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How Closely Should We Cling to God? You Will Not Believe What Scripture says!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our days:
11 Just as shorts fit tightly round the waist, so I intended all the people of Israel and Judah to hold tightly to me. I did this so that they would be my people and would bring praise and honour to my name, but they would not obey me.”  Jeremiah 13:11  TEV

Loneliness is indubitably one of the basic roots from which man’s encounter with God grew up. Where man experiences his solitariness, he experiences at the same time how much his whole existence is a cry for the thou and how ill-adapted he is to be only an I in himself. This loneliness can become apparent to man on various levels. To start with it can be comforted by the discovery of a human thou. But then there is the paradox that, as Claudel says, every thou found by man finally turns out to be an unfulfilled and unfulfillable promise; that every thou is at bottom another disappointment and that there comes a point when no encounter can surmount the final loneliness: the very process of finding and of having found thus becomes a pointer back to the loneliness, a call to the absolute thou that really descends into the depths of one’s own I. But even here it remains true that it is not only the need born of loneliness, the experience that no sense of community fills up all our longing, which leads to the experience of God; it can just as well proceed from the joy of security. The very fulfillment of love, of finding one another, can cause man to experience the gift of what he could neither call up nor create and make him recognize that in it he receives more than either of the two could contribute. The brightness and joy of finding one another can point to the proximity of absolute joy and of the simple fact of being found which stands behind every human encounter.

“I weep when the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs analysis replaces the almost erotic intimacy with Christ described by John the Cross in his “Dark night of the soul,” or the stunning challenge to discipleship and companionship presented in some of the great Ignatian meditations on the mystery of Christ. The psychological tools are fun and even helpful, but they create a fascination with oneself and in the end, leave us alone with that fascination. I grow very sad when the paradoxical wisdom of our heroines and heroes is replaced by the strategies and stages of the psychological paradigm. A language that was once very large and awesomely beautiful has been transformed into a language that is very self-centered and very small.)

How closely does God want us to cling to Him? 

According to Jeremiah – as tightly as shrunken old underwear clings!  (Gulp!  How is that for a picture! No object lessons about this in a sermon – please!)

Gosh, that is close, very close!

That is what he always intended, a relationship that is that intimate, that close. That deep, that powerfully intimate and life changing. Nothing is going to get closer!

That is why Webber’s quote in green needs to be understood.  There are a lot of great tools for helping people, but ultimately, it comes down to knowing Jesus.  That is what sustained saints recognized and unrecognized by the church throughout the ages.  This level of intimacy with God that simply leaves us adoring Him with all that we are.  The level of intimacy we find in the sacraments, the intimacy that does fill the emptiness that no community can quench on its own.

Look at the way people have chased that kind of commitment, that kind of bond.  Of course is our madness with sex and the sensual.  But also the many fraternal organizations ( Kiwanis, Lions, KofC, even the Masons) and each tries to create those kinds of bonds and falls short.  The same thing for religious groups and orders, they come close and show this intimacy we need can exist, but they ultimately can’t replace a relationship with God.

Oddly, the Jesus movement started by promising this kind of intimacy, then as it morphed over the decades, it dropped that aside in favor of behavior modification and political power and influence.  This is why mountaintop experiences like prayer retreats and groups like Cursillo are so effective – they introduce that level of relationship, in a corporate environment.  They force us into it, but often fail to demonstrate that relationship is in our everyday life, and in our home church’s worship.  It’s there, but we have to learn to see it!

Ultimately, we are talking about a relationship sustained as we interact with God.  In the sacraments, in our time of prayer, (remember the ACTS outline – do we take enough time to ADORE Him?  We are talking about a relationship where He is allowed and welcomed into our lives, and we understand we are welcome to share in His glory.  

The more we experience it, the more we realize our need for it and hunger for it.  The more that happens, the more we cling to Him!

Even cling to Him like a pair of old torn shrunken underwear…. 

He is our God, we are His people.  We need Him in our lives, and He wants to be there.  This is how it was meant to be….

So go, spend some time with God… think about His love. 

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.

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.  ( Dr. Webber was quoting Fr. Peter Fink in this passage)

Take the Time and Pray… the Difference is Noticable

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

2  The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3  How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. Hebrews 2:2-3 (TEV)

The first “work” of the priest is to be a believer and to be so always anew and always more deeply. Faith is never present as a matter of course; it must be lived. It leads us into a conversation with God that includes both speaking and hearing. Faith and prayer belong inseparably together. The time a priest spends in prayer and in hearing the word of God is never at the expense of his pastoral duties to the souls confided to his care. People can tell if the words and actions of their pastor have their origin in his prayer or only at his writing table.

As a young pastor, working p/t as a hospice chaplain, and part-time at a community college teaching computer science, I often got caught in a trap, as time was limited.  The demands of caring for my people, studying the scriptures and prayer often became what was cut out, sacrificed to the tyranny of the urgent.

I could justify this, and often hear others do this today.  The challenge is communicating that my need for time in prayer is not because I am holier, or more pious. For I know some will dismiss my advice to make time with God a priority because of such concern.  My denomination has its periods where being pious turned into extreme pietism, so those who advocate prayer and other spiritual disciplines are often treated with suspicion. 

That doesn’t change the fact we need to be communicating with God, we need to set up a regular time to give to God numerous burdens, our pains, our sins, and to listen to Him, as He shares His love, and the promises that flow from that love.  We can’t continue to carry those burdens on our own, they will crush   We need to hear Him say, I am here, don’t be afraid, don’t be anxious.  We need His comfort, for His words and sacraments to nourish and strengthen us, even as they cleanse us from sin.   If we don’t pray, if we don’t spend time listening to God, then our faith, stimulated at the “writing table” shows that we’ve neglected that which we’ve been saved and delivered into, the presence of God.

This isn’t a “pray because you have to, that’s what good Christians do”, this is a pray because you need it, you need to know God is present, listening, guiding, and comforting as we live in this challenge messed up world.

But when we come from such times, of seeing God repair our brokenness, when we hear Him whisper gently as He did to Elijah; then our ministry is not just dry and academic. After such times of intimacy with God, our words become deeply spiritual as well as wise, as our faith is tenable, real, and easily passed on to those we are called to care for, those we are called to serve.

My dear friends, whether you are pastors or priests, Sunday School teachers, elders, those who assist in facilitating the church’s praise and worship, it doesn’t matter your role as part of God’s family.

You need to pray….

And let others know how it helps you, as we struggle through this world so that they will do so, and be able to rest in the love of God.

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.

Unity of the Church, Seen in the Ministry of Reconciling People to Jesus…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

11   (He, Jesus) filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher 12  to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, 13  until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (MSG)

2. The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. (1)

The person who wants only the God whom he has invented for himself—how is he to be certain that there is a God, how is he to love one who never answers him? But God has come to meet us in our groping search. He speaks to us in the community of faith, he challenges us, he lives among us. That know-it-all pride that wants to put itself above the Faith of the Church and her living community inevitably ends in an aversion for God and for itself. In the community that God himself has formed and that comes to us from his love, he can be loved in return. It need hardly be said, then, that love of God is never a private relationship between me and him who is both mystery and eternity. The community that he created includes me; hence this love is returned to it and transcends it because God wants to unite all of us in a single city of eternal peace  (2)

7 Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ  (3)

I’ve been thinking a lot of the differences in the churches recently. I hate the divisions that exist in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church we confess in the creeds. .Even as I respect the people who take the division seriously, and lament it, even as they recognize the need for it.   (that is another blog… we can’t simply dismiss the differences)

One of the things we do agree on, is the need of people to know Jesus, not just to know of Him, but to know Him.  Which means being drawn to Him, to find Him in the midst of His people, the life of Christ into which we are called is lined in the community of faith.

Both Vatican II and the Lutheran Confessions agree on this, as would most pastors, even if we don’t agree on what the church looks like, the need of Jesus’ involvement in people’s lives is their greatest need. 

For knowing Christ brings joy, even as it removes all guilt and shame.  Knowing Him means that our brokenness is being healed, that our lives have meaning that extends beyond this moment.  The mission, the apostolate that God entrusts to us is incredible.

Incredible because of the change that occurs in the life of the disciple.

Incredible because of the trust God places in us.

Incredible in view of the unity we find with each other, as we find ourselves in God’s presence. In His finding us, we end up finding each other….and as we see people come to know God’s mercy, they become part of His people. That we are being bound together in Him extends over all other things that could divide us, even as we struggle (or should struggle) to see those things settled, not as compromises, but as brothers with one goal – being in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, the hope of unity is there… because He is.

Lord, bring you church together, reveal to us that we are one, even as you and the Father are one.  Lord have mercy upon us.  AMEN..

 

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 226). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

(2)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 226). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(3)
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Transformation of Easter; The Change to Our Attitude

Featured imageThe Transformation of Easter

The Change to Our Attitude

1 John 3:16-24

  IHS

As you look towards standing before God, may you know the grace and mercy of our Father, and the Lord Jesus, which will give you bold confidence and the greatest of joy!

An Amazing Sight

Our epistle today describes an amazing moment in your life.

You are there, in the fullness of God’s glory.  There among the cherubim, the seraphim, the 24 elders that surround God on His throne.  The joy is immense, the sound of the people singing God’s praises so incredible, so far beyond anything you have ever pictured or thought.

It is what we’ve waited a lifetime for, and as you catch God’s eye, you see a twinkle, and a smile, and you are absolutely confident that this is where you belong.

It is an amazing feeling, to know that you belong there, in the very presence, in the glory of God.  A feeling that you feel as at home there, as in your own living room.  A feeling that you are completely peaceful here in the presence of the Lord.

What an amazing moment, an amazing eternity, to be standing before God in all of His glory, and to be, using the words of John, boldly confident, without a hesitation because of guilt, or shame. Hearing the praises of all the host of heaven, as they praise God for His holiness, for His sacredness, for His setting Himself, apart for us.

Amazing!

I can’t even imagine the feeling, the view, the joy…

The closest I can come… well…we will get to that a little later.

Uhm – am I compassionate enough!

I want to look at verse 16 and 17 for a few moments.

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

I have to admit this one challenges me, even as the passage from Acts about everyone having everything in common did a few weeks ago.

I want to justify; I want to be the one who determines what it means to “be in need.”

I want to determine what it means to have “enough money”.  You know, I think Bill Gates has enough, and maybe those pro athletes.  The rest of us?  Not so much.

As we hear those words, I can’t help but think of the pleas that come from organizations that want to feed the children in the inner city, or in poor countries around the world.  Or the guy who was at the 91 and Bellflower Blvd exit, with his hand out for money.

Can I ignore them, and still know the love of God?  Is it in me?

Can we really look at our lives, in view of John’s call to “give up out lives for our brothers and sisters” and have confidence to stand before God?

Do we have the compassion – literally are our stomachs upset when we see someone in need?  Or do we just look away, or look down on those who have need?

How can we find the confidence we need to stand before God when John’s epistle is questioning us this bluntly?

Will we be in those that Jesus judges to be sheep, who visited the imprisoned, who fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and in doing so, cared for Him?  Or will we be the goats, the stubborn one’s who held on to their stuff, and not cared?

How will we stand before God?

How many of us can say we are that compassionate towards those who are in need?

As a pastor, I think my answer will surprise you.

Where we find this compassion; the change He’s wrought in us.

A moment ago, I mentioned the companion passage to our epistle reading, which talked about the sheep and the goats.

Most of you might recall that the goats didn’t realize when they missed the opportunity to care for Jesus.  They asked him, “when didn’t we visit, feed, clothe, and care for you Jesus?”  And He said, “when you didn’t do it to the least of those in need, you didn’t do it to me.”

What most overlook is that the sheep didn’t know when they did visit, feed, sustain, clothe and care for Jesus.  They were as surprised as those who didn’t, but their care was evident to Jesus.

As I look out into this congregation, I see more and more, the people who are caring for those who are in need.  The people who have helped pre-school parents with scholarships, the people who respond to Al’s pleas for benevolence, both big and small.  One person has helped care for those kids as well, by paying for new carpets and flooring.  We hold each other up in prayer, and we respond to needs as they come. I hear of people visiting, and sharing, hugging each other.

That is why passing the peace comes where it does in the service, because when we realize the love of Christ seen here – at the altar, we see the need of it in each other’s lives and respond by sharing it with others.  Any other place in the liturgy, and it is pretty much a greeting.  But as we see the Body and Blood here for us… it changes us; it causes a level of compassion that is otherwise overlooked.  That compassion and love is amazing and brings comfort and peace.

Truly you can see in this place the love of Christ, if you know where and when to look.

You see, that is the transformation that occurs when we know that He is risen (response  He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia) ) and therefore ( we are risen indeed!)  God changes us, we learn to care for each other, for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a transformation He is doing, to all who believe are baptized.  Some may seem slower than others, but if we can’t even judge ourselves, our judgment of others fails as well.  Each of us has time, talents and treasures that differ, but the compassion of Christ is there in all of us.  It comes out more and more as we experience the love of Christ.

Like when we take and eat and take His body, and take and drink His blood, given and shed for us.

It is here, at the altar, experiencing His love and mercy, His presence and glory, that we are transformed, that we are changed, that we find God compassionate toward us, freeing us from sin and the fear of death, freeing us from the power of satan, freeing us to love Christ.  Freeing us from the guilt and shame, which would distract us from Jesus.

This is the work of Christ in you, the work that began in your baptism, that comes to His completion, that day when you stand before Him with bold confidence, assured, not of your own compassion, but of His.

it is that work, driven by His compassion, that will cause you to be bold and confident in His presence, and which brings you His peace, that peace the world cannot give, in which you are compassionately guarded, your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

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