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Is This the Faith We Teach?

Teaching the faith.. isn’t like this!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. 2  The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’S splendor, see his greatness and power. 3  Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. 4  Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…”
Isaiah 35:1-4b (TEV)

At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things. Yet, not knowing them even now, they go to baptism and the sacrament and use everything the Christians have, even though those who go to baptism should by right know more and have a more complete understanding of all Christian teachings than children and pupils chasing their ABC’s. To be sure, for the common crowd, we have not gone farther than the three articles,16 which has been the custom from ancient times in Christendom, but seldom rightly taught and practiced.

Once when I arrived at a new mission, fresh from experience of painful and humiliating failure, feeling heavy and useless; on the first day my Superior introduced me to a man we were caring for. He immediately took my hand and led me to another, who was dying. He said; ‘Norman, we have a new Sister and she understands us’. In that moment, I became aware of how my own personal sufferings bonded me to them in their suffering. I saw the cross as precious, a sign of greater love. Miracles happen in the times of our greatest sufferings. This is true even if we do not suffer well.

As a pastor, I love what Luther encourages (the purple quote) that the head of the household invest time in building up the faith of those in his care. Not only those who are his children, but those he works with, who are his “employees”. He does so, not by lecturing, but by questioning them, helping determine the places where they need to grow.

It is a different form of “teaching” a form that must be different, for what is being taught is different. It is not doctrine that is being taught, but faith. It is not data, but that we can trust and depend on Jesus, and on the Holy Spirit who is active in our lives. It is something that is experienced not just memorized, it is something that is shared with those we love, not just drilled into them.

It is what Isaiah refers to, the lessons of faith that enable us to see the Lord’s glory, which is actively giving strength to the tired hands, and the trembling weak knees, It is the life lived within the truth that discouragement is not conquered by determination and inner-strength, but rather in the fact that God has come to rescue us.

That is what the young nun realized, as she went to minister to those who were suffering. That is what the moms and dads, the employers, the teachers are called to “teach” by asking the questions that reveal the lack of knowledge of God’s presence and His work in our lives, for that is what is revealed in word and sacraments. It is that work, that love that causes us to trust, to depend on, to have faith in God.

Is this what we teach? Is it what we work and guide people in developing? Is it what those we count as mentors and pastors, teachers and “fathers” in the faith give to us? Will we/they walk alongside those (including us) understanding the broken, for we have seen God work in our brokenness?

Will at the end of the day, and at the end of life, they know they can depend on God, for they know His presence?

If they do, then we have taught them well…

Lord Jesus, help us to teach those who are part of our “homes”, the people who are family by blood, and those who are just family. Help us stimulate their trust in You, asking them the questions that help them find themselves in Your presence, and rejoice in Your caring work in their lives. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 185). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Waiting For Our Prodigals…..Be Like a….

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

11  And he said, There was a man who had two sons. 12  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.And he divided his property between them. 13  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

32  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32 (ESV)

380      Would that you could acquire, as I know you would like to, the virtues of the donkey! Donkeys are humble, hardworking, persevering—stubborn!—and faithful, with a sure step, tough and—if they have a good master—also grateful and obedient.

In the last few months I’ve had a number of parents of adult and teenage children who’ve come to me for prayer.  I hope and pray that my words gave them both hope and comfort.

The issue is often morality, in a couple of the situations, the immorality has led to horrendous consequences.  The trauma on the parents is beyond anything I’e ever experienced. In the others, the fear of such trauma is intense, and seemingly unending. In both cases, fear and pain can seem unending, and reactions from those points can cause even more damage.  Matter of fact, our lack of wisdom may cause more fear and anxiety. Those thoughts, words and actions we know are irreversible, but they aren’t beyond reconciliation.

So what do we do as parents, as pastors, as we wait for our prodigals to return?  How do we deal with the anxieties, as our prodigals are away, enjoying themselves, or living with hogs in the mud?  We don’t know all the story.  We do the story of the prodigal, and hope that our situations will resolve in the same manner.  We look out from our house often, looking down the road for some hope.  We hear a car turn into our driveway, and our hearts are crushed, because it isn’t our prodigal.

Where do we find hope in this?  What can help us find peace, find healing ourselves?  What can help us, between the time they run off to follow strange desires, ignore logical morality, and turn their back on God?  How do we avoid taking on the attitude of the cynical older brother, or just giving up hope, declaring the person dead to us?

We have to know the heart of Father, revealed in passages like this:

11  “I, the Sovereign LORD, tell you that I myself will look for my sheep and take care of them 12  in the same way as shepherds take care of their sheep that were scattered and are brought together again. I will bring them back from all the places where they were scattered on that dark, disastrous day. 13  I will take them out of foreign countries, gather them together, and bring them back to their own land. I will lead them back to the mountains and the streams of Israel and will feed them in pleasant pastures. 14  I will let them graze in safety in the mountain meadows and the valleys and in all the green pastures of the land of Israel. 15  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will find them a place to rest. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken. 16  “I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick; but those that are fat and strong I will destroy, because I am a shepherd who does what is right. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (TEV)

This is our God, the Shepherd who diligently searches for His sheep, to bring them to restoration.  Who hears our prayers, our cries, our grief.  Who longs to rejoice when they come home.  Who will never stop working to grant them repentance, transformation. You are not alone in your desire, and knowing that, we can find the patient hope we need to wait.  We can find sustenance and rest.  We can entrust them to God, knowing His love, and we can entrust ourselves to God at the same time.

Find you rest, your strength in Him. Know the peace of God, and that we can be like the Donkeys that Josemaria encourages us to be like. ( instead of the jackasses we could become! ) Faithful, stubbornly holding out hope, persevering, taking the right steps, one at a time, knowig our Master will guide us, for we dwell in His presence…..

And hopeful, for the Lord Almighty hasn’t forgotten our loved ones for a moment….

Lord, I pray for my friends, who children and grandchildren are caught up in things beyond them.  Who have strayed, who have lost for the moment in darkness, in fog.  Lord, be with them, and with those they love.  Bring hope, bandage the wounds, given strength and sustain them.  Help us to realize that You are reaching out to them, calling them to come home, and give us patience until we see them in Your Hands.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who lies and reigns with you an the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1488-1490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Need for Families..

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church

21  Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ.  1  Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. 2  “Respect your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise added: 3  “so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land.” 4  Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction. Ephesians 5:21, 6:1-4 (TEV) 

19      Be grateful to your parents for bringing you into this world, thus enabling you to become a child of God. And be all the more grateful if it was they who placed in your soul the first seeds of faith and piety, of your Christian way, or of your vocation. (1)

Later this week, my mom and I will take a day and just get away.  It will be one year since my dad passed, and the grief and loss that we feel may indeed well up inside of us. So I have been thinking of family a lot recently.  This morning I came across St Josemaria’s quote you just read in my devotions, All over the news o that the brokenness of some famous athletes’ families recently aired out in front of the world, and an odd comment on facebook recently, sparked off this blog.

The comment this morning that struck me as odd, was the reference to the Virgin Mary as simply a “vessel”, nothing more, nothing less.  It struck me as pragmatic and lifeless, and against the very idea of family as taught in the scripture. For no mother is simply a vessel, a holding place for life for 9 months.

God designed us to be part of families, and while many are dysfunctional… no wait, all are dysfunctional because of sin, that doesn’t mean we should devalue them.  Yet that is what we allow.  Mother’s are reduced to vessels, and holding tanks.  Father’s are thought unnecessary, and of little value.  Children are tossed aside, before and after they are born. Siblings are made to think that rivalry is the norm, rather than a loving family.

This isn’t new – you can’t read scripture without seeing the brokenness of families, and directions about how things really should be. Directions that are critical to be really heard, and by that I mean the scriptural meaning of hear – to absorb and let affect and transform you.  This is not just something that we can take as what theologians call adiaphora, it is not optional.  Nor is it it simply environmental or biological.  As an adopted child, I have met my birth mother, and much of who I am, I see in her.  As well, I see a lot of my adopted parents as well.

It is the relationship of family, even if we struggle with it.

The reason this is critical is simple.  The family is an image of our relationship with God.  He is our loving Father, our merciful Brother.  We are all siblings, whether we note the relationship, or not.

Frequently, we take the image of family that we know, our broken, confused, dysfunctional families, and those we see, and project them onto our relationship with God.  It becomes a fight for who is wiser, or who is in control, who is the authority, who has the rights.  And we treat God like we treat our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters.

If instead of projecting on God’s family what we know from dysfunctional experiences, we let it work the other way?

We would honor our parents, praying for them, hearing them.
We would sacrifice for our family, the way Jesus did for us, knowing that in love, no sacrifice is too great for those who are in His family.
We would value the people God has given us, parents, children, siblings in our families, and in our church families.
We would seek those who are part of this family, yet don’t know it… yet.

We would love.

Lord Have mercy as we worship and love you, as we embrace our families in love.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 304-306). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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