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 GNT
With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: for physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations). And with pastors, it is God (not relieving anxiety, or giving comfort, or running a religious establishment)……Most of the people we deal with are dominated by a sense of self, not a sense of God. Insofar as we deal with their primary concern—the counseling, instructing, encouraging—they give us good marks in our jobs as pastors. Whether we deal with God or not, they don’t care over much.
Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
It used to be that people would tell me that “that was a good sermon pastor,” as they walked out of church. “Or that was a great Bible study!” They do it less often now because they know I will often ask, “why? what made it good for you?”
Some are quite able to answer, others, – well what else do you say to a pastor after church?
It gets me to think, what do people remember of the services we share in, what is their take away?
I can only pray it is Jesus. That He is present in thier lives, that He is merciful, that He loves them.
Anything else is worthless..
The Augsburg Confession makes that clear – the comfort to anxiety laden consciences is what is found when people is what the Liturgy (aka the Mass or Worship Service) is about. That is what and how we need to leave people. Aware of their relationship to Jesus, and comforted by it. That was Peterson’s goal, and his struggle as well, as people didn’t always respond to that focus. Still it is what we are called to do!
So look for that comfort as you attend church or Bible Studies, prayer meetings or other small groups. Perceive the presence of Jesus, as you sing, as you pray, as you listen to the word read and preached, and as you receive Christ’s body and blood in Communion.
And know, He is with you!
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 139–140.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 56.
34 *Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If anyone wants to come with me,” he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 35*For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! 37There is nothing they can give to regain their life. Mark 8:34-37 GNT
But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.
But a solved life is a reduced life.
There are days where I would love the idea of a solved life. To have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. (same thing for…things) The clean desk, the organized calendar, the perfect family. To have a government that isn’t petty, but actually does it work with the intent of providing peace and safety to all.
It sounds like a nice utopian village, and is utterly, completely impossible.
And as I think about it, I am glad it is.
For knowing that life will be chaotic is a blessing, for it strips away that part of me that wants to play God. There is no illusion in my life that life is under control, much less “solved”. I have to approach life much as Luther indicates, satisfied to know the basics of survival – and what must be done now, With that, I find more time to seek after Jesus, to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence. Or to see that presence revealed, for Jesus was there all the time.
This resonates with the gospel of Mark, where Mark is urging us to set aside everything–to lose it–in order to see Jesus save it. For we can’t save ourselves, or even manage our lives once they are saved.
Being not in charge means living in a way that seems out-of-control – even chaotic. But that is okay, when we realize the promise of the one who does understand, and shapes all that chaos into blessings beyond our expectation. Blessings that are full of peace and joy, for they are given by the Lord who is present. I might hate the chaos, but in Christ, we will thrive on it. That isn’t a paradox, it is a promise of God Almighty and All-knowing. Understanding this doesn’t make the chaos any less hectic or disturbing, but it can build a joyous expectation as we wait to see how God will make it all happen.
Heavenly Father, when life seems chaotic and out of control, remind us of Your care, and Your will for us! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 72.
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.