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Is Life/Work/Ministry Boring and Bland? What an Opportunity!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

10  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
Luke 16:10 (NLT2)

507         You tried to belittle somebody else’s work by mumbling: “He has only done his duty.” And I said, “Does that seem so little to you?” The Lord gives us the happiness of Heaven for doing our duty: Euge serve bone et fidelis… intra in gaudium Domini tui— Well done good and faithful servant, enter into eternal joy! (1)

The things that challenge me the most in life are the most mundane. The times in life where I am supposed to go through the motions, the moments were the tasks are simply boring, where the actvity is bland..

How do i trudge through those days, eager for the oppostunity to do something new! And I am not the only one, and it is not just about taking out the trash, or cleaing the gutters, or more data entry, or mopping the bathroom floors after a toilet was clogged int he preschool restroom.

It happens in the church as well. For it takes persistence and patience to see a church impact its community, to become a community of faith that the community knows it is alive.

Maybe that is why the focus is on planting new, and the experts claim the best growth happens in new churches, and why we take our most dynamic and driven guys and send them for church planting training before we see that they can shepherd people?

And so in the church, we simply mimic the culture again. And give up on the hard work of doing that which is the fun, the flashy, and the presumed high rate of return!

But how do we do our job, how do we do our duty with zeal and a strong focus when it seems like we can do it, with the same effort it takes to snore? How do we stay with it, day in and day out? How do we stop ourselves from doing things in a simply rote manner?

Can we learn ot put all our effort, all our focus into the mundane?

The only way it is possible is to realize Who entrusts us with the work and spends the time with us, as we work. One who would wash our feet, the One who listens to our complains, to our whining, the One who patiently comforts and cleanses and heals us.

he is with us in the mundane, the boring and the bland, He is with us strengthening us, empowering us, helping us realize what we do is not done alone, and that it actually matters, because we do it ast His side.

Lord help us to see the normal everyday life as a gift we share with You.  Help us to do it well, so well that others will give glory to You.  AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2209-2213). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Are We Really Listening to God?

We are on a mission from God! Really!

Devotional Thought of the day:

5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and with hope I wait for his word. 6  My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6 (GW)

When God speaks to us it does not prove that we are right or even that we are good. In fact we may have misunderstood what God said. The infallibility of God the speaker does not guarantee our infallible reception. However, phrases such as “God told me” or “the Lord led me” are commonly used to prove that “I am right,” “My ideas are right” or “you should follow me.” No such claim is automatically justified.
So if a conversational walk with God does not guarantee my always being right, what is the use of it? Why should we attempt to hear God if it won’t ensure that we’re on the right track?

34† But they would not answer him, because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. 35† Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Mark 9:34-35 GNT

As i look over social media this morning, I again find myself distraught over what I see. People trying to justify their views, much as Dallas Willard indicates they do in the green quote above.

It is tempting to reply to each, to show them how their claim to the higher moral position is failing, and actually doing harm to their position.

Everyone claims that they speak for God, whether they believe or not. They do so when they appeal to logic, or what is just (in their eyes) or what a right. Their claim to an absolute is a claim to speak for God, their judgment that something is good, or evil, again is a claim to speak absolutely, and therefore is a claim to speak as God.

Please, stop nodding your head, thinking of people you know I am speaking about – for I am speaking about you, and me.

We try to speak for God all the time, speaking at people, speaking about their sin, judging and condemning that which we don’t approve. Surely, there sins we need to confront, brokeness and even things attitudes so warped that good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.

But the purpose of speaking out about them must be reconcilliation to God, not condemnation to hell. Our attitude should be that of a servant, helping his Master’s children grow and develop.

That requires that we listen to God, more than we speak for Him. It takes knowing and sharing His heart, His attitude for them, rather than just drawing a line in the sand.

So how do we know when we are hearing God accurately? When what is being said aligns with what He desires, when our heart is filled with both love and the pain that comes from seeing those we love, captured in bondange, unable to free themselves.

When we are willing to go them, and share in their pain, waiting patiently for that moment when we can reveal to them the grace of God, the mercy He will show them. When we can take them to the cross, embracing the struggle for the joy set before us.. the joy of welcoming our fellow prodicgal home.

So listen, and run to those He would have you stand by.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.


Faith in Action: Know! Psalm 46

Faith in Action:  Knows
Psalm 46

† Jesus, Son and Savior †

May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest!  AMEN!

People who have faith need to pray

I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,

How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.

It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.

As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary.  He is our peace.

The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God

Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.

Obstacles to knowing God

I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.

It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm.  It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.

Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…

Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.

Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right!  (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )

And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.

Is such anxiety sin?  If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.

You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not.  And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.

The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.

So how does this happen?

Come and see the glorious works

There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.

Come and see the glorious works of the Lord!  See how he brings destruction upon the world!

The first part seems like a great invitation.  Observing God’s glorious works!  How awesome!  How incredible!  Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.

And then I get the second half and go “wait…

BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD?  WHAT?

Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?

I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?

I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?

Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.

But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.

That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)

It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….

Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us.  In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…

And know..

That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.

As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.

And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.

And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him!  AMEN!

The Secret to the Revitalization of the Church, or a church

IMAG0406

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.   Zeph 1:7

Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.

I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.

They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus.  These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them.  But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them.  Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.

And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.

The second one is more obvious than the first.  While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan.  It requires compromise in the nature of the mission.  Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change.  That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God.  If you do that, you have changed the mission.

Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people.  God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt.  It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.

We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus.  Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.

All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote.  It brings us to the point of this devotion.  And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.

Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.

God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus.  For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.

ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.

This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.

And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible.   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.) (pp. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Faith in Action: Makes Sure! A Sermon on Hebrews 3 (with video of the service!)

Faith in Action…
Makes Sure

Hebrews 3:12-29

I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin.  And when they come to support you, that you will let them.

Be Careful

I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death.  They avoid death,  if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely.  (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)

The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.

In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include  a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.

Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….

For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.

Who Was it?

We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.

The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled.  Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.

And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.

They didn’t believe.

For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.

They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled.  They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts

And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.

Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.

We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him.  Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.

For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time.  We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.

We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses.  We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.

And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!

Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)

It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.

It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.

I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.

You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body.  And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.

We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.

So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.

You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall.  It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…

Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments

We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.

As James wrote in His epistle,

19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)

So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God.  Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

do your job….. people of God!

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It was the mantra of my favorite football team two seasons ago.  Each person, from the owner and head coach to the Cheerleaders, field goal kicker and waterboys had a job to do, and they did it.

I think we need that in the church today, for each person to focus on their vocation, and do it and live as God wants, and please Him.

Too often we get distracted.  Sometimes it is by sin and temptation, and sometimes it is more subtle, by comfort and preference, which leads us to abandon our vocation, our call. Sometimes it is even by the illusion we are doing ministry when all we are ministering too is our own ego.

But it is critically important to realize that the wisdom, the understanding, and knowledge of God’s will comes from, along with the ability and strength to do this work, enduring in it, and finding joy in it.

That only comes from the relationship we have with God.  For none of us is greater than the apostles, yet in many ways, we look at them in a far more common role. Fisherman, tax collectors, rebels without a cause, highly competitive brothers.

They learned to do their job at the side of Jesus, with His coaching, yet they still needed the upper room, where Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and Pentecost, where the Spirit testified to their ministry, with signs and wonders, with tongues of fire, which resulted in people hearing God’s love revealed through them.

We need the Spirit to fall upon us in the same way, helping us to see the mission, the apostolate, the role God has given us.  Simply put, the will of God that none should perish, but all enter into a relationship with Him that transcends time.

But to do that, we need to depend on Him, growing in the confidence that comes from realizing God is with us. We need to know His presence and peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit brings, even in the midst of the greatest storms.

FOr we don’t do the work without Him active in our lives.

It all comes back to that relationship, which really is our first vocation, our first job. That comes first, and then, the ministry to the world flows from there.

May we be blessed as we spend all our time in His presence!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Secret to Longevity in Ministry

Mike's installation gangDevotional Thought of the day:
11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12  always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13  For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14  who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:11-14 (NLT2)

998    O blessed perseverance of the donkey that turns the waterwheel! Always the same pace. Always around the same circle. One day after another, every day the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in the fruit, nor blossom in the orchard, nor scent of flowers in the garden. Carry this thought to your interior life.
999    And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.

This weekend was extremely busy, a funeral on Saturday added to an already long day. Sunday included church, Sunday School, a meeting, and then another service, where we installed the new president of our district.

As I was there, I ran into a bunch of friends, including pastors that served for twice as long as my two decades in ministry, Even one who has served 55 years as a pastor. Another who has served in the mountain jungles of Papua New Guinea since 1972, translating the New Testament into three different languages.

As i shared some time with these brothers, I thought about the stories we hear, about 1500 pastors and priests a moth leaving the ministry, about clergy burnout and how often pastors flee or are fired from congregations.

And then today, in my readings, I come across these words in Colossians about patience and endurance.  As I read the words of St Josemaria about perseverance as well, about how ministry is really being available for people day after day, meeting them in trauma, helping them remember that God is with them, or revealing His presence, which brings to them peace and healing.

The situations change, but the basic motion is the same.  Encounter trauma after trauma, work with the break to see healing happen, even as Jesus heals us. Day in and day out, counting on God’s faithfulness to see us through.

Yet, even after all of our plodding, we see the effects.  The beauty in a child that wants to be baptized, the joy in a child who wants to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and learns the things that make her desire even more.  The smile on a man’s face when he receives communion after having to miss church for 4 weeks because of work.  The work of pastors who gather together to pray for and with each other.

All these things happen because we keep our eyes on Jesus as we plod through our daily ministry.  Because what happens is, our eyes on Jesus, we reflect His love to those as broken as we are.  We reflect the power of mercy, as we live knowing Jesus has forgiven us, in order to unite us to God. These things happen, as we experience the love of God, and learn to adore Him, as He invites us to share in His glory.

For those who are shepherded by such men, pray for them, and encourage them to spend time contemplating God’s love for them.

For those who plod through ministry, Keeping looking to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will use your plodding in ways you won’t believe!

And to all, find peace and rest in this fact: THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!!!!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2316-2321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Soul Care… A Necessity for churches in our Day?

photoDevotional Thought of the Day:

Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.   1 Thessalonians 5:13-15

Tenderness is not a virtue of the weak; on the contrary, it spells fortitude, attentiveness, compassion, openness to the other, in short, tenderness is the daughter of love.

If you minister to anyone, whether as a “professional” (pastor/priest, ministry director, worship facilitator) or as a  volunteer (elder, deacon, altar guild, bible teacher etc) I want you to go back and read those words in red again.

Go ahead.  Go back and read them.

One more time, please.

Sounds like a formidable task!  I am not sure which of the tasks is the most challenging!  Patience is tough, warning folks is often an invitation to pain. Then there is this, stopping people from repaying evil with evil.   That might mean taking the damage intended yourself.

And this letter wasn’t written to pastors, but to the church.  It is how we are to minister as a whole, to each other.  And these things are challenging because they require great care and caution.  They can’t be done with a velvet-gloved iron fist, but with tenderness, with discernment.

With love.

And it is what our broken society needs.  It is what is relegated to a class or two in seminary, and rarely do we train our elders or Sunday school teachers in it.  We by-pass this critical step of being a brother, of helping people to learn to love as Christ loved. For that is what soul care is, loving our neighbor, even loving our enemy.

It is the fulfillment of the law that happens as we are transformed into the image of Jesus.

We need to be there for each other, for the broken in our communities, for those who are questioning the world and all there is in it.  We need to be there when we are broken when we are hurting when we want to give up.  When our souls are thirsty.

That is what the body of Christ does for each other.

Who is God calling for your to treat tenderly today?  WHo will you minister to tomorrow, that needs God’s mercy and love?

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 274). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

10 years, 20 years, some thoughts about God’s work in and through us.

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional thought of the Day:

61 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;  to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to provide for those who mourn in •Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.  Isaiah 61:1-3  HCSB

This is important:
the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.

Today is the 10th anniversary of my installation as the senior pastor of the Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, Ca.  This month is the 20th anniversary of my going from part-time ministry as a jail chaplain and preaching during vacations and when churches were looking for a new pastor, as I became the pastor of First Christian Church of Yucca Valley, Ca.

As these anniversaries approached, other things have happened that have made me think about ministry, of what I’ve seen God do in these places I have served. It’s been an interesting road, with lots of laughter and probably more tears with people I grew to love, that I was sent to care for.

The passage in red primarily applies to Jesus, and a little less to Isaiah.  Yet it is what Paul imitated of Jesus, what he encourages the entire church to imitate in 1 Corinthians 11.  We are to bring God’s healing, revealing His love and mercy, and the presence of the Holy Spirit to people that are brokenhearted, to free those who are oppressed, to comfort those who mourn.

It’s not been easy.  Nor has it always been successful. There is heartache when people would rather deal with the consequences of sin, and the guilt and shame that oppress them. We mourn because of their sin, we mourn as others would rather condemn them than seek to reconcile them back to God.  There are the times where we don’t have the words that we would think are needed to comfort those who grieve.

And yet, trusting Him, the church and those who serve it plod on. We might be distracted for a moment, but by the Spirit’s call, we re-focus again, as we go where God wants us to be, as He guides us to serve those who need His love.

It is bearing such a burden, as I think about the baptisms, the funerals, the sorrow and grief, tears and joy that Pope Francis’s words gave me comfort this morning.  We have to find the courage to trust in His mercy, in His patience, to look for our sanctuary, which is found in His ever-presence.  That is where we are safe, that is where we find peace and find healing for our own brokenness.

But it takes courage, and trust to dwell there.  For we have to lay aside our sorrow and grief, our own guilt and shame, our own “wisdom” and often our own sense of self-preservation. We have to learn to trust God, to be able to cry out, Lord, we trust you, help us when we don’t.

Ultimately, the ministry of the priesthood of all believers comes down to these simple things, to help people know the cleansing, comforting, healing merciful presence of God.   When we do this, it is amazing…. when we struggle, we need to trust God that He will fulfill the work that has begun.

He will.. for He has.

For those who have trusted God to speak through me, thank you.  I hope you have grown in experiencing His love.  May we all see Him at work in all of us in the years and decades to come.

AMEN!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 273). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Broken’s Feast

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the day:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.  1 Kings 19:3-5

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician.”

880    Don’t let your defects and imperfections nor even your more serious falls, take you away from God. A weak child, if he is wise, tries to keep near his Father.

There he was. seemingly victorious, and yet, he was devastated. He longed to die and saw no hope in continuing to live. He wasn’t suicidal, but he was so broken he couldn’t go on anymore. He was overwhelmed by sin, his own and that which he observed.

Even though I am a simple pastor, I’ve seen that frustration in lay people and pastors, as despair and frustration just tire us out so much we cannot even see the progress we have made. If I am honest, I’ve felt that way more than once.

Instinct in those times drives us toward isolation, but there is no solace there.  In fact, isolation only leaves us more time to contemplate our despair, to feel more overwhelmed, more alone, more… abandoned…not just broken, but shattered.

And Hungry…

Elijah wakes up to a meal prepared for him, a meal prepared by one sent by God to encourage him, to lift him up, to restore his vitality so he can journey a little farther down the road.  Eventually the journey, through storm and fire, through his spiritual and mental fatigue will bring him to the place where he will hear God. Where Elijah will be ready to hear God.

For me, in those moments of brokenness, my one lifeline is being cared for and fed by God.  It is as Bonaventure notes, it is in these times we need to receive it more frequently.  It is the feast set out for those who are broken and weary. Not just bread from angels, but the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.  The feast where He gives us His own body and blood.

It is our feast.

The feast for the Broken

A time when I can realize God is restoring what is broken, where He heals that which has been ravaged by sin.  A time just like Elijah, yet shared with friends and the family of God.  A time of great peace, and healing, and rest.

As I still have moments where brokenness is profound, where I still want to run away, where I wonder if my life will ever bee less broken and make a difference, I have learned something.  To wait it out, to look forward to the next time we gather together and are provided bread from heaven.

The nourishment we need for the journey, the blessed feast for those of us broken and shattered.

This feast, whether we call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, it is the feast for the broken, the turning point where we find such grace and peace that the journey itself changes.  He will provide it, and the Spirit will draw us to it.

This is the hope we need, this is what will satisfy our hunger.

 

De Liguori, A. (1887). The Holy Eucharist. (E. Grimm, Ed.) (pp. 224–225). New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2025-2027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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