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We have a place in this world!

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46 But Paul and Barnabas bravely said: We had to tell God’s message to you before we told it to anyone else. But you rejected the message! This proves that you don’t deserve eternal life. Now we are going to the Gentiles. 47 The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth. Acts 13:46–47 (CEV)

1533 Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world.

THE FIFTH (Commandment)
“You shall not kill.”
10 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.

As I was working through my devotions this morning, in the back of my mind was lurking the idea of what difference do I make in this world.  I know I am not the only one who is pondering this. This virus situation has taken away from so many how they perceive they are valued, as jobs, schools, and interaction with people that would normally give their life meaning has been stolen away.

I have friends whose children are graduating from junior high school, high school, college, and graduate degrees.  They cannot celebrate these accomplishments in normal ways, stealing from them the celebration of their endurance.  Preschool teachers I know, who live for interacting with their kids, and getting hugs, cannot. In my case, my primary joy is communing people – the 50-70 people that show up on a given Sunday, and have not been able to for the last 8 weeks. This has been my dream and desire, and I believe my calling since I was 8.

It is brutal to our psyche, to our mental health.

It is wearying, and those around us, who are going through the same things, feeling the same pressures, are struggling with each other.

And hope is given and taken away with every newscast, with every internet article.  The roller coaster of our heart and soul seems to have no one at the controls, as we are wildly whipped around, and unable ot catch our breath.

The Catholic Catechism, notes our common place in life is found via the sacraments. That in that grace pouring out on us as we are cleaned and united to Jesus, we find our place.

We find we are being made holy, that we share in the same vocation as the Apostle Paul, as those tasked with sharing the news that God loves us, that God is with us, that we can, (and should) help other people know this!  Not just in church on Sunday morning, but throughout our week, in our homes, our zoom meetings, our telephone calls.

God has placed us here, (even as the Father sent Jesus) to be a light to the gentiles. e

We do this by loving them, and helping them and befriending them in every possible way. Including the incredible necessity, they may not be aware of, the necessity to know God’s presence. The necessity to know they are loved, the necessity of knowing they have a place, and God redeems the world.

This is hard to see and easy to get distracted from by the cares and pressures. It is a place that takes up our entire lives, and yet..happens best when we don’t force it, but we simply live in this amazing relationship with God.

This is our place.. this is where we find out ultimate meaning in life, as the ones whom God loves, as the ones He shares His greatest work with, the recreation of everything.

Let us find our peace and joy, there, as we work side by side with Him.  AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 383.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Small Catechism from The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.

Helping others Deal with Brokenness, Stress, Anxiety, ( like teaching them to drive a stick)

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  Psalm 46:1-3 CEV

The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

COMFORT WHEN FACING GRAVE TEMPTATIONS
First, such a person1 must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God’s name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.
Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials [1 Pet. 5:9]. How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, “O God, I am driven far from thy sight” [31:22], and, “I became like those who go into hell” [28:1]. These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.

As I was trying to care for someone yesterday, who was worried and anxious, part of my prayer was a reaction similar to the title of this blog.

Actually, it was said to him with a bit more colorful language, and with, I must admit some anger.

Over my lifetime, I have needed to vent in more than once… and I know God can handle me, much as He did the Prophet, Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 20:7)  Yet, knowing I can vent it, knowing I can get past it, it is not easy to teach this.

Teaching others this, and helping them be patient with themselves as they wait on God’s action, is like teaching someone to drive a manual transmission. YOu have to let them do it, you have to let them drop the clutch at the wrong times, you have ot encourage, and help them make the tiniest of corrections until they feel the shift until it becomes intuitive until it becomes natural.

When we learn to drive a stick until we realize the moments of high anxiety and stress will resolve, as God does what God does, and as we learn to trust Him, life s like those early times of driving a stick. We get jerked all over the place, stall a lot (and still do on occasion), and make very little progress. But then it all comes together, and we can begin to move, as we sop thinking of on it, and simply focus on where we are going.

Spurgeon and Luther help us realize this,  as help us realize that struggles don’t necessarily diminish as we mature, as we grow more dependent on our Lord, and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. How I wish it was the case that life gets easier!

Yet because it doesn’t, we can sit beside those trying to deal with the clutch, trying to learn, or absorb the challenges, and still keep their eyes focused on God.  We can encourage them, and comfort them, and smile as they start to move smoothly again, as they resonate with the love of Christ.

This is our mission… this is who we are..

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 183.

Hell’s Existence a Good Thing? HUH?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20  you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. 
c

927    Pray for one another. One is wavering? … And another? … Keep on praying, without losing your peace. Some are leaving? Some are being lost? …Our Lord has you all numbered from eternity!

Can we relate even Hell to God’s love? It is the most unpopular of Christian dogmas and the one most widely disbelieved, even though Jesus clearly taught it on many different occasions. It is disbelieved mainly because it seems to most people to contradict the dogma of God’s love. And if we have to deny one of the two, then of course let’s deny Hell. Hell without God’s love is … well, just Hell. God’s love without Hell is still God’s love.
But in fact the two do not contradict each other. Far from contradicting God’s love, Hell manifests God’s love. It is the other side of the coin of God’s love.

The question exists in many people’s minds.

How could a good loving God create a place like Hell or even the kind of people that would deserve it?

Theologians and Biblical Scholars will tell you the Hell wasn’t created for mankind, and that hell is an effect caused by our decisions to sin, and even more, our decisions to not seek and claim the forgiveness that God promises.

They are right of course, they often are.

But that doesn’t answer the question, why would God create such a place?

The simple answer is, – there has to be a place that is an option to being in a place where you are loved.

This means because hell exists, so does a place exist where God’s love, His mercy, His care, His presence sustaining us exists.

The existence of Hell doesn’t mean God would force any human being to go there, that it is a place where a loving God would send someone to punish people who rejected Him, who chose to worship themselves, or inanimate objects.

It is simply the option for those who would not be in an intimate, loving relationship with their Creator. And as horrendous as hell would seem, cut off from everything that is good, everything that is love, that tells us how incredible heaven is, and what those who are in this incredible, intimate, merciful love of God will experience.

Something we have begun to experience now, here, together.

The question then is simple, will we, who know this, reveal to those who have wandered off that God loves them?

This about why I said that is the question, more than the question being why would people choose hell. I don’t think they do, as much as most would think. Think about it, and love them.

Heavenly Father, help us love those around us in such a way, that they know YOU LOVE THEM. Empower us with Your Spirit to show them the care, the mercy, the deepest levels of love, even as we embrace the cost, as Jesus embraced the cost to show us Your love. We pray this in His precious name, AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 154.

Worship is more than a service!

Word, bread, wine, CHRIST IS WITH US!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

40 But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41 not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42 And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.” Acts 10:40-43 GNT

Worship is not only submission, but also translates into the mystery of ‘communion’ and ‘union’.

A conversation I had this week touched on the idea of liturgical worship and its connection to evangelism. I thought it interesting that it wasn’t considered as a natural progression.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be, given all the years of worship wars that have dominated churches, especially those who have a formal liturgy. Who defines worship and liturgy as what happens in a formal, even antiseptic manner as God blesses His people in a gathering and they respond back with canned prayers and hymns barely sung.

That isn’t worship – although it should be, too often we go about it so mechanically that it isn’t worship. It is simply a machine, a time where we keep everything highly organized and controlled. ( I am not sure if this is to stop our freedom, or to place God in a box!)

In the passage from Acts above, we see Peter describing a complete form of worship, the time where Jesus gathers His people around them and blessed them, and shares a meal with them. Here is our model for the mass, for the gathering on Sunday morning where we come to be taught and fed by God.

Worship includes that time of letting God provide for us, care for us. IN order to do that, we get at the heart of what submission is – not to bow in fear of getting beaten up or abused if we do not but submitting and letting someone else care for us. Think of Peter at the last supper, struggling to submit to Jesus washing his feet. Worship is realizing that we need God’s word, we need to hear of His promises and love, worship is letting Him feed us at the altar. This is the beginning of worship and it includes the prayers where we lay our entire lives before God, trusting Him to cleanse us, to heal our hearts, our minds and souls of the brokenness that is caused by our sin, and to allow Him to do whatever He finds pleasing with our lives.

It is that last part that is also communion, that is also the sweetest of unions. And yet it continues past the benediction, past the exit from the church, past the coffee and doughnuts.

That communion, that sweetest of unions occurs even as we reveal that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who judges His people as being righteous, as being Holy, as being worthy of being the children of God.

For that is what we learn, and re-learn in our church services, it is why our confession says “the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to give people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.”

And that is what our world needs to know… all about Jesus.

That is what our families, our friends, co-workers, and neighborhood needs to know… they need to know the love of Jesus…

The Jesus who died for us, and with whom we are risen to a new life, a life lived in communion. A life lived, being fed and feeding others.

Lord Jesus, help us to grow in our dependence on You, submitting ourselves to Your love and care. Thank You for inviting us to commune with You, to be united to You, and the Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 101). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Are Our “Rights” More Important Than Their Salvation?

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21  “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (TEV)

9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

866         Violence is not a good method for convincing anyone… Even less is it so in the apostolate.

The answer to the title is simple to say, but very difficult to implement in our lives.

I am teaching a man, preparing him to serve more at church. He’s currently reading about the reformation and how violent it was. Catholics burning those who would attempt to break away, Henry ordering the death of many, Calvin and Zwingli and Luther were prone to violence as well.

It wasn’t right then, and the more subtle versions that exist today in the church are not righteous or holy either. Jesus, of course, anticipated our thoughts, actions, and words, when He laid out the understanding of sinning in Matthew’s gospel.

Pretty blunt, call your “enemy” or adversary names, deride their character and you are in danger of going to hell.

Even if their action would remove what the world considers your “rights”.

You are still to love them. You are still to be concerned about their life and their salvation. You are to ask God to bless them, rather than curse them. Do not take any violent action, wish that they get what they deserve.

This isn’t easy, in fact, it requires great faith. It requires us to look past what is “ours” to what is God’s.

We are.

We are His responsibility, and we are the way His love becomes known to a broken world that needs it. That mission, the reason that God is patient with us is more important than getting angry. And to remember that, when people are making decisions that cause you stress and anxiety when politicians are polarizing when you are dealing with violent threats yourself, requires great trust in God.

And that trust, that dependence, that faith requires us to know He is with us, to know His attitude toward us, to know His love for us, and to know that nothing can separate us from His love.

Knowing that… we can love them, and that love may be the very thing that allows them to see Jesus love for them revealed.

But it all comes back to walking with God…


Lord, send Your Spirit to strengthen us, to draw us so close to You that your love drives out all anxiety, all stress. Lord, help us to know you are with us. In Jesus name. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3549-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church must live in the midst of controversy

In the midst of perscution and darkness, the church is still the place of mercy

Devotional thought of the Day

When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she answered.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”
John 8:9-11 GNT

The Church will be persecuted in the measure of her fidelity to the gospel.
The testimony to this fidelity bothers and enrages the world, making it kill and destroy, as it happened in the case of Stephen, the first among the disciples to shed his life for Christ.

Pope Francis’s words sound ominous, and they should.

But not because of the promise of persecution. That is something promised in scripture. We will be persecuted (see Mark 10:30, 2 Thes 1:4, 2 Titus 3:11-12, John 15:20) What is ominous to me is the idea that if we are not persecuted, than perhaps our fidelity, our faithfulness needs to be examined.

In other words, does the inverse of Pope Francis’s words hold true. Is the lack of persecution a testimony that we are not enraging the world, that something is missing in our lives given to Christ Jesus?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a great example of the rage the Church, when She is the Church, can create in those who observe here.

Jesus causes controversy in forgiving the lady everyone knew was guilty. He did this by pointing out their sin, confronting them on the very evil that lurked within their hearts. Unable to face the confrontation, their wander off, leaving her with the God who loves her, who would restore her.

Rather than rejoice that someone is shown God’s mercy, rather than celebrate the love of God revealed to someone who thought they were too broken, the world walks away. (and yes, the church is often more like the world)

Such mercy could be shown to the terrorist (the apostle Simon the Zealot and the government lacky, Matthew the tax collector), it can be shown to the prostitute, the murderer, even to the one who kills the pastors and leaders of the church (St. Paul)

You don’t like Trump? Christ died for him. You don’t like those who are “pro-choice”? God is calling them into a relationship where He will forgive their sins. You don’t like the person who is Muslim, Jewish, White Supremacist, the gang-banger, the alien, the rapid right wing republican?

So what? Love them or realize this:

As you judge and condemn them, for the sins you think you’ve caught them in, remember this story of the woman caught in adultery. And wonder, who are you in the story. The ones crying our for murder, the lady, or are you to be like the Lord, who pronounces forgiveness.

Imitate Jesus… even if it means dying to reveal to them that God loves them, that He desires to show them mercy, to forgive their sins.

And if your friends, neighbors and fellow church members want to kill you, or just cut you off from them for being merciful, remember these words,

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom!Matthew 5:10 (MSG)

So go in peace, serve the Lord, bring mercy to those the world says don’t deserve it…because God says He desires them to come to repentance, even as He drew you to this blessed place! AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 112). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Idol of “Pragmatic Ministry”

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them
. Acts 16:9-10

Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.

In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”

In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.

In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.

Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.

One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.

I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.

Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.

Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…

Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.

So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.


Don’t Worry, be catching

Concordia Lutheran Church
February 10, 2019

Don’t Worry, Be Catching
Luke 5:1-11

Jesus, Son and Savior

May the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so comfort you, so put to rest your worries, that you can go fishing with Jesus!

If you teach a man to fish…

Every once in a while, you hear a saying that someone says comes from scripture, but when you start to think about it, it is actually quite contrary to scripture.  This one came to mind in regard to this sermon.

If you give a man a fish, you fed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish….

he has to buy rods, graphite reels, lines, boxes, boats, trailers, coolers, sonar fish finders and a whole catalog of other things!

I suppose there is a corollary, if you teach a man to fish for men, you have to build a church, call a pastor, pass budgets, elect board members, hire musicians, plan woman’s teas, family fun nights etc..

But not let’s get ahead of ourselves!

In our gospel today, Jesus is going to do some pretty incredible things.  He’s going to teach the massive crowd, he’s going to cause a miraculous catch, but there is something much greater that will happen, so incredible that Peter and his partners will leave a once in a lifetime catch to rot on the beach.

And God will do to you the same thing today….

But first, we have to witness Peter freak out…

What caused Peter to stress out?

I must wonder about Peter, who spent his life working as a fisherman, as he first dropped the nets as this silly rabbi instructed.

I get the feeling he did it with a little sarcasm and even more disbelief.  Yeah, you want me to go right back to where we dragged our nets, all night long,  as if all of a sudden, during the hottest part of the day a thousand fish…

Uhmmm… HELP!!!!!

Got love Peter, because every once in a while he gets it. 

I mean, I don’t think he listened to the Rabbi teach all that much, he may have even fallen asleep in the boat. The load of fish in the nets convinced him something was up. Because he goes from struggling with the catch to having a full blown anxiety attack, right there on the boat.

Hear it again, “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.”

Peter collapses in fear, he begs Jesus to leave.  In Greek, the phrasing pictures fear picking up Peter, it seizes him, and he can’t stand against it, so he collapses into the bottom of the boat.

Get out of here, don’t you know what a sinner I am?  If you don’t leave, I am a goner!

It is a common story in scripture, whether it is Isaiah in our Old Testament reading, or Moses, or Elijah, whether it is David or Paul on the road to Damascus or John as God gives him the vision of Jesus in Revelation.   Even those who encounter angels panicked, stressed out, and realized how ill-prepared we are to be in the presence of God

We are sinners, we don’t belong in Almighty, most Holy, most pure God’s presence.

And Peter realized it, and begged God to leave him.

Would we do the same, if we realized the depth of our sin, or the heartache it caused God?

Or do we take our sin to casually, just as if we think God will forgive this one again, that the damage we do will be taken care of?

What does Jesus offer us?

And as Peter collapses in the boat, Jesus says something quite amazing,

Fear not. Let’s go and catch something that really matters.

You see, unlike the times I go fishing, the word in Greek isn’t about sitting there with a rod in one hand and a drink in the other.  It wasn’t like that for Peter and friends there.  The words for fishing were “catch” and “harvest”

Jesus, knowing the cross is in the future, knowing that everyone one of Peter’s sins will be atoned for, knowing the forgiveness, even when Jesus would betray Jesus as Peter would tell people, “I never knew the man,” will be forgiven; says to Peter,

Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, don’t let being in my presence cause you anxiety. 

Let’s go catch some people and bring them into the Kingdom of God.

What an invitation, to be partners with God!  To engage in His greatest project, to redeem the world, to catch people and watch, as God begins to heal their broken and often tortured souls.   To see the promises of God poured out on people you love, or will come to love, as they are united with Jesus in baptism. Ask Susan what it was like to help baptize one of her students, or ask Chuck why he demands to be the deacon on duty when we baptize someone.

Or ask the elders what it is like to help feed people the Body and Blood of Christ here at the altar.

There is something incredible about helping someone come to know God’s love.  It drives Bernie to the Sudan and even more… to places like Texas and Minnesota.  Or Pastor Davies to the mountain jungles of Papua Guinea, or even my friend Matt to a university in Nebraska where he works with students from around the world.

You and I are called to walk with God, fishing… no.. catching men and women, and seeing them find healing for their souls, and hope for all eternity.

That is the greatest thing in this passage, the invitation to help others know Jesus, to draw them in, as a fisher draws in his nets.

I tell you something, there is no greater way to know the blessed, unexplainable peace of God, than to draw someone else into it, and watch the difference it makes in their life… and yours.

Lutherans don’t give “normal invitations” at the end of a sermon.

But I will give you one today, and invitation I pray you can’t refuse…

Don’t worry, be catching….with Jesus

AMEN! 

Let’s pray!

Missional Thought: We have to control our reactions.

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42 Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.”
Luke 7:41-43 GNT

630         Forget about yourself… May your ambition be to live for your brothers alone, for souls, for the Church; in one word, for God.

I looked at the comments to a video last night and was immediately depressed. Not because of the bad news the Cardinal was sharing, an announcement that seven schools were closing. Rather what depressed me was the self-righteous commentators who condemned the Cardinal.

Lots of them, expressing their….hatred of the cardinal, blaming him for a multitude of sins that caused the schools to close.

I think back a week, and the hostility geared to New York’s governor, and the week before that, to a teenager in Washington, D.C. I can think of other situations I’ve been in, where the same attitude occurs.

None of these were calls to repentance, none of them were direct communication with the person (as per Matthew 18). None of them showed any concern for the person they publicly tried, found guilty, and condemned. (Do we eve believe any more than condemning them is condemning them to hell for eternity?) What people were doing was playing God, for only He can condemn people, and that is the thing furthest from His desire.

In the gospel reading, a young Pharisee is trying to make sense out of Jesus, He did well, inviting Jesus to share a meal. But then, faced with an unwanted guest, he questions why Jesus would allow her to make contact with Him.

Jesus calmy asks the question, who will be more grateful.

Next time you go to condemn someone, next time someone’s actions or words cause you to respond with great emotion, consider that question.

How grateful are you, that Jesus washes you clean of YOUR sin.

Having gained that perspective, you have also set aside the perspective that you are the judge that sits at God’s right hand. You humbly set aside that reaction and set your sites on the person’s best interest. You learn to desire that they find the same peace that you have, rather than desiring to see them in hell. You begin to desire that they come ot know the joy of being forgiven, the awe at finding mercy.

That change in your reaction and sets aside emotions that would drive your reaction. It turns hatred into love, it transforms your sin into holiness, and even if the target of your rage doesn’t see it, others will…

and they will join you, captivated by the way you reflect the love of God.

So if you are talking about having a pure faith, or being missional, or taking your apostolate seriously, my suggestion is this, remember how you have been given forgiveness… and rejoice, for God is giving you the opportunity to share that daily.




Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2659-2660). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Your Faith This Strong?

The moment of faith… seen in your life.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (TEV)

7  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (TEV)

5  Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him, and he will help you; Psalm 37:5 (TEV)

28  We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (TEV)

19  But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I can’t put myself in the place of God. 20  You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21  You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts. Genesis 50:19-21 (TEV)

A test of faith is not a multiple choice or essay test about how much you know doctrinally. None of us can know beyond what scripture teaches, and most of us don’t know all of that. (Even if we pretend to)

Nor is a test of our holiness, and how well we live from an ethical and/or moral standpoint. For while we should strive to live within the way God has laid out, we too often fail. And each of us will tend to look to the sins and failures of others, even counting them eviler, or condemning them, while trying to justify our own actions.

Nor is it a test of our will, and our ability to compensate or atone for our own error. The price is too high, and even if we could atone, why would we? To avoid punishment? To attain paradise? Both are self-centered motives, and therefore, as sinful as the sins we commit.

None of these “tests” measure a Biblical faith. Not one of them testifies to our ability to depend upon Jesus for what He has promised. Look above at the scripture quotes.

Do we have enough faith, enough trust God for the complete rest (physical, emotional, spiritual ) that we so need?

Do we have enough faith to leave our anxieties, our concerns, even our very life in His hands? Do we faith in His promise that all things work for good? Even the sins of our country, even our our sin?

Do we trust in Him enough to proclaim to those who have hurt us, what you meant for evil, God used for good? 

To do these things requires faith in God, confidence that He will do exactly what He said He would. Faith means to depend on Him, even when the guilt and shame are overwhelming, even when the hurt of betrayal is too powerful.

It is then faith is revealed, for it is that certain hope that despite all the logic, despite all the anxiety and fear, despite all the pain and suffering, God will see us through, that He will carry us, and bring us healing, and help.

That is faith. That is what it means to believe in God, to have confidence in what He has promised, that He will heal all that is broken. He will care for us, and never let us alone.

Faith is that feeling you get during communion when you are so overwhelmed by God’s love, that all you can think of is Christ, giving Himself of you, his Body broken, His love shed… and as you are focused on that, everything else falls away.

That feeling for a second or even a minute is a glimpse of heaven, it is a moment of purest faith when all there is, is God, and we depend on Him. letting everything else go.

So next time if you wonder if you have faith, hearken back to that moment you communed.. and relax, you passed the test.

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