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My Love-Hate Relationship With “the” Church

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
1  Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. Isaiah 62:1 (NLT) 

489    A keen and living faith. A faith like Peter’s. When you have it—our Lord has said so—you will move mountains, humanly insuperable obstacles that rise up against your apostolic undertakings.  (1)

(Disclaimer:  This is not about my present congregation/parish, or any individual congregation or parish.  It is about the church at large)

There are times it is tempting to walk away, citing the quaint but blasphemous statement, “I love your Christ, but I hate your religion”.  There are times where the politics, the focus and dependence on theology and/or pragmatic theory, rather than on the Holy Spirit’s guidance drives me crazy.  There are days where people’s desire to divide the church rather than work for the unity Jesus prayed for leaves me feeling empty and depressed. There are times where leaders fight to gain control and power or to make the church in their image rather than Christ’s could give me just cause me to leave.

I hate “the” Church.

But I also love her. This Church. She is the bride of Christ; she is the body of Christ.  She is the joy in the dad’s face as he helps baptize his newborn baby.  Jesus’s love is reflected in the tear-filled eyes of the lady as she receives His body broken for her… His blood shed to cover all her sins.  I love the church s I see people, once adversaries, laughing together and sharing life because the Holy Spirit has become their Lord and Giver of life and reconciled the relationships that were thought to be shattered.  That when we strive to not only live according to God’s revealed plan, but quickly run to confess our trespasses, that He heals us, He heals His church.

It is because of all of this, the good, the bad and the ugly, that the words in red mean so much to me above.   I do yearn to see the church realize the presence of God that God’s kingdom is here, and now.  That He is heard to bring peace, that the means of grace, the sacraments and word of God (which we even argue about) are used by the Holy Spirit to transform us all into the image of Christ, to remind us of the promise we shall share in His glory.  It is that hope, that Jesus won’t abandon His church, that sustains us, even when things seem broken.

It takes the keen and living faith, quickened and sustained by Holy Spirit, to not only see what the church should be, what religion is, but to see that in the people of God. Our relationship with God, the leading of the Holy Spirit, not only empowers our mission, our apostolate, but gives us the desire to see it happen, to see the church grow in its faith, in its awareness of God’s presence, to depend on His love and mercy.

That same desire…can be momentarily frustrated when we look at our beloved Church.  Because we forgot what makes the church the Body of Christ, He does.

Let us look to Him! Let us watch the Holy Spirit transform us into His image, into people who naturally obey His law. the law He put into our hearts, and He drew us into His on the cross.

Lord Have Mercy!  Help us love the Church you love, and see her as you do!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1196-1197). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You Can’t Dismiss the Supernatural! For It Is Our Life!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. Colossians 1:27 (TEV)

7  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this pFeatured imagerecious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. 8  As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, 9  but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. 10  What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (MSG)

922      The apostolate—which is a sure sign of spiritual life—means being constantly on the lookout so as to supernaturalise each detail of the day, whether big or small, by putting the love of God into everything one does. (1)

What would happen, if we considered every situation we find ourselves in, a supernatural one?

What would happen if we treated the little things in life, like driving a car, or taking out the trash, or even talking to a 3 or 4 year-old, as a precious event.  What would happen if we knew that second was a miraculous gift of God?  What if we treated every moment, every conversation as if it was occurring in church?  What if we realized that the glory of God is being revealed all around us, with every breath, every exhale, every heartbeat?

These questions may seem rhetorical, but they are not.

They may cause a bit of guilt or shame, but they shouldn’t. 

This is our reality that God has taken up residence in us, that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. In our very bodies is manifest the love and presence an glory of God.

it may even be as improbable as the idea that Solomon’s temple, or a tent in the wilderness could contain the glory of God.

But His glory dwells in a people claimed as His,  In people He has cleansed, that He has poured His Spirit into, that His glory would be seen by the world.  That those who are His, could know His mercy, that those who don’t, would see His glory, and come to know Him.

This isn’t poetry or some high-level theology.  it is not just some metaphysical thought, or something that we only meditate upon when the mood hit; bu has no connection to our daily life

It is our life, a supernatural life, a miraculous life, lived in the glory of God. Every moment, even those that are the most common.  Even the things which try to crush us, or defeat us.   Even those moments where we grieve, or mourn, or are depressed, He is there.  Seek His presence, His comfort, His peace… and share it with those around you.

May this reality be realized you more and more… this day.

AMEN.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3249-3251). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

where does loving my neighbor stop…..

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
Featured image
16  And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:16-21 (TEV)

869      If you really loved God with all your heart, then that love for your neighbour, which you sometimes find so hard to have, would come as a necessary consequence of your Great Love. You would never feel hostility towards anyone, nor would you discriminate between people.

Your neighbor, the one that cut you off on the freeway.  Or maybe the one who was promoted over you unfairly at work, he’s your neighbor, isn’t he?  what about your old high school friend, who stabbed you in the back/  Or what about that false preacher, the guy who doesn’t agree with anyone else (or so it seems) in your denomination, is he your neighbor?

If these are those you are called to love, is there a point where you can stop loving them?

Where you can with all purity of heart wish God’s wrath to fall on them?  Where you can hope that they receive justice, and not the mercy of God?

i can perhaps come up with 50 reasons I should be able to just hate them, or dismiss them into obscurity.  Those I have heard as a pastor, and some I came up with myself.   We may not want to deal with them, we may not want them in our neighborhood, or our church, or our denomination.

Yet, we are still called to love them. To not only do what is best for them, but to do it in a loving way.  (not gritting our teeth, or just saying – this will hurt  – but its what’s best for you… )  We are still called ot be like Christ in the way we deal with them.

I had a friend who once said you don’t change anything as a pastor within your church, until you know its place so well it hurts you to change it.  If that is true for a practice, or a tradition, can you see the necessity of the same attitude towards a person?

this is the atitude of God, so clearly seen in the words from Ezekiel,

10  The LORD spoke to me. “Mortal man,” he said, “repeat to the Israelites what they are saying: ‘We are burdened with our sins and the wrongs we have done. We are wasting away. How can we live?’ 11  Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live. Israel, stop the evil you are doing. Why do you want to die?” Ezekiel 33:10-11 (TEV)

Would you cry over than neighbor’s continued lack of repentance? Or would you rejoice?  Would you carry a cross for them, for the joy set before you?  Or would you simply dismiss them as having rejected God, because they rejected you? ( And would you count on Jesus to forgive you your debts, even as you refuse to forgive them theirs?

Hard questions? Sure!

But they should cause you to run to the only place the answer can be found.  In the wounds of Christ crucified, in the eyes of the one who cries out for our forgiveness, even as He steals our sins from us.

You see, to love your neighbor like this requires only one thing…. our unity with Christ.

Nothing else will make it happen, nothing else will cause us to desire it to happen.  We will search for every lookhole, try to find every exception, Look back into our lives to every pain and challenge God saying, “You can’t mean this one Lord, the pain is too hard”

It is then we realize the depth of our need for Jesus…. and His faithfulness.

Which is what we need to know about Jesus.

May every service, every mass, every Bible study with others, every quiet time of prayer, devotion and study, reveal to us His presence… so we can know the impossible, is certainly doable….. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3073-3075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Featured imageMark 1:4-11, Romans 6:1-11

May the blessing of Christ’s baptism and yours, continue to astound you, as you realize the love of God which bound you to Him, as the water and word made you and God inseparable!

I want you to picture yourself in John the Baptist’s sandals this morning.

You are well aware of the Spirit’s work in your life, you see people coming to repentance in a way not seen in centuries.  You know the prophecies, you’ve had to explain them to so many…

“No, I am not the Messiah”

“Yes, he is coming”,

“what will He be like?  I cannot even begin to think of it, but His ministry to mankind will be more than you can explain.  I can explain this – but the ministry of the Messiah, the Christ?  It will be so amazing that I can’t even compare it to a king and his lowest servant….”

You look up from those you are teaching, and He is there.  Your soul leaps, as it did the day when your mothers met, and both of you were still in the womb.  You know, He knows you do.

Jesus, your cousin, your Lord, your God is here.  Asking to get baptized, by you…

As the other gospels describe this, you would tell him, “No, this doesn’t make sense, I should be the one baptized…”

Jesus response, “no this is right.  I will be baptized by you.”

John obeys, as I hope each of us would…

But the question remains… why does Jesus need to be baptized?

Why is it… right?

Baptism into Death

You into His

          He into ours

When you study baptism throughout the scriptures, it is always connected to death,

We see this clearly in Romans 6 – where Paul tells us that we’ve died with Christ.  That in our baptism, we are joined to death on the cross, to his burial. The scriptures that talk of being born again, that talk of those who trust in God are a new creation.

It all happens in this sacrament.

We need to join into His death… if we are to have the hope of being cleansed of sin of being granted repentance, of being able to live this new life.  That is what the glorious power of God does to us, as God claims us as His children.

This even is true in the Old Testament, where one separated from God and His people because of sin, was sent out of the camp.  They were separated for a time, and prior to rejoining the people of God – had to ceremoniously wash.  It was part of their psyche, their community, that the washing was a sign of repentance. Not only washing the person, but also various things that have come into contact with sin… or with blood.

Sin has to be washed away… it has to be dealt with, and in our baptism, it was… once and for all.   12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:12-13 (TEV)

I will say we need to be reminded of it often…we need to know the promises of baptism…

the removal of sin

the blessing of repentance

the promise of eternal life,

the promise of the Holy Spirit, entering into an intimate fellowship with God

So we get back to the original question… why did Jesus have to be baptized?

If baptism is the joining in the death of someone, then perhaps we find the answer there.  In His baptism, Jesus must be baptized into our death, to take on those sins, He must die for us, and His baptism is a picture of His death, his willingness to take our death, so that we can rise.

In his baptism – it is right and necessary, that He join us in our death, so that He can defeat it. 

He joins us to bear our death…. We join Him, to be rid of the death, and rise again.  He is baptized to take our sin, we are baptized so He could as well.

But there is one thing point in which we share in baptism with Jesus….

With you I am well pleased…. Sound familiar?

As Jesus was baptized, as He joined himself to us, the heavens opened wide, they split open as we heard Isaiah pray for just a few weeks ago….

What happens next to Him, happens to us…

The Spirit descends on Him, Just as the sins are taken/removed – so to the picture of the Spirit’s descent is true.  We don’t talk about it much, but in each of you, the Holy Spirit dwells.

The Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us, who keeps us in the presence of God, who testifies to us of God’s love, yes, through word and sacrament, through our being reminded of the promises of baptism, in the feast of the Lord’s Supper, who testifies to us in words of absolution, and in times of prayer, and in those times we serve each other….

God is here…

He calls us His sons, His daughters, His children.

And He says to all those, united to His Son in baptism, you are my beloved child, and you bring me great joy…

AMEN.

Lord, I Believe You Will Do the Impossible… Help me trust you will!

Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

15  Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15 (NJB)

23  “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)

929         Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are. (1)

I’ve had a task to do, that I am not looking forward to handling.  Simply put, there are things we are called to do as believers that are impossible.

This is one of those.

The temptation is to really on our own wisdom, our own strength.  To force the issue, to pretend we are God, that all things can be fixed, with the “if only” caveat.  That caveat justifies failure, it allows us to walk away without having to admit the failure.  It allows us to walk away without feeling disappointment.

That caveat is the seed of our defeat, just like a prenuptial agreement is a danger sign in a marriage, because it leaves open the room for failure, and nearly guarantees it will happen. It puts the success or failure somewhere besides making us responsible for it, and therefore leaves out the one crucial ingredient for success.  The one ingredient?  Oh, you want to know what it is?

Jesus makes it known in the 2nd quote above.  If you believe, if you trust in God, if you know His heart well enough to base your life on it, even risk your life on it.

To which the man cries out a Kyrie Eleison – Lord have mercy – help me when I cannot trust.

Depend on Him.  That sounds simple, but it isn’t.  We have to know His desire, we have to understand the effort God will put into keeping his promises. We have to realize the depth of His love.  We have to know it – deeply in order to trust in it, even as this man had to trust that Jesus could heal his son.

It isn’t easy – but we can pray, we can communicate our need for something to booster our faith, we can admit we need His help – even to trust.

But when we do, patience comes naturally, peace flows, the impossible seems be have cracks of God’s probability shine through. We realize we can wait for it to happen, we realize that God will make all things work for good, we realize the power of mercy and forgiveness.

And we trust in His presence to make all the difference, and it does.

For He has promised – and He is faithful.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where’s the Rest of my Story? I Have to Know I Get the Miracle, Don’t I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

8  It was then that some Babylonians took the opportunity to denounce the Jews. 9  They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May Your Majesty live forever! 10  Your Majesty has issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue, 11  and that anyone who does not bow down and worship it is to be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12  There are some Jews whom you put in charge of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who are disobeying Your Majesty’s orders. They do not worship your god or bow down to the statue you set up.” 13  At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the three men to be brought before him. 14  He said to them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you refuse to worship my god and to bow down to the gold statue I have set up? 15  Now then, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, oboes, lyres, zithers, harps, and all the other instruments, bow down and worship the statue. If you do not, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Do you think there is any god who can save you?” 16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17  If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18  But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-18 (TEV)

872         To help you keep your peace during those times of hard and unjust contradictions I used to say to you: “If they break our skulls, we shall not take it too seriously. We shall just have to put up with having them broken.”  (1)

In my devotional this morning, the Old Testament reading was exactly what you see above.

My first reaction was, why stop it here?

Why not give us the rest of the story.  (spoiler alert?)  Why not just let us read on, to the glory, to the miracle of the 4th man? To the repentance of the community in its sins, not just to God, but to me!

I want the rest of the story!  And I want it….. now!

I looked ahead – I don’t get the rest of the story tomorrow!  What is up with that?

What is up with that is the words of faith that the three men said.  They were sure of their trust in God enough to embrace the fact that the story might not end with a miracle, and somehow, they are okay with that.  Somehow, knowing that God is at work is enough, being sure He will keep His promises is enough.

Many martyrs die without receiving what we would want, their release back into the world.  Their freedom from those who would oppress, torture, and eventually kill them.

And they were able to endure, knowing something that their captors did not.

That God, by his very cHesed nature,the depth and height, the breadth and width of His love,  is worthy of the trust that the three men showed.  Even if He didn’t rescue them, even if they didn’t get the miracle they expected.  They knew His love.

May we, as we think through the work of God accomplished in our Baptism, as we meditate on the Body and Blood of Christ, as we hear with absolute delight that our sins are forgiven, that all is made right, know God enough to trust Him, even if we don’t get the miracle we want……

For we have the one we need. The Cross.  (see Romans 6:3-8)

He is our God.

AMEN.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3565-3567). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Even if I am a dog, He’s my Master!

Even if I am a Dog,

He is MY Master

Matthew 15:21-28

Kyrie Iesou, Eleison


May you realize that when God is your Master, your Lord, which means He obligates Himself to showing you love, and mercy, so that you live in peace!  

It’s not about tenacity; it’s about recognition

A question for you to start this message.

Does God simply answer our prayers because we are so tenacious?  Did Jesus answer this lady’s prayers just because she followed them through town, or did Jesus answer her to silence the apostles who were whining about her bothering them with her begging?

Is that the way God works, that He rewards those who are persistent, who are tenacious?  Who don’t give up?  Do we have to workout spiritually, so that we can endure, and then receive that which is promised?

We might say, “No, that doesn’t sound right.” But when it comes to unanswered prayer, do we sometimes hear this story, or the parable of the elderly woman and the judge, and wonder; is that the key to getting a prayer answered?

Persistence, dedication to the cause, determination and good old-fashioned stubbornness?

Or is there something else…. Perhaps something like recognizing the Truth?

The truth that it is okay to be a dog; if that means that He is our Lord, that He is our Master?

That is what was revealed to her, which confirmed to her that He was her Lord!

What She Saw:   Lord Son of David!

A little background helps.  When the lady first starts yelling to Jesus “Kyrie Eleison” she is saying something we sang a few moments ago.

The translation phrases it, “have mercy Lord.”  We sing it the Kyrie in the opposite order, but the plea is the same.  Lord, love us and because of that love, care for us.  That is what the word mercy means.  cHesed means to have great love, care for, provide, protect, forgive and do everything in your power to care for and help those who with who you have a relationship.  She demands this of him.

Pour out you love and care on us Lord, she cries, Over and over, she begs this very thing.

She goes one step further; she calls Him Lord! She acknowledges that He is her master.  She lays herself at his feet, and she worships Him as her Lord.

You see, cHesed is that loving-mercy of God.  It is an obligation of the Lord to His people.  I’ve mentioned that word here before, this incredible word that binds a Lord, a Master to His people. He will take care of them, for He has made that commitment to them, as their Lord. He has become their Master.

That is what she wants! That is why she keeps calling Him Lord! Every time she speaks, this is how she addresses Him, as the one who is obligated to care for her.

She wants to be part of His Kingdom, His Household, to be His!

More Precise!

The first time she calls out for mercy, she adds something to it.

Have mercy Lord, Son of David!

Somehow, she knew about this promise of the Messiah.  She uses one of the titles for the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one of God!  The Lord through whom salvation would come! Salvation to the Jewish people, but also to all who would call out to the Messiah.

When she cries out for mercy, she is crying out to the Messiah!  She is crying out to the long-awaited Son of David! She recognizes that He is the Lord and Master; the One who would bring about what we heard from the prophet Isaiah,

“I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name,
who worship him!”

She knows who Jesus is, she knows the help that only He can offer!  She comes and places herself in His care, begging that He would accept Her!

His response finally is heard.

You are nothing but a dog.

Surprisingly, that is what she is longing to hear!

Dogs are part of the family

Consider this quote, about John Chrysostom, one of the most-quoted preachers in  history.

Chrysostom seems to recognise the shade of meaning conveyed by τ κυνάρια (the dogs of the household). “On the very words of the Lord she founds her plea. If I am a dog (κυνάριον), she says, I am no alien.”[i]

I belong!

She understands these “terms”; that the promises go first to the people of God, those he counts as His children.  She rejoices in knowing that the promise is there for her as well. This Lord has accepted her as part of the household, part of the family of God.

Think about it!  How many people refer to their dogs as their children!

She’ll take it, even as the Psalm 84 talks of a similar attitude:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 (NLT)

To be the mutt, waiting under the table for scraps, the Kingdom of God is a great place to be, knowing the love of the Master.  As long as she knows the love of the Lord, as long as she is one of the people He brings home, she will be content.

She will trust in her Master; she will bask in His love…she will trust His reign over her life.

Scraps aren’t good enough!

He will at first acknowledge her faith, by providing the salvation of her daughter, freeing her from the demons that afflict her.

That is only the beginning of the fulfillment of His promises to her, and to all of us, who though not physical descendants of Abraham, are the spiritual descendants.  It is just the beginning for those who trust in God as our Lord, our Master!

A blessing for those who know that our cries for His love are answered.  His mercy is always the answer! He hears us and will bring us home.  That woman didn’t get the scraps from the table; neither will any who trust in the promises that are made ours in Christ.

 

She is invited to a feast – one beyond all comparison…the wedding feast of the Lamb, the feast to celebrate the welcoming home of all the people of God.

Including this gentile woman and her daughter.
When we approach this altar, we see this feast in part.  The love of God, the love of our Master, our Lord, and the mercy which makes it possible.  These are not bread scraps and the last drops of wine.  This is the body and blood of Jesus Christ!

This feast is the answer of a God, who would provide for all of His children, for all who will call upon His name.

Yes, I am your Lord.  Come and feast with me!

Yes, dear friends, Jesus says I will be your Lord, your Messiah, I will care for you. I will provide.  That was what the cross was about, not just saving us from our sins, but opening up a relationship for all people with God the Father.  He says,  “You are my people, come and know my peace!”  For this, this peace of God, is promised, which passes all understanding, and in which our hearts and minds are kept safe, by our Lord.

AMEN!

[i] Chase, F. H. (1887). Chrysostom: A Study in the History of Biblical Interpretation (p. 130). Cambridge; London: Deighton Bell and Co.; George Bell and Sons.

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