Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)
350 In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.
Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.
Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over.
A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing. And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.
It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned. I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.
Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.
And we need to take that time. We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it. As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this? That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully?
They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well. I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him
Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I was given this letter by a friend who is a mom, who wanted not only her daughter to see it, but others parents, and their daughters. For all of us who have kids who are outside the norm, it is an encouragement to love them, care for them and hunt for the teachers who will do the same. Thank you!
There is a picture of you I keep at my desk, a beautiful bubbly blue eyed girl with golden curls. You are standing in the sun eyes closed head tilted toward the sky. It seems as though you are trying to absorb the sun and you look like pure joy. Every time my eyes gaze upon it, it fills my heart with joy. But that joy is fleeting because I know now what was to come. From the moment you were born, and they laid you on my chest I knew that you were going to be a force in this world. You have amazed me with some of the things you have done in your life. At the age of two, you hopped on a bike with no prior experience or even training wheels and rode off down our cul de sac with all the confidence in the world. By age four you were asking me things that I couldn’t answer, like how radio waves worked, how you even knew what a radio wave was at that age has always surprised me. At seven you were rollerblading and skateboarding with amazing balance, and when you got on skies at 17 for the very first time, you tackled the highest slope with the skill of someone who had been skiing their whole life.
When it was time for kindergarten you weren’t scared in fact, the excitement you had was contagious, and I knew just how amazing you were going be. After all, you were clearly very intelligent.
Kindergarten was full of fun and learning new things, but even then, I could tell something was off. The teacher told me you were just a little slow in learning new things. That wasn’t true I knew that in my gut, but I listened to them and took their word for it. First grade proved to be even more difficult for you, and you started to notice that you were different. At seven you asked me why you were stupid. My heart broke into a million pieces, and even though I assured you that you were smart I could see that you didn’t believe me. They told me to hold you back so that you could catch up to the other kids and fearing this would only make you feel dumber I decided to take you to a fancy private school that promised they could “fix” you. Thankfully you flourished there emotionally, but academically you only grew further behind. By the fifth grade you were having anxiety attacks and teachers started to complain about your behavior. You would often hide in the bathroom in favor of going to class. I fought with them, I tried to make them see what I could see in you, I wanted them to see just how intelligent you really were. Nothing I did seem to work, and I could see in your eyes the light beginning to become duller and duller with each passing year. Each time you would bring home a piece of paper that said, “Try harder” or “Did you even STUDY”? in big angry red letters or when teachers would say things to you like, “You should know the answer to that” when you tried asking them questions, and with every bad grade on your report card I could see your confidence evaporating. Those teachers who had the power to lift you up were slowly breaking you down. My heart ached for you. It was as if one day I had this bubbly girl excited about the world and all of its possibilities and the next I looked into your eyes and the light had gone out, you were covered with scars from torture you inflicted upon yourself, and I knew that your soul was full of scars too. I failed you and I am full of regret for not finding the answer in time for you to have not felt like a such a failure. School should have been a wonderful experience for you and instead it was torture.
Today we know the answer to your struggle, Dyslexia. We know that you weren’t just a little slower to develop, but that your brain just works differently. We know that it is because of dyslexia that you have amazing athletic abilities and can remember the words to practically every song you have ever heard. It is because your brain is wired differently that you have such a big imagination and a knack for conversing like an adult even from a very young age. It is not a disadvantage when someone receives the help they need, it is just a difference.
My Dearest Daughter, I want you to know that every time I sit across from one of my students, every time I see their pain, every time I see them struggling to fit in, it is your face I see. Every time a fellow teacher tells me that a child is just slow, or when I hear teachers say they just need to try harder or they are lazy, it is your face I see. It is a fight I choose to fight not only for them but also for you. The reason I get up in the morning is to be the voice for those who don’t have one and deep down it is your voice I am hoping the world hears. Your reach in the world if far greater than you will ever know. In the faces of the Wade’s, the Abigail’s, the Sydnie’s and the Ryan’s the Rachel’s and the Caden’s is your face. As your mother I will never stop trying to heal your soul. As a teacher I will never stop trying to protect theirs from being scarred.
Love Your Mother
one last thing… if this letter resonated with you… please hit like…and let others know as well…it took a lot for my friend and her daughter to make this journey, and dedicate her lives to those who are making it as well, the other daughters and sons, parents, and teachers. God Bless all on the journey!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“•I assure you: The one who believes in Me l will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14 HCSB
21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. John 17:21
This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
There are times when I question why prayers aren’t answered. For example, why my son has to have the genetic disorder I have, or why friends battling cancer aren’t simply healed. We pray, earnestly, reverently, continuously for miracles of this nature. Yet the answers to these prayers are too far in between for my liking.
After all, Jesus said, if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
Even more than, I wonder why one of Jesus’ prayers go unanswered.
Why can’t the church be one, as the Father and Jesus are one?
Why can’t that prayer be heard, and answered?
Why can’t the church be one?
We have one mission, to reveal the love of God, seen so clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the acts that give us hope and forgiveness, and prove His love. That’s what we have to do! It’s not rocket science!
Our worship is supposed to do that, to teach people what they need to know about Jesus, to reveal that God doesn’t want to stay alone, that He sought a response to the love He would show us in everything, our creation, our redemption, our being made His people. People that have a God that wants to love and be loved.
If the greatest Catholic theologian of the last century and the Lutheran forefathers can agree on this fundamental role of our gathers as believers, can’t we start there? Can’t we start in prayer, and in meditating on God’s word together? Can’t we find unity as we consider the sacrifice of Jesus and the love that comes to us at the altar?
Is that asking too much?
To hear His prayer, and to find the answer to that prayer, not in the halls of academia, but in the church together, on our knees in prayer, lifting up our voices in praise, considering the gifts given in His Body and Blood?
Let’s ask this together in His name…
Lord, Have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Question to think about:
Should working toward unity, the unity found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus be a more important issue in the Church today?
If you are a nonChristian, or even on the border, would the leaders of local churches trying to work out their differences make a difference in the way you view the church as a whole?
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days…
“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates m his life n in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant o also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. John 12:24-26
When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
We, who are so often unable to put up with one another; we, who are not fit to appear before God, are received by Jesus. He wears, so to speak, the garment of our wretchedness and, by taking us with him, makes us fit to stand in the presence of God; we have gained access to God. We are washed by letting ourselves be drawn into his love. This love means that God receives us unconditionally even when we are not capable and are not worthy of it, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes our Brother.
In the middle of Jesus prophecy about His imminent crucifixion and resurrection, there is something we have to see, something we have to hear again.
6 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.
We have to bear the cross, we have to go with Him there, or more precisely we need to allow Him to draw us into Himself, to give up our lives so that we can live in Him, with Him, through Him. (yes the Eucharistic reference is intended)
For without the cross, His cross, we cannot truly be His disciples, we can’t be united to Him, for that is where our unity with God begins, it is where life is restored in the midst of death.
And so Jesus calls us to die, even as He was sent to die. We are drawn to the cross, not because of the pain, not because of the sacrifices required (those idols aren’t worth anything anyway) but because of the love we know there, this incredible, unbelievable love that is poured out on us, the broken and sin-crushed. Yet that love heals us, transforms us, judges us as those who are brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Son of God.
Without that death and resurrection, we are nothing. And having died to sin, and been raised in Christ, we begin to realize life differently.
The crosses we have to bear, the sacrifices we make to serve others, the forgiveness that pours out from our hearts is not something that is more painful than the joy we find in the presence of Jesus Christ.
In fact, as we get used to living in Christ, we may not even realize we are making sacrifices, bearing crosses, being patient with those who require the greatest patience. We just know what we do is what we are supposed to do…
It is just what we do,
What He’s called us to do, for He has revealed His love, He has revealed His promise
The cross..and the resurrection, He and us, united there, and forever. AMEN!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. 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. Print.
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2 One Heart and Mind
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus transform your heart and mind so that you united to Jesus, and to all who are His!
God’s Mega Blessings
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we heard a description of Concordia, and I want you to hear it again.
God’s great blessing was upon them all.
This is us.
Blessed, overflowing with the grace of God, overwhelmed by the presence of God, and if we take a moment to take a breath and think about it, or better, to look around us, we shall see it.
For we see the work being done in each other. We may be completely oblivious as to what is going on in our own lives, but we see what is going on around us, and the peace that is found here.
I can look around the room, and see the same thing Luke described in the early church, a place where people are united in one hear, one mind, the very transformation that comes from knowing that….
Alleluia, He is Risen! (He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
and therefore, (we are risen Indeed! ALLELUIA!)
This is a natural transformation, actually supernatural…
As we look at the description of how the church interacted in this passage, it seems either naïve, r some socialistic plot, at first.
Karl Marx who used a description gathered from these verses to describe his perfect society, describing it this way, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs
And wherever that has been attempted by law or by forcing people to believe it, it has failed. Not because the idea is wrong, but because the transformation has been forced, rather than allowed to happen naturally, It is put upon the people that this is the way they will live, rather than allowing love to cause it naturally, to be driven by the spiritual desire to love those around us.
We do that to often, even in the church, when we try and change people’s behavior without seeing their hearts and souls transformed by God, resurrected and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit draws them into Jesus, into His death and resurrection.
This is a long habit, dating back to the Pharisees, and probably before. When they didn’t want the tax collector or the prostitute in Church. When they paid more attention to the outside appearance of the individual, and the broken and different were sent away.
We want people to live generously, we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to give up the sins that so damage their lives. What we want for them is good, if we don’t guilt them into it, or promise them some special blessing from God, if they only act the way we think God wants them to think and act,
It happens more naturally than that, or it might be better to say, more supernaturally than that…. For God moves us, His love transforms us.
The testimony causes it…
That is what the rest of the verse had mentioned,
The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.
The blessing that was upon them was delivered through the testimony that Jesus was no longer dead, that Praise God, He is risen….
And as the apostles proclaimed this, the people realized all the promises of God were poured out on them, for they were forgiven, cleansed, made the holy people of God our Father. They had become brothers and sisters of Jesus, counted no longer as servants, but as friends.
The gospel is not just the testimony of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is the testimony of what this means.
We are His, we are free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, God present with us, who comforts us, empowers us, and transforms us.
To use our motto, that is why we, the people of Concordia, are the broken people, who are finding healing in Christ, help others to heal.
It is why Cyndee and Carol and Linda find such joy in gathering women together for special events, knowing that they will bring joy into their lives. Or why Jim and Manny had a few guys over for the first men’s time yesterday. It is why Hank and his team from both congregations raised the money, and why Hank was down here each day, checking on the work. It is why we help people who’ve lost homes or send Bernie back to Sudan, or why you sent me to China a few years ago. It is why we have Al constantly talking about benevolence, and he doesn’t just talk about it. It’s why we have Nancy keeping her prayer book and encouraging others to pray. It’s why Missy sets her anxiety aside to guide our worship, and why these people smile over here, as they hear your voices sing louder than theirs… I could go on and on, but this is the evidence of God working Just as they did in the early church, each person helping the rest… not thinking about themselves.
We want others to know the love we know, or as Peter describes in His epistle, to be people with a future and a hope.
The love that we find here at the altar, its why a 2-3-year old will cling to it, not understanding, but knowing this is a special place. For many of us older folk as well… for here, reminded of how deep God’s love for us is, the resurrection becomes more than history, it becomes our life!
It’s the love given to us in our baptism, and that becomes more real each and every day. For Ezekiel promised that God would change us,
The gospel is that God loves us, and cleanses and transforms us, something seen as we grow in love for one another, in a naturally supernatural way…..
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)
A love that brings us together, one heart, one soul, for ours is His heart, His soul….a love that causes us to dwell in His peace… united to Him… AMEN!
Let us pray!
as an added bonus…. the notes from Bible Study (let me know if I should continue to post these!
What is Concordia
A Look at the Body of Christ
Why should we study what the church is?
If we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, then can’t all this come about naturally (Jer 31:34)?
Is the church in the day’s of the Acts of the Apostles better or worse from the church today?
The Lutheran Confessions describe the Church this way:
1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.
2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.
Does this resonate with what we heard today in the sermon? What caused the transformation in the believers?
Is Concordia the Church, or just part of the Church?
What does it mean that all the believers ( those having faith) are of one heart (kardia) and mind (psyche)
is this passage talking just about sharing money, or is that just an example?
What do people “need” in this church?
Back to being a witness to the resurrection. What does that mean? How can we be that today?
How do the sacraments fit into that? (1 Cor 11:26 & Titus 3:4-8)
So are the sacraments still being a witness to the resurrection?
How much of one kardia and psyche do we realize during the sacraments?
 Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for our day:
20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. 2 Peter 2:20-21 (NLT)
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)
325 Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit out the lukewarm.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the phrase “faith alone” (sola fide in Latin.) In those conversations, I have read what Reformed think I believe, that Romans Catholics think we mean by it, and even what Orthodox think we believe by the term.
Unfortunately, none of them told me what I actually believe, even though they said they were accurately representing what Lutheran and Calvin mean by the term. (there is the first clue when they claim Luther and Calvin mean the same thing when they use “faith alone”)
As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, it got me thinking about the difference between faith being passive (which it is) and faith being lazy or lukewarm.
Lukewarm or lazy faith is the result of cheap grace, (to use another theologian’s term) We have the right knowledge, we even pursue that knowledge, but it doesn’t make a difference in the way of life the person lives. It instead goes for either intellectual or emotional stimuli to determine what is good. It would rather see that than action, because we know that action doesn’t save, only faith does. (it, therefore, denies the role of the sacraments in regard to faith!) And because it lacks roots, it dries up and fades away. This is not “faith alone” because there is no God that is transcendent, that is here, that is involved.
Passive faith means that we depend on God, for our salvation, for our life, and our dependence is only on Him. He saves us, He brings us to life, He causes us to walk with Him, and the Holy Spirit’s presence transforms us, making us holy, taking on the image of Christ. It is passive in that only finds hope, it only finds an answer in our relationship with God, a relationship He determines, that He defines, that He constantly nourishes.
That is what those who confuse Calvin and Luther don’t quite understand, or those who were trying to represent what I believe (as a Lutheran pastor) over the last couple of weeks. They put forth that “faith alone” didn’t leave room for baptism, or the Lord’s Supper. Yet in Lutheran theology, these things are part of what is “faith alone”, because God ordained them because He promised to work through them, to pour His promises, including forgiveness through them. “Faith alone” doesn’t deny God’s means of grace, it actually requires us to depend on God working in the way He promised, through those things and times we call sacramental.
And it is because we walk with God that we find our lives being transformed, that we respond to His love almost instinctively, but yet visibly. It means we learn to love and love others, responding to their needs, to their search for life and for meaning. This is a life of faith, a life trusting in God, walking with Him whereever we go..
God is with us, and knowing that, we can depend on Him. That is what “Faith alone” really means, to those it originated with …
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 838-840). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)
959 We cannot give way in matters of faith. But don’t forget that in order to speak the truth there is no need to ill-treat anyone.
One thing that history has shown us is the need to be theologically astute, as well as to know the history of theology. There are no new heresies under the sun, and they come back with greater frequency than the seasons. As St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, the role of ministry is to stop us from being tricked, by people who sound like they have the truth.
But it is not enough to simply be orthodox, to have the right explanation theologically, or apologetically.
There are a lot of theologians out there, brilliant men and women who can correctly and clearly explain why they know about God, and even why a contrary view is not dangerous. And there is a myriad who are quite vocal and prolific in their writing, yet still have gaps in their knowledge.
But even for those who have a mastery over theology, it is not enough, and those learning need to learn this as well, less their zeal for orthodoxy become a barrier to the ministry they desire.
Theological orthodoxy is not enough. It never has been.
We have to speak the truth, but it is not enough just to speak it. We have to speak it, loving the person to who we are engaged in conversation. Desiring not to win the argument, or that we were able to zing them. Rather we need to desire that they can glorify God more because they have gained a greater insight into the dimensions of His love for them, that they have experienced His love and mercy.
Too often I have seen the damage the theologian ( or a theologian-in-training like myself) has done because their words were not delivered in love. Words which had unintended consequences, and to use a military phrase, severe collateral damage. The damage that leaves people thinking the church, and therefore God, is heartless and doesn’t care about them, just creating clones, or getting people inside without caring enough to confront their brokenness.
And for us who claim to have some level of wisdom, how heartbreaking it is to realize that we have driven someone away from the love of God.
We can change this tendency we have, we must change it! But it is not simply through our will and determination. FOr we will find ourselves doing the same thing, to different people. Or we will find ourselves responding defensively to others.
It is through learning to adore Christ, as we ourselves are changed by His love, that this change occurs. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, revealing to us and helping us explore the depths of God’s love. That love changes us, enables us to love, and therefore to speak the truth in love. A maturity that is nourished in sacramental times, and in times of prayer and meditation.
So let us encourage each other to know the love of God, which is the reason we have hope and peace in this midst of this broken world, fr we know He will answer when we
Lord, Have Mercy!!!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3383-3385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Walking with Jesus through Trials to The Triumph
EnJOYing the Walk!
† In Jesus Name †
As you walk with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may the gift of their love and mercy sustain us, and bring us great joy!
Where is the joy?
Verse 11 in our epistle reading often leaves me wondering. Specifically, the part that says, “so NOW we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God.”
Did you guys get this memo? That because of your wonderful new relationship with God we should be rejoicing, that we should be overwhelmed with joy? I think somedays I need to be strongly reminded of that, and somehow, I don’t think I am the only one.
As we walk through this season of Lent, as we walk through these trials to The Triumph, we need to experience this joy, not just because it will prevent us from burning out, but rather because the joy is the basis for where we live..
We, who dwell in the presence and glory of God, are to live joy-filled lives. It is the fruit of the Spirit Paull will tell the church in Galatia, and the Thessalonian church will hear “rejoice always!’
What an odd paradox for Lent, to preach on the fact that we should rejoice, that we should live our lives full of joy, even as we grieve over our sin. To talk about the joy we should be experiencing is far greater than the joy experienced by winning a gold medal in the Olympics, yet which at times seems as unlikely as me winning said gold medal.
Then again, if we were all full of joy, why would I need to preach about it, or why would St. Paul need to write about it?
A Paradox indeed, this idea of joy!
Endurance leads to confident hope…. For we know
Then again, this passage is full of challenging things to understand, like the fact that when we encounter problems and trials, we can rejoice as well!
As if the problems and trials are the sources of that joy.
They aren’t, and it doesn’t say they are the source of the joy. They just say joy should be expected, that the result of problems and trials results eventually in our confident hope of salvation being strengthened, being made sure, as we realize the breadth and width, their height and depth of God’s love.
We need to get that, for I think most of us look at these problems trials and at points wonder where God is, or why He would allow such a thing to exist? We stagger in the doubt and anxiety that such problems and trials, these oppressive times, and at times fall into sin, looking for relief from how they dominate the landscape.
Luther noted this challenge in dealing with problems and trials when he discussed the first commandment and what a God was,
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
It is all too easy to take refuge in something, especially in those things that are powerfully addictive, from drugs and alcohol to work, sex, politics, technology, social media and even security. It moves from temptation to sin when those things become our primary refuge, the place we go to first always. Where do we run when life is challenged, when life is difficult? That is our god, and far too often, that is not Jesus. These refuges will draw us in, more and more until we realize them for the trap they are. By that time, we are helpless.
Then we need to be saved more from our refuge far more than we need to be saved from the problems and trials that assault us.
But when we were helpless!
We aren’t without hope though, and that is part of the process. For enduring these challenges can only be accomplished as we are drawn to Christ. When we realize that when we didn’t deserve the privilege of having peace with God, when we realize that when we were utterly helpless Christ came and died for us.
That is where the spiraling into the refuges of idolatry ends, when Jesus comes and rescues us, an unbelievable action, considering he is rescuing us from betraying him!
This is where the joy is found, in that while we were still in rebellion, while we didn’t give a rip about God, and sought out sin rather than depending and listening to Him, He still loved us, He still died for us. He still cleaned up the mess we’ve out of our lives.
That is amazing! That is something to be astounded by! That is something to be thankful for!
He loves us. God really loves us!
And even more, because Christ’s blood cleanses and paid for all our sins, we have the promise of sharing in the glory of God!
That is what we rejoice in, this incredible, mind-blowing idea that because of Jesus, because of His love, we have this relationship with God, where He calls us His friends.
A relationship that is revealed when we can’t make it through these problems and trials when we realize that relationship is called a friendship. A relationship that is full of peace, and in that peace, we can rejoice in what Jesus has done, and what God has prepared for us, a place for eternity, dwelling and sharing in His glory.
This is worth rejoicing in, even in Lent, Yes? AMEN
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12 to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)
Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office. (Italics mine)
Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind. (Italics mine)
Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time. I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition. I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.
There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley. The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people. A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate. It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people. It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!
We don’t always get this correct. Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church. Pastors don’t save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church.
We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.
Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don’t understand this. They don’t get that the ministry is God’s, entrusted to the entire church together. It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God’s desire to reconcile all to Him. Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry.
Such a responsibility isn’t to be hoarded like Gollum’s precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks. Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines. It is best done, when all, so in awe of God’s love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God. Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.
We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.
It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.
Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world. AMEN!
Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print. Italics mine