Devotional Thought for our days:
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)
During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.
Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”. According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation. (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)
The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi. One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system.
They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago)
Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.
What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.
A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me. As it did the generations before us.
It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.
The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it. To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it.
I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!
May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.” Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
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.
Devotional Thought for our days:
Dt 19:16-20 — “If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, 17 then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. 18 The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, 19 you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. 20 Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.
902 Acquire the habit of speaking about everyone and about everything they do in a friendly manner, especially when you are speaking of those who labour in God’s service. Whenever that is not possible, keep quiet. Sharp or irritated comment as well may border on gossip or slander.
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
16 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.
It is too easy to complain about other people.
Our neighbor, our co-workers, our family, our elected officials, even complaining about those who complain too much. it is all too easy to complain, to bicker, to criticize and condemn.
We might even believe our words, or at least believe the people who passed them on to us.
Too often our words poison our lives, causing us to be blind to what God is doing, cutting off our souls from the peace God would have us live in, the peace Christ died for, in order to bless us. These words can steal from us the hope of reconciliation, both the reconciliation of God, wherein God draws us into His mercy, and the reconciliation that happens there, as we realize we are His family. It is a serious thing – look at the warning God gives against the misuse of words.
Think of the damage that gossip, slander and the malicious words we utter do to the mission of Christ. For if our hearts are turned against those God has sent us to reach with his love, how can we? Why would we pray for those we speak evil above
We need to confess this and ask God for help, for the comfort of the Spirit, to remember the miraculous promise that happens in Christ. We need to be forgiven and to revel in the joy of that forgiveness and what it restores to us.
We need to hear Him call to us, even as broken as we are, and hear of the value He places on our lives.
He is our hope, HIs word is what matters, the word of life….Hear them, let your mind dwell on them and what they promise.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3672-3675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
57 Then they shouted loudly and covered their ears and all ran at Stephen. 58 They took him out of the city and began to throw stones at him to kill him. And those who told lies against Stephen left their coats with a young man named Saul. 59 While they were throwing stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” After Stephen said this, he died. Acts 7:57-69 NCV
This is the perpetual characteristic of the true church: it not only experiences suffering and is dishonored and held in contempt, but it also prays for those who afflict it and is gravely concerned about their perils.[i]
It is a necessity that we are reminded that Spiritual Warfare is not battling against flesh and blood, rather, the flesh and blood is what we are called to do battle on behalf of, to help free them from what would keep them away from the gospel.
Yet so much of our literature, so much of our training, so much of our attitude is about defeating the person, bringing them to submission, We have so bought into a competitive lifestyle, that it impacts and drives our ministry.
If we are that competitive if we see our spiritual warfare as against those we differ with, how we will nourish the faith and desire we need to pray as Stephen did?
How will we learn to plead for those who do evil as Moses, Abraham, and Paul would? How can we begin to imitate Christ, who asked the Father to forgive those who mocked, stripped, bet and tortured Him, even as He died to secure their freedom from sin?
We need to develop this characteristic that is found in Christ Jesus. We need to develop it not just as a measure of our holiness, but for their sake. As Luther said, we need to be concerned about the perils that the people who oppose us will face, especially the peril that would come if they never find out about God’s love.
This may sound imprudent, or impossible, It may seem that it is only for saints and the holiest of us, but holiness is not an inbred characteristic. Nor is the patience and compassion that this kind of ministry requires. Which should give us the key to the ministry. It isn’t about us being holy enough, it is about realizing the compassion and love of God show to us! It about trusting in God’s promises more than we fear them, or are shamed by the contempt and dishonor they would throw at us,
It’s the result of walking with God, of sharing in His glory, of realizing the love we treasure would free them.
It would bring about reconciliation.
And when it happens, it is amazing to see, it is wonderful and incredible to see
And so needed. It is our ministry, to walk with Jesus as He seeks and saves the lost.
Lord Jesus, help us love them as you love them. Help us desire that they would know you mercy, that they would experience your compassion and love, that they would find themselves sharing in your glory, as you claim them as your own. Lord, have mercy on us all. AMEN!
[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 2. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:7-11 (NLT)
19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20 so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NLT)
But the current popular phrases surrounding the worship experience seem oriented around personal perception. “Did you like the worship?” But this may mean, “Did you like the sound?” “Did you like our performance?” “Did you like the preaching?” These questions have more to do with style and preference than the transformation of thought and action. Some have suggested turning the words toward God and asking, “Did God like our worship? Was God pleased with what we did today?” These questions, however, equally misunderstand the purpose of worship. In worship we proclaim and enact God’s story of the world. Therefore, the more appropriate experiential question is “Did God’s story, which was proclaimed and enacted today, make a transformative impact on your life?” Or, “How has the weekly rehearsal of the meaning of human life that is rooted in God’s story changed the way you treat your family, your neighbors, the people with whom you work?” (1)
As I was reading Webber’s quote, I started to think about the way I evaluate the church “services” I officiate. The questions Webber describes are the questions I have asked, both my members, my visitors, my elders, and staff.
How did you like it, was the experience worth your while? Those questions another hard question, will you be back, will you invest time talent and treasure in this ministry here. Do you find our church service of value, enough to become part of out community?
I don’t think Webber is saying those questions are completely wrong, but they are not the primary question we need to ask.
Have you met God in such a way that you know He is changing you? Do you desire that change more now than before? Would you cry out to God to purify you, because you are confident that He will, that this is His desire, that He wants you to be part of His people? That if you are struggling with sin, that He would come alongside, and continue to work through you, with you, in you? Basically, that we are no longer talking about His story from a distance or our story as if He is distant? A million ways to ask it, but the basic idea comes back to this:
DO you and I know, as God reveals Himself to us, that He desires and will make us His people, for He is our God.
After all, that is our role, as agents of reconciliation (see 2 Cor. 5)
And therefore, our evaluation of our church services, whether worship services, or our classes, the work of caring for children or the elderly, or the poor, or the ministry of our people to their family, neighbors, and community comes down to this simple concept.
Are you ready to challenge what you do?
Heavenly Father, reveal Your desire to us, as You heal our brokenness as we dwell in Jesus, and as we do help us draw others to be healed by you as well! AMEN!
(1) Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
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. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)
329 We all need to foresee our lack of objectivity whenever we have to judge our own behaviour. This applies to you too. (1)
If we are to guide people to Jesus and the cross, we need to do it as He did.
In the passage above Jesus talks of being gentle and humble in Spirit. Look into the Greek a little and you will find the words underlying those two thoughts include words like empathetic, compassionate, caring, and subservient, self-sacrificing, not proud.
It is similar to the list of attributes that Paul lists in regards to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the love which is necessary for ministry, for preaching and prophesying. The unique combination of love and mercy that puts the good of the other first, no matter what the cost, even the cost of death. An interesting side note to this was from another devotional book of mine,
He reminded us that the scarlet robe of the cardinals is a symbol of their readiness to undergo martyrdom. The Church explains this in the formula: “He who wears it must be willing to defend the faith usque ad effusionem sanguinis—even to the shedding of blood.” (2)
It is that love that results in Jesus, and all who imitate and follow him to be gentle and humble in their ministry to others, calling them not to a legalistic obedience, but to hear God, and love Him back by walking with Him, (and therefore obeying, as the Old Testament promised from the law written on their hearts)
This isn’t an easy way to minister, and like the cardinals of old were reminded that their ministry could indeed include their martyrdom, we who minister, whether lay or clergy, have to be prepared to offer our lives as living sacrifices. (see Romans 12) For most of us, that doesn’t include a physical martyrdom, but one of our will, one of our hearts (which are circumcised by God – Col. 2)
Which is St Josemaria’s point in the quote in blue. We have to be aware of our lack of objectivity, we have to be able to recognize when “we” get in the way of His work. We need to examine ourselves and pray that God would eradicate in us the tendency to be proud and the spirit that is narcissistic.
Not because of some legalistic pietism, and not even so that we actually minister more effectively. Rather, because we are trusting God, realizing that walking with Him is walking in the promise our baptism, and in letting the Spirit transform us (see 2 Cor 3) more and more into His image results in this.
Gentle and humble, empathetic and self-sacrificing, ministering effectively because we are allowing ( and we grow to desire this ) God to crucify our egos, our lack of objectivity, even as we are embraced by God on that same cross. We learn to depend upon Him that much.
This is the life of faith, it is time to live it, it is time to enjoy this peace. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) 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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Jesus said, “Two people owed money to the same banker. One owed five hundred coins n and the other owed fifty. 42 They had no money to pay what they owed, but the banker told both of them they did not have to pay him. Which person will love the banker more?”
43 Simon, the Pharisee, answered, “I think it would be the one who owed him the most money.”
Jesus said to Simon, “You are right.” 44 Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. 47 I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The people sitting at the table began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.” Luke 7:41-50 NCV
42 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for you, the living God; when can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 GNT
Let me illustrate this shift toward a spirituality disconnected from God’s story by comparing historic spirituality to this new intellectual embrace of forensic justification.
Historic spirituality looks like this: God became one of us in the incarnation. When the Word became incarnate in Jesus by the Spirit, God lifted all humanity into himself and, by his death and resurrection, reconciled all to himself (Rom. 5:12–21). Spirituality is therefore a gift of God’s grace. God has taken the initiative to unite with us so that we may be united with him. Baptism is the spiritual rite of conscious and intentional union with Jesus (Rom. 6:1–14) and reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The spiritual life is the freedom to live in the baptismal pattern of his death and resurrection, dying to sin and rising to the new life in the Spirit. In this ancient model of spirituality, Jesus is our spirituality because we are in union with God through our union with Jesus by the Spirit. His entire life from conception to resurrection is on behalf of humanity. He reverses our belonging to Adam (Rom. 5:12–21). He overcame sin for us (Col. 2:13–15). He destroyed the power of death (1 Cor. 15:35–58). He begins the new order of creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He does all this in the power of the Spirit. Christ now dwells in us by the Spirit and we in him.
Spirituality rooted in justification without the connection to the incarnation and Christology looks like this: We are justified by Christ who has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. Christ is our righteousness. God looks at us through the righteousness of Christ and imputes or declares us righteous in Christ. (This is called the forensic or judicial view of establishing our relation to God.) Now that God has made us spiritual through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to God in thanksgiving by living the sanctified life. The new emphasis in spirituality within Protestantism, in general, is this justification/ sanctification model.
Sixteen years ago, I left the non-denominational brotherhood of churches I was trained and ordained by and became a Lutheran pastor. The Brotherhood had a broad diversity of theology, not just among church members, but in its Bible College and seminaries. There was nothing that tied the group’s theology together, which made for some interesting conversations over the years! but this isn’t about them, it is about Lutheran theology, and how it ((and most conservative theology today) screws up Justification.
One of the tenets of Lutheran Theology is that the Doctrine of Justification is the central doctrine of theology. The first couple of times I heard that I hesitated, and still do on occasion. Then a wise professor explained it to me this way. Picture a bike wheel, you have the hub, the spokes, and the actual tire. The hub is Justification, but it isn’t the only, nor the most important of doctrines, and if you remove any of them, the wheel will fail, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.
That makes sense, but I think today, as Webber points out, we have got the hub but forgotten the tire. We’ve forgotten the reason we are justified int he first place, to be in a relationship with God, to walk with Him, to know His love, to stop the fighting, internally and externally, and simply take refuge in God our Fortress, in God our peace.
This is the error of Simon the Simon, a leader in the Jewish religion. He had his hub set, the spokes tightened, the rim in place, but he forgot the tire. He didn’t recognize that God was there, not just to pronounce forgiveness, which is amazing. He was there to eat and drink with Simon, to share bread, to laugh, to cry, to be with him.
This is our God, whose come to us. God who wants to share our lives, even as we share in His, and dwell in His glory and peace. Christ’s death on the cross, enables God to declare us clean, righteous, holy, and that enables us to walk with Him (Or maybe to ride?) We need to keep this in mind, we need the entire wheel, hub, spokes, rim, and tire. Missing a part, or getting it out of line, is serious, but the goal is and always will be, to sit down, and eat and drink, to fellowship with Him.
May you enjoy that feast this weekend and always! AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight. Isaiah 35:10 (NJB)
210 At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.
If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.
Right now, I am in the midst of the Psalms, and over and over I see the writers of them describe scornfully those who do not follow God. There is often no call for mercy, no call for mercy, just a call for harsh, blind, and effective justice.
To use Lutheran-speak, there is a great call for the Law to be applied, yet little for the gospel.
As I look through FB post after FB post, I see the same attitude is prevalent among many in the church today. Whether their antagonist is a political figure or someone in Hollywood, whether it is all of Islam or those who understanding of morality is contrary to that found in scripture, there is a sense that we have to persecute them, that we have to not only separate ourselves from them but make sure everyone knows they are condemned to hell.
We want to apply the law to them, even as we desire the comfort of God’s grace to be shown to us, even in our struggle with sin. We overlook all of Jesus’ teaching which calls us to love them, to seek out their reconciliation, to seek them out and share the gospel with them.
While I wish we would recognize that there might be a better way that to shout at them and shake them awake from their soul-sleep; I think we need to grow in the grief that St. Josemaria describes. We need to know the sorrow and sadness that comes from watching people we know, people we should love struggling without God, without knowing His love, without knowing His mercy.
Look at that person you would condemn, is it that impossible that God would bring them home, with the joy that Isaiah describes? It is possible that God would desire to remove the blinders from their eyes, heal their souls, cleanse their hearts?
Or maybe, it is those in the church that need to be awakened. Maybe we are the ones stumbling in the darkness, who need to once again hear of His grace. That we need to experience the depth of His love and mercy and having done so, now want to share that time, that way of the baptized life with the world.
Lord, help us to grow int he awareness of your mercy, your love, your presence in our lives that Your compassion for the lost becomes our compassion, and that we would see them transformed, even as the Holy Spirit transforms us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
When it was late in the day, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the countryside and towns around here to buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 5:35-37 NCV
191 When I speak to you about “apostolate of friendship”, I mean a personal friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart.
On any given morning my email box is filled with thirty to a hundred emails, and about 80 percent I simply delete. What really irritates me are the ones that are form letters sent out by a contact management software, that try to make it look like they are personal messages.
One recently even mentioned that if I had already responded to the previous email, they apologize for the software not being updated to recognize this and that they would stop sending the email eventually! I get the feeling that if I called the person, they would not know that they “contacted” me. I know some of the programs are set up to send letters, pre-written, on a schedule.
They didn’t. Their software program did.
I don’t mind bulk mail, I understand that missionaries and other churches are busy, and I appreciate copying me along with many others for support and prayer. I don’t even mind advertisements that are automated. It’s the idea that someone thinks that they will gain by making the advertisement look like a personal contact.
In the gospel reading this morning, the disciples were amazed by the people wanting to hear Jesus. I imagine they loved the accolades, the great joy (and a little frustration) that comes with being a superstar, or at least part of His crew. They were learning about the kingdom of heaven, and they would learn a lesson today.
” the show’s over, they need to go eat!” they tell Jesus. We are done with them, you taught, they listened, some were healed. Good day, let’s pack it up and get the rest, relaxation, and prayer you mentioned.
Jesus’ reply, “you feed them”
Don’t care from a distance, actually care Don’t just see their need, make sure the need is met. You can do it, (Jesus knowing he would supply the food) just do it.
That’s how the Missio Dei works, the apostolate of friendship as St Josemaria describes it. Laughing with them, crying with them, being involved. Not just monitoring responses to a contact system, but actually getting involved in their lives. Not just keeping in contact, but being in communion with them. And as St. Josemaria said, this means there is a sacrifice, there is something personal, face to face, heart to heart. There is cost, but there is also immeasurable grace, mercy, and love. For God is there.
As I was writing this, I think back to several conversations recently. The basic idea of each was that the pastor seemed to be writing the sermons directly to the person that heard it. Pastors who hear this often reply, “that was one I was preaching mostly to myself.” They are astonished when they realize how that sermon also touched their people’s hearts as deeply as they struggled with it.
I believe this is evidence of the relationship of people and pastor in communion with each other. It is the evidence of the apostolate of friendship, the communion of saints that we confess in our Creed. It is about learning what sacramental and incarnational ministry mean, and it is imitating Jesus.
Get to know those people around you, be their friends, share their struggles, rejoice with them in their celebrations. Whether pastor or layperson, you need to understand you were sent into their lives, and you get to help them explore the love of God. And as you do, with them you will find His love ever more true, every more bright, ever more glorious! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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.
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.