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If You Are Part of the Church, It’s Time to Get to Work: A Call to Love and Service


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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control, all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

1         There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.

The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]

In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”   But how often do we look at what those words mean?

One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind.  Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)

Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred.  To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation.  We are to walk (together) with God.

Catholic,  the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history.  When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time.  We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other.  We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.

Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther.  Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field)  Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.

Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them.  As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them.  This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.

We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers,  enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.

No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood.  This is our identiy as the people of God.

Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.

But remember – God goes with you through it all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.

[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 40. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

Will the Church Really Hear Their Cries?


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Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them. 14And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17This, then, is what I command you: love one another.  John 15:11-17 NLT

811    Do you remember? Night was falling as you and I began our prayer. From close by came the murmur of water. And, through the stillness of the Castilian city, we also seemed to hear voices of people from many lands, crying to us in anguish that they do not yet know Christ. Unashamedly you kissed your crucifix and you asked him to make you an apostle of apostles.  (1)

“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.

It was just before noon, as I sat on a fountain, waiting for my ride.

The man in the picture showed up, folded out his sign, put in his ear buds and began to be a light in the darkness, a missionary sent to bring heathen musicians to.. hmm – that’s a good question.

I think he symbolized the church in so many ways…. standing there, his sign doing the proclaiming, but his heart and soul focused on what he was hearing. It wasn’t the people passing him by.

Maybe it was a podcast of the latest apologetic guru, telling him how to cause people to submit to his logic and reason.

Maybe it was someone telling him how to be an entrepreneurial apostle. 

Maybe it was someone teaching him how to defend his Bible translation or his style of worship, or trying to provide comfort in his failing outreach, because after all, he’s supposed to be in the world, but not of it.  He didn’t make eye contact with anyone, he didn’t try to pray with anyone.  I want to jump on his case, to make him see what he’s missing, buy am I any better?

This man isn’t a wacko, or a fanatic, he simply is the church today. 

We are so caught up in our own agendas, our own words, that we fail to hear the cries of those who have lost hope, of those who have been broken.  We might even get into a dialog about how they were broke, was it their sin, their parent’s sin, the sin of the world?  We might read books and listen to the greatest speakers, read the greatest blogs,  find the best consultants, and grieve over the fact that they don’t hear us.

But do we hear them?

Do we hear their cries?  Do we go beyond their polite statements to find their pain?  Do we let them know we won’t abandon them in their brokenness, because we are broken as well? Do we stand there, oblivious to the individuals, overwhelmed by the thousands, yet unable to see them?  Do we take our ear buds out of our damn ears long enough to hear them?  

To help them understand God hears them?

Do we try to help them know God wants to hold them in His hands, cherish them, bring about their restoration and healing so that all will understand He finds great delight in their presence, that all heaven parties with great joy when they “come home”

Luther wrote that we should do everything we can to help and befriend our neighbor.  Most hear him speaking physically in the commandment about not killing.  But is it not applicable to our neighbor’s spiritual life as well?  St Josemaria talks about us hearing the cries and praying to God to send us, will we do that, and if sent will we hear them?  Or simply lament their not hearing us?  ( Or worse, will we rejoice that it proves we are on the narrow path and they are not?)

These are hard thoughts to hear, and they may be convicting you, they certainly are convincing me.  But I know this as well.  As I left that day, a man walked up to me and started talking about his journey. ( he thought I was a Catholic Priest) He talked of how God was helping him stay sober after 27 years. He talked of how great it was that I was there, to remind him of God’s grace.  His name was Dave, and hearing him say my presence there was important as it reminded him of God’s love?   That made my day.  I wanted to go back, and see who else I could encounter, or maybe realize that I had, and was too blind to see it. But for once I was able to stop, and hear, and see what God was doing, by sending me to that part of the sidewalk, just for that man to encounter.

God is good, open your eyes and ears, see Him and know His love for you, and all whom you encounter.  ALL whom you encounter.  And rejoice, the Lord who is delighted in your presence, He is with you! Amen!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1867-1870). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

(2) Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Has It Fallen off the Church’s Radar?


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. 13  He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, 14  by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
Colossians 1:9-14 (TEV)

780    Deo Omnis Gloria—“All glory to God.” It is an emphatic confession of our nothingness. He, Jesus, is everything. We, without him, are worth nothing: Nothing. Our vainglory would be just that: vain glory; it would be sacrilegious theft; the “I” should not appear anywhere.

A question arose as I came across these readings this morning.

Do we please God?  

The question began to transform a little, first int this,

DO we care about pleasing God?

and then it hit home,

Have I taught my people about what pleases God?  Have we, as pastors and leaders int he church equipped our people, not just the the knowledge, but the ability and the desire to please God?

Do we, as Paul did for the church in Colossae and others, pray for this for them?

Or has God’s pleasure, what pleases Him, fallen off of the church’s radar?

Have our words praised and glorified God, but our actions and thoughts forgotten what pleases Him, what He desires?

From my Lutheran perspective, we fight so hard against the teaching of works meriting salvation that we shy away from teaching that we should please God after our baptism.  We are afraid our people can’t understand the difference, that they will deliberately misunderstand.  It sounds like a good justification at first, but it is a poor excuse.

We know what pleases God, all you have to do is read the last 6 chapters of Isaiah and see it over and over.  Or hear the parable of the prodigal son or the Good Samaritan.  We know about God finding the treasure in the field, and giving His Son to purchase it, and the joy in heaven over one sinner transformed.  There we find His will, that none should perish, that all should come home.

Yet we don’t do this work alone, it is His will, His desire, and we receive the strength from His glorious power.

That is why He gets all the glory, as we live as He wants, as He revealed.  We live reconciled to Him, and we grow in desire to do what pleases Him, lifting high His cross, seeing people drawn to His mercy, into His grace!  And as we do, we come to know Him better, to rely on  Him more.

Lord, help us, those you have tasked with shepherding your people, to reveal your love and mercy to them.  Help us to pray for them, that they too would understand your will, and as they grow to respond to Your love, to do that which brings You great pleasure.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1802-1804). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Paradox of being a Christian Leader…


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (NLT)

Therefore, anyone who seeks an office in the Church must know that he thereby declares himself ready for a greater share of the Cross. For, properly speaking, the real pastoral activity of Jesus Christ, through which he fashioned the Church and will never cease to fashion her, is his Cross, from which there flow for our blood and water, the holy sacraments, the grace of life. To want to do away with suffering means to deny love, to disavow Christ. It is impossible to struggle with the dragon and not be wounded. That is why what the Lord says in the Beatitudes is valid for all times: “Blessed are you when men revile you; blessed are the meek; blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:11, 5, 9). It is true, too, that where the Lord is, where the Master is, there must his servant be also. But the Master’s place was, ultimately, the Cross, and a shepherd who seeks nothing but approval, who would be content to do only what is required of him, would certainly not be taking his place where the Master has taken his.

I was once told that if I could be content in any other field, to avoid becoming a pastor.  At the time, I didn’t understand.  Today I do. 

The blessing requires a high price to be paid.

I look at my friends in ministry, those I admire the most sacrifice so much to serve.  Some are pastors and priests, others missionaries serving far from what most would consider their home.  Some are teachers and youth workers, others are the leaders most don’t consider professionals.  The elders, musicians, those who teach the Bible to young and old. 

The costs are high, and while I am not talking about financial costs or the time demanded by the needs of those we serve, they cannot be dismissed either. The deeper costs include betrayals, it includes weeping with those who are weeping, crushed in grief.  It means disciplining people that may not like be corrected.  It means being willing to accept the loneliness of the prophet, being dismissed as we bring messages of hope, of being sent to stubborn and stiff-necked people as the prophets encountered.

It’s not about reports and strategies, it’s about laying aside our plans when someone is hurting, and helping them bear that pain.  It’s not about giving a vision, unless that vision includes the cross, leading to the resurrection.  It’s about the joy of the sacraments, and the pain when we see people in need for the comfort and strength they give, but who dismiss them.  It’s about not giving up on the prodigal, it’s about showing mercy to the prostitute and tax collector, the drug addict and the scoundrel. 

This is ministry, this is service, this is finding that as we minister to those who are drawn (and sometimes dragged ) to the cross, we find our healing occurs as well.  For we are at the cross, where Jesus raises us from death, heals us from brokenness, comforts us in our grief, and gives us hope, even as we despair.

That is the paradox of Christian ministry, the sacrifice, the life surrendered at the cross is the great blessing of being such a servant leader. 

Which is why Paul, the one we imitate as he imitated Christ praises God int he midst of sacrifice and suffering….

as will every leader in every parish, in every congregation, and throughout the Church in history, and throught out the world. 

AMEN

 

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

Called to Belong: Called to Be His Own! An Advent Sermon on Romans 1


nativityCalled to Belong: Called to Be His Own

Romans 1:1-7

† In Jesus Name †

What People Need?

There are a ton of articles circulating across pastor’s desks, as they have for the prior three generations.  When I was in college, they asked why my generation was leaving the church and provided great statistics on why people like me, the children of baby boomers, weren’t attending church.

I wondered about it a lot, as I had gone to a large youth group in high school, in fact, it was significantly bigger than any church I’ve belonged to, and really, was bigger than all the churches I’ve pastored since.

In the nineties and up to about 2004 or 2005, pastors, church planters, it seemed everything churches did were questioning why people of my age group weren’t in church, and trying to make churches attractive to them.

As if we are all the same.  As if our needs, our anxieties, our challenges, our doubts and fears were the same.

It has changed now, as churches seem to have lost focus on those in my age group – those once labeled genX.  GenX is history, the church “experts” no longer mention us. Now the concern is with the millennials, Marissa, Melissa’s, Kelcie’s age group.  A group that is two or even three generations removed from the days when youth filled every church, when complete families, three and four generations worth of family found themselves sitting together on Sunday morning.

And for the most part, the experts still treat whichever generation they mourn the absence of as if they are all alike.  They want to find the “one” thing that will draw them all, the one key element that will draw them to church,

And perhaps, there is the problem in the first place.

If all we deal with is generalizations, how can we assure the individual whether 25, 50, 78 or 91 that they matter, that they belong?

To be honest, that’s been a challenge, even for pastors I’ve know in my life. Can the individual know that they are important, that God has called them to belong, that He has called them to be His own?

Yet, God calls us, individually here, to be part of this family, and maybe we can learn from that

Why is this good news?

When scripture talks about good news, we need to understand why it was good.  As Paul is writing to Gentiles, we need to understand that this was one of the largest generalizations ever created.

It was everyone who wasn’t Jewish by birth, who couldn’t trace their ancestral tree back to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. A lot of folk.  Good folk, bad folk.  Tall, short, skinny, fat, smart, wise, silly. Older, younger, men and women, Some who wanted to find God to each out for help, others that simply wanted to mock God.  And few that would want to make money off of people, but saying only they knew the way to God.

The only thing they have in common, is that they didn’t belong.  Even someone adopted into a Jewish family didn’t quite make it, and those who were hyphens, those who were half Jewish and half something else, they were treated with less of a welcome.

We were all outsiders, stuck in the darkness, not worth the time for a Jewish Rabbi to share his wisdom, not allowed to hear the sweet words that God had accepted our sacrifice for our sin.  For that is why we became outsiders, our inability to love God with all we are, and our struggles to love others, including our enemies, as God has designed for us to live.  Because of that sin, we were outsiders, out in the cold and dark, possessed by our sin, oppressed by sin’s guilt and shame.

That is why the gospel is good news, For it smashes the demographic divisions, it grinds up generalizations, for what defines us is that we are wanted.

That God calls us to belong.

You.

Look at verse 6.  Let’s read it together

And you are called among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Though, he wrote this letter to an entire congregation, as you sin in the next verse, that “you” is singular.

You are called to belong to Jesus.

You are called to be a saint, one of God’s Holy People, whom He loves.

You are.  Singular.  Not because you are this age or that, because you have this heritage or that, no because except for this one.

God loves you.

And therefore you belong to Jesus.

He bought you at the cross, freeing you from the sin and hell which had power over you.

This is what Advent leads to, what Christmas and Easter, the manger and the cross.

That’s what has made the difference in every church I’ve been blessed to be a part of, we knew we belonged together, for we now we belonged to Christ.

I want you to hear those words one more time, what we need to hear, each of us in this room , and every person on this planet,

Matter of fact, maybe it will sink in deeper if we say it together,…

And I am included among those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this to me and all who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.

Amen!

 

Is the Return on Investment Enough? The question of discipleship…


Devotional Thought of the Day:
(Luke 9:57–62)

Church Christmas Eve 2015 outdoors

18 When Jesus noticed the crowd round him, he ordered his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. 19A teacher of the Law came to him. “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.”
21 Another man, who was a disciple, said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.”
22 “Follow me,” Jesus answered, “and let the dead bury their own dead  Matthew 8:18-20 TEV

479    Don’t let it bother you. The “prudent” have always called the works of God madness. Onward! Be daring!

If you lived back in the days of Jesus, would you have left everything behind and followed him? Would you have left your work, your friends and your family behind, and followed this man who had no home, no means of support?

Would you be afraid of people thinking you are mad?

What about today?

Or would you take account of your assets first?  Would you consider your obligations where you presently are at, and weigh them in the balance?  Would you have to know the cost, and weight it against the potential “return” on your investment?

I suppose I could give you the stories of that show great sacrifice, and how God honored such hard work and dedication.  That might inspire us to be daring, to set aside life as we know it, and spend years wondering why God didn’t honor our work and dedication.  It would focus our journey on the results, and we would put our investment into achieving the results.

Discipleship isn’t about the results, though we rejoice in them. Following Jesus isn’t about the number of responses and conversions, the size of the churches we establish and maintain. It isn’t the number of people we serve, or the cost of doing so in time, talent or treasure.

Following Jesus isn’t about the size of the sacrifice or the size of the return on our lives invested!

It is about walking with Him, knowing His faithfulness, His mercy, His love! It is about having confidence in Him, even when we don’t know what tomorrow or the next day brings, if it even will.

That’s why some count it madness!

But you know better.  Reconciliation in God’s minds is not simply accounting and balancing the books.  It is about His bringing together, about reuniting hearts, about finding the healing of brokenness. It is about the Holy Spirit bringing comfort, peace, and joy, as we realize the presence of God in our lives, as we explore the dimensions of His love.

There is no way to measure this, no manner in evaluating the measure of value of knowing and living in Christ.

Come, follow Jesus, and abandon yourself into the love which saves you! 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1173-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

My thoughts on the election…


 

 

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.i 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”   NAB-RE 1 John 4:16-21

As i worked through my social media accounts last night I grew quite depressed.  Friends of mine, including pastors and priests, were commenting about the upcoming presidential elections.

Let me make it clear, I don’t mind people discussing the issues, or the candidates.  I think that is beneficial.  When the things discussed are not based in fear and anxiety, when they don’t spew hatred towards the candidates and those who support them.

I may never again talk to Mr. Trump, or ever talk to Mrs. Clinton.  Yet they still are neighbors, those we, who claim to love and follow Jesus, are called to love and not hate.  We are also called to love those who support them, and not insult them, or belittle them.  (see Matthew 5:22)

I am not saying this will be easy, we need to be on guard, whether we support or the other. There are many fears, there is much in the lives of those running for office that we cannot approve of, that may even cause us to recoil in disgust, or horror.  Yet their sin is no worse than ours, we have no right to stand before God and thank Him for our not being wretched sinners like them, apart from the grace of Christ.

We have to overcome our fears and anxieties, we have to get past the hatred, and there is only one way to do that.  To remain in Christ, to dwell in the love of God,.  We need to be focused on that which is revealed, the presence of God in which we dwell, safe there, welcome there because of the Cross of Jesus.   Because he died, we have been freed us from sin, and Satan, and even the fear of death.  Because we are united to that death, we are also united to Him in the resurrection, and nothing can separate us from His love.

Even having to vote.

So look to God, continually think about your Creator, who hasn’t abandoned you, and will not. Rejoice in His presence, and from that place of unsurpassed peace, pray for those running for office, not just president – but all those we elect.  Pray for them a lot, and even for yourself, that if you do get the chance to talk to them, you would show them love, the love of God reflected through your very being.

Lord Have Mercy on us, sinners all!  AMEN!

Where Do We Invest Ourselves?



Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, 5  not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, 6  whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, 7  so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8   This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others.    Titus 3:4-8 (NAB)

317    What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.

As we get closer to November, I am receiving more and more programs geared to what people call “stewardship,” each with a promise to increase the giving of my congregation.  Some might even market themselves as being “different.”  That is, they aren’t just about money, but also about encouraging people to use their time and talents to benefit the church.

Some even talk about coming out and doing the program for you or sending audio and video.  One recently indicated that since it was the focus of the worship services, you didn’t have to ask people to come to any other meetings. I usually don’t use “canned” studies or sermons, so these go pretty much unopened, unperused.  The other reason is that I don’t agree with the goal, of increasing giving.as a primary focus of worship.

As I read the quote from St. Josemaria, I thought about this a little more, that we invest our zeal in so many things.  It might be “our” football team. It might be a hobby, such as hiking or fishing or sewing and quilting. We relish the time we spend doing those things, and the people that do them with them are among those who we count as our closest friends. We might even zealously invest ourselves in those friends, apart from the things that bring us together – even church.

But what if we were as zealous about our relationship with God?   What if we had that kind of attitude about spending time with Him? What if we pursued the means of grace – the scriptures, the sacraments, including prayer, because we treasured the precious peace, that reminder of His ever present love?

What if we understood these things Paul told Titus to be insistent about teaching the people of God entrusted to Him?

Paul indicated that this would result in Titus’s people (and therefore our people) devoting themselves to good works as well, works that are excellent and beneficial for others!

I think this is exactly what St. Josemaria was talking about as well – be zealous about the affairs of our souls, about trusting and depending on God in our lives, and then everything else ends up taking care of itself.  And nothing will hinder apostolic/missional efforts, the needs of the ministry will be met, and more will follow.

This is, living by faith, by dependence on God.  It takes a while to get used to, and a determination to preachChristt crucified, whether on the pulpits or in the streets. As it seems like crisis hit, there will be a temptation to go back to hyper-focusing on giving, but there will come a time where you realize God is at work, that He will provide, as the idols we fashion fall to the side – and our focus becomes the kind and generous love of God.

Deliver to them the message of Christ, give them the hope of sharing in His glory, and the rest… will care for itself. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Real Pastoral Care: Real People & Real Brokenness Being Guided to Jesus


Devotional Thought of the Day:

76 And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,r
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our Gods
by which the daybreak from on high* will visit us 
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1 76-79

Finally priests have been placed in the midst of the laity to lead them to the unity of charity, “loving one another with fraternal love, eager to give one another precedence” (Rom 12:10). It is their task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one need feel himself a stranger in the community of the faithful. They are defenders of the common good, with which they are charged in the name of the bishop. At the same time, they are strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine.56 They are united by a special solicitude with those who have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or perhaps even from the faith. Indeed, as good shepherds, they should not cease from going out to them.
Mindful of the prescripts on ecumenism,57 let them not forget their brothers who do not enjoy full ecclesiastical communion with us.
Finally, they have entrusted to them all those who do not recognize Christ as their Savior.  (1)

As Zechariah considers his son’s birth, as the Spirit fills him, as it will fill John, the words are worth considering, worth being struck with awe.

John prepares a people who are lost, blinded, in fear of death ready for a miracle.  He is to begin to reveal to them their salvation, to ready them for the day when the Glory of God, seen in Jesus, will shine into their darkness.  He would give them the knowledge fo the forgiveness of sin, which his cousin Jesus would actually bring us.

That God, Himself and no other, would come to guide us, to shepherd us into a place of great peace. To prepare the people of God for the arrival of the messiah, that was John’s role, as it is the role of everyone in ministry, especially pastors and priests. (though really, every Christian is in ministry)

Decades before the term “missional” became in vogue, Vatican II noted this when it describes the role of priests. I would include pastors in this, but I want to draw attention to these things,

the are to reconcile
They are to see no one feels themselves a stranger in the community
the are to defend the common good, and the assert the truth – that is to present Jesus and His mercy so clearly that people aren’t blown about by doctrine.

But get this as well

We who are in ministry are to unite with those who haven’t encountered Jesus in the sacrament, who haven’t been trusting and depending on Christ.  We can’t cease to try and guide them back to Jesus.

And if brothers are divided – knowing that Jesus would see us unified, we don’t just dismiss those whose theology is different than our own!

And finally, Vatican II says – those in ministry have entrusted to them ALL who do not recognize Jesus as their savior.

This was John’s ministry, it is ours.  Some will call it being missional, some will call it the apostolate.  I really don’t care which you use, as long as you actually are doing it.  A mom guiding her children, a pastor guiding Hs parish, a friend reminding another that God is indeed with them, and cares and loves them.

This is the ministry, this is our life as a church, led by priests and pastors, we guide people to Jesus, we reveal His love, and then we are overwhelmed again and again, as He works in their lives.

Revealing to us that they are the children of God, the ones He died to reclaim.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, help us lay aside our own brokenness, that we can help others see their salvation.  AMEN!

 
(1)  Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

 

The Secret of a Pastor’s Success. The “M” word.


Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,his mercy endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: his mercy endures forever.
3 Let the house of Aaron say, his mercy endures forever.
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,his mercy endures forever.  Ps 118:1–4 NABRE

1  Church leaders, I am writing to encourage you. I too am a leader, as well as a witness to Christ’s suffering, and I will share in his glory when it is shown to us. 2  Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money. 3  Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. 4  Then when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will be given a crown that will never lose its glory.     1 Peter 5:1-4 (CEV)

And a minister who turns away from the inner source of his ministry can neither serve other people nor find fulfillment in his own life. There are many reasons why the reality that is the Church, which in the 1920s seemed to awaken so much expectation in souls, is regarded today as an alien and alienating mega-institution. But the most crucial reason is always the defection of a priest who ought to personify the institution and make her present in his own person, but who becomes instead, not a window, but a wall; who turns against his ministry instead of letting it become a trusted witness of the suffering and struggling of his own faith.  (1)  

Most pastors don’t want to admit it, but when people think of a church, or a ministry, they are the face of the ministry.  Not the physical face, but the reaction to the church itself is tied to the persona of its pastor, of the man who stands up, and has the responsibility of speaking for God.

It’s a heavy responsibility, a burden that easily tires out those who accept it.  Often, it tires them out too soon, and they determine that being a pastor is something else.  Instead of shepherding, they see themselves as communicators (preachers)  or leaders, or authors/bloggers, podcasters, who can remain at a distance, say what needs to be said, and walk away.  A couple of years ago I even heard one indicate that it wasn’t about pastoral care, because the ministry had changed, and we were no longer pastors, but ranchers.  He expected “real pastors” to leave pastoral care to lay servant ministers.

You see this in the modern drive to abandon the pastoral office to run para-church organizations, to be consultants or coaches, or to direct bureaucracies  What this does, far too often is that it distances them further from the people God called them to serve.  It becomes too easy  to become the wall that Pope Benedict describes, and their own spiritual life becomes dry and lifeless, institutionalized and alienated.

But, theoretically, safe. 

Safe from people realizing how broken we are, how desperate we are,  Safe from failing in the expectations we have, or that others place upon us. Safe from our doubts, our fears, our anxieties.  In doing so, we also become safe from the needing the faith, the dependence on God to survive.

You see, the more we are distanced from the pain our people endure, the anxiety that keeps them awake at night, the heartache that causes them to doubt God’s presence, the easier it is to become numb to our need to depend on God. When we weep and laugh, cry and rejoice with them, they see we struggle as well, that we share in this brokenness of life….

And hopefully, they see us run to the cross, to give thanks over and over for this mercy, this incredible loving kindness, this presence of God which comforts us when there is nothing left.  For that psalm to hit home, we need to know that mercy, we need to realize the power in it, the comfort, and for our people to “get it” they need to see this in us, a natural reaction. Then the psalm above wouldn’t just seem repetitive, but it would be a joy to hear, and it would undergird our meditations.

The mercy of God is the inner source of our ministry, it is the strength that sustains us when we are at our weakest, it is what enables us to have a sure and confident hope in God.  When we are in awe of His mercy, our people become in awe of it, and they depend upon it!

If only seeking and find that mercy revealed could become what we are addicted to, that which we crave more than life itself. If that was what we tweeted and posted about, even more, what we shared with our neighbors, co-workers, families and friends.

If only they saw God comfort us in our weakness, forgive us in our brokenness, if they saw us count on His mercy and grace.  How wonderful that we would know this intimacy this well, and no longer hide!  How wonderful that would be, for then, this would be real, not an academic exercise, and our souls would be the windows through which they would know God’s desire to work in their lives.

Lord, Have mercy on us!  AMEN.

(1)   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. 150). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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