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Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!

Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!
Luke 9:57-62, 1 Kings 19:19-21

† I. H. S. †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you walk “in His steps”

Are you listening?  Are you understanding?

Have you ever asked someone if they were listening, and 30 seconds after they replied yes, they ask you “what are you talking about?”

I think that happened to Jesus, far more than it happens to us.

It does today, as one man offers to follow Jesus, and two others responded to His invitation to follow him, but they then realized they had a problem.  They all had a big “but!”  Uhm – that’s but with only one T.

As we look at the call to follow, as we begin to really hear Jesus, I pray we come to understand what it means to follow Him, or as the apostle Peter wrote,

21  For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT2)

The Big BUTS

So the first guy tells Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go!  Jesus tells him, “okay, here is the challenge, we have no support, no place to stay, no place to sleep.”  Oddly we don’t’ hear from the guy again.

Following Jesus isn’t easy or comfortable.

The second and third guys clearly describe their “buts”.

One wants to go home and take care of his dying Father. The second wants to go home and make significant arrangements for his family’s care, cutting off their need for his involvement in their life.

How many of us would have similar issues to deal with?  I mean, before Jesus asks us to go with Him to China, or Jordan, or Papua, New Guinea?  And how many of us have relationship issues that would make leaving with Jesus complicated?

Those “buts” aren’t easy to deal with, and to turn down an invitation to go with Jesus is heartbreaking, or it should be.  I mean if you knew Jesus was going to be at the ordination I am officiating at this afternoon, would you drop everything and come with me?  What about if you could meet him on Pastor Bernie’s next trip to the Sudan, but you had to leave today?

What if it required moving to Turkey and working alongside Christina for the rest of your life? Never ever returning to the U.S.A. but you knew for sure you would encounter Jesus every day?

Could you show Jesus your “but”?

This isn’t theoretical for the people in the gospel!  They had BIG BUTS, major life concerns, as they truly desire to travel with Jesus.

It’s what some would call a First commandment issue, a problem with prioritizing who is our God, who is most important in our life. Who is most involved in it.  For if we can’t listen to God and respond obediently to Him, are we really in a relationship where we realize He is the God who rescues us, and we are the people He listens to, cares and provides for, and loves?

The problem is simple to fix, we just have to get off our “but” and follow Jesus.  Follow Him, not travel with Him. If the people had listened to what Jesus said, they would have understood the difference.

What’s the difference?  Glad you asked!  

The Elisha Example!

In the Old Testament passage, we see Elisha also responding to a call to follow, as Elijah makes him his successor.  That’s why he threw his cloak over him, that is what you symbolically did back in those days. 

But Elisha goes back to his people. He takes care of business, and isn’t rejected by Elijah, the way it seems Jesus rejected those who had big “buts”.

But look at what Elisha did carefully, and you will see he was already following Elijah as he goes back.  He takes his old stuff, the plow, the oxen and uses those things to minister to people.

What the invitation really is

You see, the word for follow doesn’t mean travel with, it means begin to imitate Him.  To become like, to gain the attitudes and heart and desire of the person you “follow”.  There is a word to walk with, but this is far more, it is another word like disciple, or apprentice.

It is to know Jesus is on the journey with us, shaping us, forming us, sending us out to where He would have us minister.  Like the man he delivered from the clutches of demons, often the place is where we call home, sharing the news of God’s mercy with those we love and care about, with those whose lives are broken, and spiritually dead.

Following Jesus is not just physical, it is more, it is transformative, it is incarnational, it is beholding His glory and knowing He dwells among us.

This is what His invitation to believers is about, it is life lived in His presence, hearing His voice, learning to care for and love people as He does.  That is what it means to walk in His steps, to live life the way He does, and we do that by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, help us see the “buts” not as challenges to following You, but as places where You bring us to minister and care for other, with you at our side.


I don’t fit in… which is such a blessing!

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21† For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. ! Cor. 1:21 GNT

54    Conform? It is a word found only in the vocabulary of those (“You might as well conform,” they say) who have no will to fight—the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly—because they know they are defeated before they start.

In the last couple of months I have had to consider the unusual way I have done things in life, and especially in ministry. If I look at my MBTI score, I should not be a pastor If I hear the words of my internship supervisor (and T’s words often ring in my head), I shouldn’t have been a pastor. I didn’t graduate with my intended minor in Bible and Preaching, I went back years later and got a degree in business. I became a non-denom pastor, and then moved into a more organized and formal denomination, confusing those I left behind and those I joined! Both my roles as a circuit counselor and as a Regional Vice- President (the first working with 8 churches, the second over 80 and being on the district Board of Directors) I backed into, as the one elected ended up moving shortly thereafter.

So I don’t fit in, and sometimes, I confess, I feel proud that I don’t. There is a little fun being the non-formist, and more than a little freedom.

More often though I wish I did. I wish I understood the logic of the majority more, and those in power. When I don’t, i can begin to feel left out of the discussion, and alone, even in the midst of 500 people, I can feel alone. Sometimes very alone. Eerily so, as if I am not in the same moment of time, slightly out of phaze with everyone.

Yet there, it is easier to see God at work, I believe. Because the focus is not on our appearance, iIt is easier to see the brokenness around us, and the need for healing that only comes through the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus.

If we don’t focus on conforming to the world, and even to those in the church, there is a freedom to minister to others, a freedom to worship God based on His revelation of His love. You don’t try to become a clone of this preacher, or that theologian. This makes spiritual development a challenge, a time where you have to depend on God more. It gets us out of MEME Theology and the cute quips of populist theology. Which means it applies to this life, this context, these people we interact with in a way conformity,

Conformity doesn’t guaranty knowledge of a God who did the unthinkable, who came to us, Who loves us, who provides and cares for us, healing us of our brokenness. The God who comes to us simply, who uses simple things, a cross, a tomb, water, bread, wine, and a few people who don’t fit in. He confounds the world, and its rules that it demands us to conform to, just as His gifts require unity, and yet an incredible diversity. Our identity is our, yet found only in our relationship to Jesus.

Lord, help us to desire to conform only to Christ Jesus, and help us be patient, with, others and ourselves, as the Holy Spirit causes and makes this transformation a reality. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 286-288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Question We Should Have Been Asked! (and all should still ask!)

Devotional Thought for the Day:

12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.
Romans 12:1-3 GNT

The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”

for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)

Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.

Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)

But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.

Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.

Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

Are you?

I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.

We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.

Much more.

It is about the stuff of life.

It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.

It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.

It is what being a pastor and priest is about.

It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.

So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”

And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)

Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Who is asking, “Come Stand by Me” A sermon based on Acts 16:9-15

Our worship service and the sermon

Who is Asking,
“Come, Stand by Me”
Acts 16:9-15

† I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear those who cry out for someone to stand by them, even as the Holy Spirit stands with you!

The Vision – Mission Impossible!

A long.. long time ago there was a television show that every week started with a line like this.

“You mission Jim, should you choose to accept it….and then after describing int, ended with, “As always, should you and any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.  This tape will…. (self-destruct in 5 seconds.)

In the reading from Acts this morning, the Apostle Paul gets a similar message.  Not on tape that self-destructs, but in a dream, a vision from God that is so clear, that Paul and his team of missionaries knew it was God calling them to tell the people about God’s love and mercy.

The vision of a man crying out for help, pleading with them, “Come over to us and help us!”

In Greek, that is two simple words, Paraclete – to call alongside to help someone stay standing– and boetheo – a word used to describe a doctor’s rushing to come to the aid of someone mortally wounded. 

I hope we realize that St. Paul isn’t the only one given that mission, to go over and stand by people, to lift them up and help them find healing.

It is our mission, too! 

The Lady

Like the crew on Mission Impossible, which for 49 missions included Captain Spock by the way, Paul and his band of merry missionaries get to their destination.  They look for people who are searching for God, who are searching for hope.

They find someone who deals with the most expensive cloth, who cuts it and sews it.  This is Armani of her day, or Michael Kors, and she dealt with the kind of folk who she dressed up for the ancient Grammy’s or Academy Awards.

Not the kind of person that you would encounter at most small churches, but there she was, praying and hoping for an answer.  Like many people, she tried to worship God, but wasn’t clear who that God was.

As Paul started to share about Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened her heart, and she accepted it, the Greek says she held for dear like to what Paul was saying.

It’s like the story I read of a priest yesterday.  He encountered a young man who was struggling with heroin addiction.  They spent the night in the sanctuary, all night long, thinking about the Lord’s Supper, about the Body broken for this young man.  The priest described him holding onto the altar so tightly he thought he left his nail marks in it. 

And that is the way Lydia received the revelation of God love for her.

Except she wasn’t someone we would normally think of being that “needy”, that desperate, that amazed at finding out something we probably take for granted all too often.

That God loves us.
Oddly enough, Lydia, after Paul baptizes her and all her household (which includes her employees by the way, uses the word Parakaleo when she asks Him to come and stay at her home.

She’s not being hospitable, she realizes she and her household needs continual help to start growing in the faith. There is a sense of desperation in it, as her begging forces them to agree to stay there.

The Church and Apathy about its Mission

How do I know we take our mission for granted? 

How many people do we hear calling for help, whether they are the foreigner trying to adjust to living here, or the homeless guy, or the rich people we don’t think would bother with the likes of us?

How many of them do we hear cry for help and then take the time to respond to their cries for help?

I think we need to realize that not hearing them, not seeing their need is to sin, breaking the second commandment.  For we need to use the Name of God in those situations, sharing with these people in need the love of God, revealing to them His mercy, and His abiding presence. 

The need Him, and we need to remember this mission became our in our baptism, and we take it on every time we greet each other with God’s peace, and when we leave this sanctuary.

No-disavowal here

You know, I always wondered why they called it Mission: Impossible. 

Do you ever remember them failing one of their missions?  Ever?

They just kept solving mission after mission, week after week.

Our real life mission, while a little more difficult, is even more possible.

God doesn’t threaten us by saying He will disavow any knowledge of us, should we fail.

His call to us to go alongside and reveal to people His love and mercy includes His power, as the Holy Spirit empowers our work, and ensures it all works out for good for those who love God, for those He calls according to His purpose, His will.

Sure it may take a while to help some people see His love – but the days and years and decades are worth it. 

For while we are on this mission, Jesus promises He will never abandon us, that He walks with us, that we are united with Him, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us in our failings, as we are cleansed of our sins.
This is our mission.  To share with people.

The Lord is with you!

And that because He is risen,….. (We are risen indeed – and they are part of the “we”)

And therefore, invite all whose lives cry out for someone to Come, stand by them, to enter into the peace of God, the peace you experience, even though it more that you could ever describe, the peace in which you are guarded, heart and mind, by Christ Jesus. 

AMEN!

Why asTheologians We Need to Re-learn Common English

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? 7 If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music? 8 If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle? 9 So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what’s the point of opening your mouth? 10 There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. 11  But if I don’t understand the language, it’s not going to do me much good. 12 It’s no different with you. Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? 13 So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don’t hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. 14 If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. 15 So what’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind. 16 If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what’s going on know when to say “Amen”? 17 Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it.
1 Corinthians 14:6-17 (MSG)

He (Luther) had labored hard to put the word of God into the everyday language of the German people so that hearing and reading the scriptures would inform their biblical spirituality. He considered the gospel more as an oral message (mundhaus) than as a literary text (federhaus).

I read a lot of books.

From a lot of different genre’s, from a lot of different sources.

A lot of them are novels ( I love 18th-19th-century naval historical fiction) and a lot of them are religious works. Some are written very technically, with a vocabulary that often causes me to pull out my dictionaries or a Biblical Encyclopedia (or a Greek, Hebrew, Latin lexicon) Those are more challenging, yet they have their place. But they are a different language.

Their place is not in worship, or in Bible Study with my people.

Maybe in a class or individual study, maybe in a gathering of pastors, but it is not necessary for the people of God.

We don’t need to speak in “another tongue” when we lead worship or preach, or when we teach. And yet, far too often, we do that very thing.

That is what Luther is getting at when he speaks of the gospel as more an oral message than a literary text. It is a message that is to be communicated, not just analyzed. It is something that speaks to the soul of a person, not just their intellect. It is something that gives them hope, peace, and joy, even when they are in the midst of trauma.

That is what Luther wanted to do, he wanted to make his work, trying to reveal the love and grace of God to the people he was entrusted to care for, and to those who didn’t have shepherds, or whose shepherds didn’t do their work.

So we need to examine what language we use, in our sermons, in our lessons, in our liturgies, and whether those words are in common language. Not just vocabulary, but the style in which we write. It has to be common English, words that affect and encourage their walk with God.

As St. Paul says, “Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy.”

The intimacy to walk with God, to revel in His love, to find rest in His peace, to savor what it means to be forgiven.

This isn’t just about teaching them “our language.” This is about pastors ensuring we explain and reveal God’s love in a language they understand and giving them the ability to praise God in words that mean something, that resonates with them.

Imagine a church, where people we able to be still, to be quiet and just know that God is our God and that we are His people. That is what the prayer that Paul instructs us in has as its goal.

Not that they would be able to diagram the communication of magisterial attributes of Jesus…

But rather that they would burst into tears of joy when they hear, “The Lord is with you!”

Abba Father, Lord Jesus, help us to be so overwhelmed by Your love and mercy that we have the insight and ability and desire to bring others into a relationship with You that leaves them in awe. Help us to speak clearly, and rejoice as we see this happen. Send Your Spirit to inspire us, and guide us in this we pray. AMEN!


Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. KLrey, Trans.) (p. 119). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Don’t say a little prayer before sharing your faith. Instead, try…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

They loved human approval rather than the approval of God. John 12:43 GNT

5 “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. John 15:5 GNT

The dynamic ‘from Adoration to Evangelization’ represents, in fact, the only real and possible path for an authentic witness which is capable of knowing how to ‘overcome the world’.
An Evangelization which is not born from an authentic, prolonged, faithful and intimate relationship with God will bear fruit only with difficulty. Even more difficult still will be its ability to captivate the men of this age.

For years, before I go and make a call, whether, in the hospital or someone’s home, I say a quick prayer. This was a practice drilled into me decades ago when I was a young Bible College student and my pastor and I were part of Evangelism Explosion. (we didn’t get great results… but we tried to be faithful!)

I am starting to think that is not a good and proper practice.

We shouldn’t pray before engaging in outreach.

We need to do more. We need to bathe ourselves in worship, in adoration, in meditating on the incredible dimensions of God’s love. We need to be in awe of His glorious mercy. We need to have given Him all of the challenges we are facing, entrusting to Him everything that causes us to take our eyes off of Him.

The priest whose words are recorded above in purple, could not have explained why evangelism efforts, whether formal or informal are successful or not. Simply put, if you haven’t spent significant, intimate, authentic time with God, and seen Him addressing your brokenness, how can you dare think you can share His love with others?

If we can’t reflect God, we are reduced to our own logic and strength, we omit the blessing of the Spirit, and what we are craving is human approval. We want to win people on the strength of our logic, on our ability to manipulate them into the Kingdom, rather than let them be drawn into the healing, cleansing glorious light of Jesus.

We don’t just need that intimacy to power our evangelism efforts. In truth, that effective empowering our sharing our dependence on God is a secondary effect, it is what happens as the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus.

We need Him to change us, to reveal to us the work He is doing making us saints, making us the people of God. And the more we see that the more adoration becomes a reaction, and a necessity in our lives because of how amazing God is.

So take some time, be still, dwell in His peace, meditate on the cross, on the blessings of Baptism and the incredible gift of the body and blood of Christ Jesus, praising God with all your heart and soul, mind and strength; then go out and make disciples of all nations.

Lord, help us hear and rejoice in Your presence and love… and then let us shout it so loudly through our lives that the entire world knows! AMEN!

Piacenza, M. (2012). Homily for the Solemn Mass of St Aloysius Gonzaga. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 68). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Strength of the Church’s Influence is Not Where You Might Think

40  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41  Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.” Matthew 10:40-42 (TEV)

The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches be lived completely and in all its fullness fails to take into account humanity as it actually is. There exists in every man a certain tension between that which the Church recognizes as what the Christian ought to be and do and that which the average Christian normally achieves. That is why penance and pardon are fundamental constants in the life of a Christian. In fact, the strength of the Church, the possibility of making her teachings more widely known to mankind, lies not so much in the extensive sphere of mass influence, but rather in the fact that she encounters people personally in the small communities in which they live. It is, indeed, precisely the personal word, the personal pastoral care, and a renewed catechesis that reaches out to the children and cooperates with the parents that are fundamental in making people realize that they are not to be treated as children, but that, on the contrary, it is actually their own survival as men that is at stake.

Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37 footnore below)

The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.

Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.

It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.

It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.

This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.

To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.

In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.

To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….

Words like, “The Lord is with You”


Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/rapi, meaning that by faith the Christian is enraptured into God: per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum. See Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1986), 149–54.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Don’t Ask, “What’s Important,” Ask, “Who should be Important!”

Devotional Thought of the Day:

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors—for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did. 13 When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; 14 and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.” Luke 14:12-14 GNT

656         It is through Love rather than study that one comes to understand the things of God. That is why you have to work, you have to study, you have to accept illness, you have to be sober—lovingly!

Far too often we define our faith by the set of doctrines we believe. As if we could ever completely understand the mysteries of God. As if our logic, through enough study, could transcend the gap between the human and the divine.

That isn’t how we were saved in the first place, (our small catechism reminds us that it isn’t “by our own reason or strength”) so why do we think it is the proper process for our growth in our dependence on God, on growing in our awe at the love of God.

Please here me, meditating on the word of God is important! Studying it with other believers is important as well. But it is not enough on its own, we simply cannot know enough.

We have to experience that love, we have ot come to know it, as Jesus does exactly what He tells us to do. He invites us to feast with Him. Not the angels and archangels, but the broken sinners, the ones who are not holy (yet), who are not just in how they deal with others, the ones who are weak, the spiritually blind, the ones everyone else writes off. He invites us to share in His body and blood, showing us the love, bringing us the experience that fills in all of the gaps where we simply can’t understand the mysteries of God.

It is that love as well, extended through us to others who are just as broken, just as blind, who also struggle with sin and its constant partners, guilt and shame. As we are conduits of that grace, as we reveal their need for God and God’s response to that need, we find our understanding of God’s mysteries growing. It is an amazing thing to witness the glory of God at work, to see the Holy Spirit bring to life the one who was spiritually dead.

That is why St. Josemaria says that understanding comes from love, not just from the study (though he mentions study again). It is seeing God’s care for the broken that we were to understand what we can’t, the incredible love, that is beyond our ability to understand but not to experience.

May Paul;’s prayer for the Epesians come to pass in our lives as well,

17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundationin love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.
Ephesians 3:17-19 (TEV)

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2753-2755). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“Baptized, but not Evangelised” Why the Church seems to be dying.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a ggreat numberof priests accepted the faith. Acts 6:7 (TEV)

At the dawn of the third millennium not only are there many peoples who do not yet know the Good News, but there are many Christians who need the Word of God to be re-announced to them in a persuasive manner so that they may concretely experience the power of the Gospel.
Many of our brothers and sisters are ‘baptized, but insufficiently evangelized’. In a number of cases, nations once rich in faith and in vocations are losing their identity under the influence of a secularized culture … The Church, sure of her Lord’s fidelity, never tires of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and invites all Christians to discover anew the attraction of following Christ. (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 96)
The history of Evangelization across the centuries witnesses that the great missionaries were also great people of prayer, more specifically that they were authentic adorers. Indeed, the Eucharist is ‘the source and the summit of the Christian life’ (Lumen gentium, 11), and the ‘source and summit of all evangelisation’ (Presbyterorum ordinis, ).

608         Against those who reduce religion to a set of negative statements, or are happy to settle for a watered-down Catholicism; against those who wish to see the Lord with his face against the wall, or to put him in a corner of their souls… we have to affirm, with our words and with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King reign indeed over all hearts… theirs included.

The church pictured above has been empty for decades. The doors are bordered up, and voices have long been silent. There is no prayer offered, not voices lifting up praises as the realize the love and mercy of God,

There are other churches just as lifeless, even though the bodies are in them, even though voices can be heard, their words empty, vain. They try to make things better in life, they try to either legislate it or inspire people to behave, to live inspiring, meaningful lives. Some consider themselves traditional (or faithful) and others claim to be progressive and socially active.

And they are as empty and lifeless as St Anne’s.

They have been, “baptized, but not evangelized.”

They’ve been made part of the church, but they haven’t experienced the love of God. They haven’t learned to sit in silence and contemplate how much God desires to be with them, to guide them through life, to fix their brokenness, to forgive their sins.

So they put God on time out, reaching out to him the least amount of times they feel necessary, or reaching out to Him when there is trouble or trauma.

The priests in Jesus day were like that, they knew the scriptures, they put their trust in the promises that were theirs because they were circumcised, but the idea of talking with God, interacting with God, being guided by God, those were all missing.

But they heard the gospel, and they were changed.

And so can our people, our pastors, and priests, our ministers, our worship leaders. They can experience the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love.

They can realize they are loved, and adore God, not forced or manipulated, but simply adore Him – because He loves them. And their prayers and their worship will rise louder and stronger, and it will impact more and more.

Lord, reveal yourself through those who serve you, to both the church and the world, and revive both.  AMEN!

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 3–4). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2579-2582). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Being “Not Ashamed” of the gospel, is harder than we think

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.   1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”   Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?

Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.


For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.

This is what we do, or what we try to do.

Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think.  It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist.  It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!

And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.

To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.

6  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)

There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him.  All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear.  Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it. 

Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness. 

That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin. 

And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that. 

Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God.  We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)

It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion.  The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us. 

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