Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)
Therefore, when I suffer, I do not suffer alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer with me, for Christ says, “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye” [Zech. 2:8]. Thus others bear my burden, and their strength is my strength. The faith of the church comes to the aid of my fearfulness; the chastity of others endures the temptation of my flesh; the fastings of others are my gain; the prayer of another pleads for me. In brief, such care do the members show one another that the more honorable members cover, serve, and honor the less respected members, as is so beautifully set forth in 1 Corinthians 12 [:22–26]
When I was 8 years old, a family friend who was a priest asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and specifically why.
I’ve been doing that now for over twenty years,
Well, sort of.
I told him I wanted to be a priest, and I am a pastor. Most people would say that is close enough, others might argue differently. But I specifically said, even though I didn’t understand why, that what I wanted to do was commune them, to give them Jesus,
And this evening, on the night of the feast where we would normally celebrate the first Lord’s Supper, it cannot be done for most of “my” people.
I know that some of them will cry because they cannot be here. I know it will wipe me out. I know other pastors who are struggling with this, too, as some simply will go without, and others will try to be innovative. I cannot and will not blame or crucify any of them. Simply put, a pastor is put into the life of people to reveal to them Jesus in their life by explaining the word of God and providing for them the sacraments they need.
Yes, I said, need!
People who are dealing with brokenness, sin, health issues, doubts, anxieties, and fears all need to know God is with them, loves them, will sustain them.
And just as our people need them, pastors have ot find a way to care for their people.
Even in these unmet needs, we find another kind of communion, a sharing in the suffering. For when one hurts, we all hurt. When one weeps, all do. And there will be a day when we all laugh, and dance and sing, and shout amen.
Until that time, when joy runs amuck, we share, we have a communion based in suffering, but a communion where Jesus still gives us Himself, His body broken and His blood shed, for us. This is the hardest communion, it is the sharing in the dark night of the soul, Yet, it is a journey we never take alone. Jesus is with us, even as He endured his dark night alone, He assures us we will never be alone in these times.
As we share in it, may we know the promise of life, the promise of everything being made new…
And may e know He is with us…
( P.S., please pray for all pastors and priests – this weekend may be one the hardest in our ministries, as we try to do…what we really cannot.)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 161–162.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Many more Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they heard him say. 42 They told the woman, “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!” John 4:41–42 (CEV) —
1. Liturgy is for all. It must be “catholic”, i.e., communicable to all the faithful without distinction of place, origin and education. Thus it must be “simple”. But that is not the same as being cheap. There is a banal simplism, and there is the simplicity which is the expression of maturity. It is this second, true simplicity which applies in the Church
I often hear church leaders talking about how effective a church is, and I hear some trying to measure churches to determine whether this church is viable, whether it is still worth the “investment” of talent and treasure made in it over the years.
A lot of these studies are based on numerical analysis – has the church grown, have their offerings been stable, what kind of turnover has occurred among staff and other leadership. Consultants will come in and do surveys for larger churches and denominations. They, in turn, pass this information on to smaller churches, which but into the theories and lose morale, and eventually close. (That larger churches often benefit statistically from this is another story)
After all, numbers are important, and statistics tell a story that might be hard to refute without knowing the true story of the faithful. In fact, we often do not hear the stories, because the statistics seem so conclusive.
No one would have believed that a church community would have been viable in a remote Samaritan Village. Never mind that the person that got the ball rolling would have been a woman with a past. No one except Jesus.
But look at the statement they make to her! They had moved from believing in God because she had told them, to believe in God because they had experienced Him. What an amazing statement this is! One that every pastor should desire to hear! To know our people are experiencing the incredible, immeasurable love of Christ – not just hearing about it second hand!
I am not saying they go past needing the guidance of spiritual shepherds and prophets, that is part of our role, but they resonate with the teachings of Christ – they realize that God is speaking to them, especially during sacramental times, or when God is silent. Or they recognize that it is the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin, and comforting them as the Spirit cleanses and heals them.
This level of maturity makes a huge difference in a church. And it will see the church do things that go beyond logic, as they serve those around them. People will care, (and struggle when care is difficult) they will give beyond what is reasonable, they will be there when no one else would.
So how does a pastor do this? I think Pope Benedict wrote about it well. To present the gospel in a simple yet mature way. To not cheapen the masses, worship services, and Bible Studies that we give. Rather – we need to make them communicate the incredible love that God has for His people – so that they know it – so that they experience it, so that worship is full of the joy that comes, even in the midst of trauma and lament.
The more they know, the more they experience, the more mature they get, the more they can echo what the lady was told – “we are certain that He is the Savior of the World.
Therefore… out savior.
If our people know this, then we’ve done our job… and the work of the Holy Spirit through us has been effective.
Let us rejoice when we see God working hits way through our churches. And may e find a way to support it, whether it is 25 people working together in Southgate or 150 in Cerritos, or 5000 in some other place.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 122.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ.d God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
6 In our work together with God, then, we beg you who have received God’s grace not to let it be wasted. 2† Hear what God says:
“When the time came for me to show you favor,
I heard you;
when the day arrived for me to save you,
I helped you.”
Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; today is the day to be saved! 2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 GNT
13 Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. 14 As a matter of fact, it may save their lives. Pr. 23:13-14 GNT
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
As I read the words from St Paul that are the first quote above, the words of Shakespeare’s Henry 5th came to mind. From readings about Sir Horatio Nelson, who had his band of brothers who stood by him, and later in the annals of the Star Trek: The Next Generation, as a Frenchman mouthed those words to an American #1, a Klingon Security officer, a Blind engineering officer and.. an Android named Data.
While I am not sure of the romanticized brotherhood of Henry V, or of Nelson, and certainly Picard’s is fictional, I have seen sch brotherhood in action. In the Marines I have known when I served near 29 Palms, in the Sherriff’s Deputies who I have had the blessing to stand beside while they pick up the pieces after a suicide, or a officer involved shooting. I have been there as our hospice team took the time to finally grieve, having set it aside to deal with others facing death. All of these groups share in a
There is one other group, the men who serve as pastors and priests and deacons, especially those in sacramental brotherhoods. It is not that we are holier than the rest, far from it. But we have faced the challenge of being “there”. In the moments where life just really… sucks. In the moments where eternity hangs in the balance, and when spiritual warfare is overwhelming. Rarely do we stand in the same “there”, yet we’ve all been there. Been there to see the spilled blood of Christ cover sins. Been there as mercy conquers the sin which so ravages our people and our land. We’ve been there, and some have given so much, and battled so often, sacrificing their lives to serve..
Over the weekend, I attended three churches, two Roman Catholic and one Lutheran. Two priests, one pastor, and a deacon. Two other deacons cared for my people back home and I thought of them, not running into each other, but sharing God’s love. I think of others I have been mentored by, and mentored. Each a little different, each a little… well wacky… each bearing the scars of ministry, of having to discipline children, and the blessing of seeing them come home. Each one hoping that this week, some will receive God’s favor, that some will be saved…
We band of brothers.. not holier, not more special or talented, often far more scarred…but we’ve been there. So hear us, as we don’t tell tales of our heroism, but rather His. And if we have to discipline you… please know the goal is to help you see that God would befriend you through Jesus, transforming you from a sinner/enemy, to the beloved saint and friend.
We just get to be there.. and see the glory in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)
The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.
From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.
A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)
Those were the priorities of the early church –
A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?
Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.
The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?
How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.
Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!
Be a good steward of his life… and time.
The blessing will be yours!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…
16 “I am not able to,” Joseph answered Pharaoh. “It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
37 The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone like this, a man who has God’s spirit o in him?” Genesis 41:16, 37 HCSB
33. Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful34. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read “which were written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace.
It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.
One of the most challenging things to teach on in the church is the concept of the ministry. Specifically, who can and should preach and administrate/officiate the sacraments.
Some would open up the doors to anyone to do so, and God can and does choose a group of diverse people to serve Him, that doesn’t mean all can/should preach, or administer the sacraments. To follow this path leads to chaos, and everyone teaching what is right in their own eyes. Even worse, when someone is speaking on God’s behalf, and by His order, there is doubt about it. When we make the ministry about our “rights” to be the pastor, we aren’t listening to God.
Others would follow the opposite extreme, reducing every part of ministry to those who are called and ordained as pastors. This would include things like evangelism and even to teach Bible studies. This leaves the church weak, undernourished, and unable to meet the needs of a broken world. The pastor surely is the primary messenger, when he is speaking God’s word” but that doesn’t make him the only servant of the church!
I wish it would be as simple for us as it was for Pharoah, that every person could see clearly whom God chose to shepherd them. That every shepherd could do their job perfectly, without fault or hesitation. Such a thing would be an incredible blessing.
Pastors and priests are human though, and we do screw up, sometimes royally. We stand in God’s presence as we lead His people, and there are times we do act as Jesus, speaking for Him, feeding His people, drawing them to Him at the cross. It is in those times where it is not our perfection that matters but His. We are at our best when we realize as Joseph did, that we aren’t able to, but God can.
You see the ministry is never about the man, it is about the Man whom he stands in for, the Man who works through our voices and our hands. The ministry is about those who receive God’s word and promises, whom the sacraments, these sacred moments are there to bless. And when we make it about the man standing there, preaching, standing there, putting Christ’s body into the hands of hungry souls, that we have sinned. We then have taken our eyes off of the Lord, off of the promises, and orbit outside the relationship in order to critique and judge it.
This is contrary to the gift Jesus gives the church, as a simple gift of men He calls the church to recognize His call upon. Men who are qualified to serve based on God’s teaching. Men whom He will speak through, and limit their words to drawing people into God’s glory. men who see the ministry as simply God and the church, and find great joy in seeing them together.
Focus there, on people hearing God say, “you are my people” and the people saying “You are our God!”
Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “Believe me,” returned Jesus, “the time is coming when worshipping the Father will not be a matter of ‘on this hill-side’ or ‘in Jerusalem’. Nowadays you are worshipping with your eyes shut. We Jews are worshipping with our eyes open, for the salvation of mankind is to come from our race. Yet the time is coming, yes, and has already come, when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in reality. Indeed, the Father looks for men who will worship him like that. God is spirit, and those who worship him can only worship in spirit and in reality.” John 4:21 (Phillips NT)
17. In seminaries and houses of religious, clerics shall be given a liturgical formation in their spiritual life. For this they will need proper direction, so that they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them wholeheartedly; and they will also need personally to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as popular devotions which are imbued with the spirit of the liturgy. In addition they must learn how to observe the liturgical laws, so that life in seminaries and houses of religious may be thoroughly influenced by the spirit of the liturgy.
18. Priests, both secular and religious, who are already working in the Lord’s vineyard are to be helped by every suitable means to understand ever more fully what it is that they are doing when they perform sacred rites; they are to be aided to live the liturgical life and to share it with the faithful entrusted to their care
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.
When I was a child, my parents had a prayer meeting in our house, that lots of people attended. It was not unusual for a few priests, a brother, a couple of Baptist pastors and an Assembly of God pastor to be present. It was there I played guitar with Brother Michael, and there I learned to pray.
I also went to parochial school, and there we had masses and other services that were dedicated to God as well. I would often serve as an altar boy and played the organ as well. From those perspectives, I saw more of the mass and fell in love with the sacredness of it, even the parts I didn’t quite understand.
Since then, I’ve played and led praise bands, become a non-denomination pastor, then moved into the Lutheran Church where a form of the historic liturgy is our “style” of worship. And yet the lessons from the prayer meetings and non-denom worship leading play into the planning of worship as well.
As I read Vatican II’s words in green this morning, I saw them trying to unify the two streams of worship I have known. Starting with the pastoral training in seminaries, there must be part of that training that teaches the pastors and priests to worship God with all their heart, to understand and actively take part in the mysterion of God, to realize the Trinity is not just observing the mass, but participating in it.
Liturgy must be “lived” whether it is the historic liturgy or the common liturgy of prayer meetings and evangelical gathering. Those facilitating it must get caught up in it themselves, so that while they are aware of the people’s participation, they first are praising God for all He is, in their life.
It’s not about being the best musician, the best singer, the perfect reader of scripture, the perfect liturgist. ( We can add ushers, altar guild members, sound techs, parishioners) It is about knowing the presence of God in this place, of realizing the blessings He is pouring out, and responding with others, even helping them to do value this time with God.
These words we say, and in the liturgy they are all from scripture, are the words of God, scripture read and sang and breathed. They are the words of life that kept Peter and the apostles bound to Jesus when everyone else ran away. They are the words, as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession states. that touch us. That the Spirit uses to draw us into Christ, to develop in us a dependence on Him, and in that dependence, to pour out all we are upon Him.
This isn’t something I think we teach people to do in a lecture, or even in a sermon. It is something that is modeled and formed in them, and in order for that to happen, it must be modeled and formed in those who lead. Whether this is in a full liturgy, or in a back yard worship time that simply happens among friends.
God is with us, may we realize this, and help those who come to our churches, bible studies and prayer meetings realize it, and when they do, cry confidently, “Lord, have mercy on us”
Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6:4 (NAB)
22 So turn from youthful desires and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart. 23 Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. 24 A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, 25 correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will. 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NAB)
11 This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; 12 if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. 13 If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. 14 Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen. 15 Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation. 16 Avoid profane, idle talk, for such people will become more and more godless, 2 Timothy 2:11-16 (NAB)
I’ve been going through Acts for about 7 months with one of the Bible Studies I teach. And so as devotional reading got to Acts, I sort of went into glide mode. Got this, know these words well. Then, as I got to Acts 6 – the passage that gives birth to the ecclesiastical office of deacon, the first quote above hit me between the eyes.
I need to rethink some of my ministry, and especially my priorities.
We shall devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of word…..
But do we?
There is no doubt I need to pray more, times of dedicated prayer and in times of just enjoying life as God and I walk together, times as well where the family of God breaks out in prayer.
But what about the ministry of the word? It is important I think to understand that this is not talking about careful exegesis, or studying the logic and reason to use it to argue and divide. The ministry of the word is not using it to divide the believer and unbeliever, to prove the who is orthodox and who is heretical. The ministry of the word is the ministry of reconciliation.
That is why Paul urges tolerance and gentleness in our teaching, that through these words, people can be called to dance with God, to live with Him.
This is our work, and it is why prayer must be so much a part of our ministry. For only from growing in our dependence on God, can we understand and commit to His will, to see all come to deliverance.
I need to clarify what I mean by this is our work, our vocation. I am not talking that it is our job as if we work 10-12 hours and then we go off duty.
This is our life work, this ministry of the word, this ministry of reconciliation. And what we do in our free time is just as much part and parcel of that work as our time in the office, at the pulpit, or beside the hospital bed. So if we blog, or podcast, it must be the goal of that work. If we are out having a beer, this ministry is still our work, if we are meeting with other ministers, this call to reconciled, to be reconciled to God still is our life.
So let us lay aside the sin, and all other things that hinder this, and let us look to our Lord Jesus, who reconciled us to Himself at the cross – and may we live with Him, praying and ministering at His side.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture—oracle of the LORD. 2 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.b 3 I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.c 4 I will raise up shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing—oracle of the LORD. NABRE _ Jeremiah 3:1-4
“If there be no bad shepherds,” says Saint Augustine speaking about the good shepherd, “he would not have described the hireling, who sees the wolf and flees. He seeks his own glory, not Christ’s glory. He does not dare to rebuke sinners with freedom of spirit. The wolf catches a sheep by the neck, the devil induces a man to commit adultery. And you are silent and do not rebuke. Then you are a hireling because you have seen the wolf and have fled. Perhaps you might say: ‘No, I’m here, I haven’t fled.’ I answer: ‘You have fled because you have been silent, and you have been silent because you were afraid.’”
16 The holiness of Christ’s Spouse has always been shown—as it can be seen today—by the abundance of good shepherds. But our Christian faith, which teaches us to be simple, does not bid us be simple-minded. There are hirelings who keep silent, and there are hirelings who speak with words which are not those of Christ. That is why, if the Lord allows us to be left in the dark even in little things, if we feel that our faith is not firm, we should go to the good shepherd. He enters by the door as of right. He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy. If your conscience tells you that you have committed a fault—even though it does not appear to be serious or if you are in doubt—go to the sacrament of Penance. Go to the priest who looks after you, who knows how to demand of you a steady faith, refinement of soul, and true Christian fortitude. The Church allows the greatest freedom for confessing to any priest, provided he has the proper faculties; but a conscientious Christian will go—with complete freedom—to the priest he knows is a good shepherd, who can help him to look up again and see once more, on high, the Lord’s star. (1)
It seems a lot of my devotional reading has been about the interior life and caused me to focus on my internal life. My readings this morning are also calling for some self-examination, and the prayers for forgiveness and strength, and prayers for those who like me, shepherd the people of God.
I admit, I wonder how to live up to the words of Jeremiah, whether the people I minister to have been able to overcome the fears or anxieties. I fear the sheep that are being driven away from the church – not just my congregation, and not even the body of congregations mine is part of, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. We spend to much time focusing on division, or drawing lines in the sand, and not enough time in humble prayer. We spend too much time plotting and setting visions, and not enough in selfless service, in building the relationships where people trust us. They need to trust us enough that we can direct them to depend on God, that they drop the barriers and allow God to refine their souls, and that they can run to God’s presence, where the find that He is their rock, their fortress, their sanctuary.
Like every pastor and priest I know, we start out wanting people to have the freedom, the confidence in God that they come to us, so that we can point them to Christ. So often the burdens of ministry stop us from ministering to them. This is our call, the reason we are given the responsibility of preaching the gospel, of teaching people to trust in Christ, and the reason we are the stewards of the mysteries of God.
For those of us, who take the time and begin to examine our ministry, and the life devoted to Christ from which our originates, I would point out some simple words in the middle of St Josemaria’s words. “He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.” Yes, this is us, we want to be a soul in love. and we gave our lives for others. Yet even as we do, St. Josemaria notes we may be sinners (may be is quite generous) who trusts in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.
We can shepherd because we know His mercy, we must depend upon it. The gospel we preach, we preach because it means something personally to us. We can guide people to Him, because we’ve been in the valley and overwhelmed by darkness, and yet have seen Him lifted up so that He might draw us to Him.
This is the walk of the shepherd, one who has been shepherded. Pray for us, pray for your priest and your pastor, Ensure they have time to know God’s peace, that they know His love. Encourage them in ways they know theya ren’t just employees, not just servants, but those who care for your soul. AMEN.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1163-1178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6 An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7 For an elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. 8 Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9 He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.
Titus 1:5-9 (NLT)
11 If ordination is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no obligation to calling ordination a sacrament. The ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom. 1:16), again, “My word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
12 If ordination is interpreted this way, we shall not object either to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament. The church has the command to appoint ministers; to this we must subscribe wholeheartedly, for we know that God approves this ministry and is present in it. (1)
. Since only general laws can be made where there exists a wide variety of nations and regions, a special “program of priestly training” is to be undertaken by each country or rite. It must be set up by the episcopal conferences, revised from time to time and approved by the Apostolic See. In this way will the universal laws be adapted to the particular circumstances of the times and localities so that the priestly training will always be in tune with the pastoral needs of those regions in which the ministry is to be exercised. (2)
This summer, there will be a lot of talk in my denomination about the ministry, and in specific the ministry of the diaconate, (Ministry in Greek is diakonos) . Our problem is somewhat in semantics and somewhat an issue of ignorance. Ultimately, it is a misunderstanding of the ministry, and what it means to be divinely called to serve the church.
Without a doubt, those who serve the Church are a gift to the church. Yes ,there is a divine call to not just pastors and priests, but to deacons and I believe any who teach in the church. The need to be trained and examined, and prayed over and for as they take up their roles, their vocations.
But the ministry isn’t about them. The ministry is about serving the needs of those they are called to serve. The people God would call to be His people, His children.
You see that clearly in the Ephesians passage, as we are called to minister, and even a point to which the job is complete. (GULP) But we see it as well, as the Titus passage describes our roles, again using the idea of building up, encouraging, being a Paraclete.
We see this in the idea early Lutherans (the quote in blue from the Apology of the Augsburg Confessions) as ordination is considered a sacrament if the ordination is setting them apart for this ministry of teaching God’s word. (The first president of my Lutheran denomination included in this group all those the pastor delegated such work to as well!) This is why there was a time where ordained clergy not in dedicated full-time parish ministry was not considered “in the ministry”. It’s about the care of souls, about urging them to cross, where they will find mercy and love and peace.
We see as well in the Catholic Church’s cry (the quote in Vatican II) to make seminary training about being in tune with meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the area they are to serve. They clearly understand that what is important is what we do, and our personal identity is to be lost, so that we speak as stewards of the mysteries of Christ. if our training is merely academic, merely the recitation and repetition of the experts who have gone before, and not tailored to give people what they need to know about Jesus, then the seminaries and universities have failed in their mission. (as have pastors who train up Deacons and Sunday School Teachers, and all who have part of our ministry.) What is true fo the clergy is as true for all those who will serve in the church?
It’s about the people being drawn into the presence of God. Our identity as ministers is that of the servant making sure his Master’s guests arrive. The focus then has to be on the guests, their needs, being met by the church, being served by those who have been called and examined and placed there, because God wants them to be.
This is their ministry, God’s gift to them.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
“Who are you to put God to the test today, setting yourselves in the place of God in human affairs?*g 13 And now it is the Lord Almighty you are putting to the test, but you will never understand anything! 14 You cannot plumb the depths of the human heart or grasp the workings of the human mind; how then can you fathom God, who has made all these things, or discern his mind, or understand his plan?” Judith 8:12-14 NABRE (2)
31 O Jesus…, strengthen our souls, open out the way for us, and, above all, intoxicate us with your Love! Make us into blazing fires to kindle the earth with the heavenly fire you brought us. (2)
As I’ve worked with people who are suffering, I’ve heard a lot of people offer “expert” advice to them about why God caused/is allowing/is fine with the suffering they are enduring.
It is almost as if the friends of Job (where they really?) have been re=incarnated!
Some promise that God wouldn’t allow the people He loves to suffer, or that if they do this, they will be fine. They will use the often misquoted passage about God not allowing you to bear anything you can’t handle… (sometimes with a disclaimer)
We love to speak for God, but the question needs to be asked – were we lsitenign to him when we spoke?
In the case of the text from Judith, the leaders hadn’t. They were, as so often happens, using their own reason, their own logic, to solve a situation. They didn’t consult God, they had forgotten His promises, they treated His word as if it was, supplemental to the gifts He ahd given them, when He entrsuted them with the leadership of God’s people.
And like us, they failed.
There is a level of humility we as leaders need in the church. The humility that drives us, not from obligation, but from realizing our need to be with jesus, to hear His voice, to find the hope that comes, as we conciously dwell in His presence.
Judith noted this, her words to the leaders of her people to her. They came, and as she convicted them, she also encouraged them to model the faith in God that they had inherited from their ancestors. And she herself mourned, grieved, prayed (even to the extent of laying fully prostrate – a symbol of complete submission)
And she did what was incredibly distasteful, horrid, and sacrificed her own peace.
Not exactly a Christ figure (still working through the God using all things, including Judith’s deception for good.. i.e. Genesis 50:20.. issue in this one) but there are elements of her work, of her humility, that need to be noted. She sought God’s face, and
The kind of humility, the kind of submission and sacrifice that only comes when a heart is on fire for God. When a heart and soul has found its only answer is in the promises God made us, the promises that He will be the refuge and shield of His people.
Hear these words of her prayer,
“You are God of the lowly, helper of those of little account, supporter of the weak, protector of those in despair, savior of those without hope.”
She is right about that. As is St Josemaria with his prayer, asking God to overwhelm us, humbling us, strengthening our souls, encouraging us to reflect his light to the gentiles and give hope to His people Israel. It is this adoration of the God who would hang on the cross that is our salvation, for in Him we have life. Our people need our help to explore the dimensions of His love, even in the midst of suffering.
May we guide people into their rest and healing found in Christ, rather than prognosticate and pontificate about their situation.
Lord have mercy…
(1) Judith is one of the books from the deuterocanonical books of scripture (i.e. the second canon ) It was included in old Bibles, and would have been considered part of scripture by the early church reformers. It is not found in most modern Bibles published by protestants. (Although it exists in translations like the ESV, the RSV, etc) Lutherans and Anglicans vacillate on it, considering it anywhere from being like a book by a church father, to being a lesser part of scripture, to being part of the canon. As the translation I am using for daily devotions this year (NAB-RE ) includes it, so I am re-introduced to it. I found this quote particularly poignant, given issues with leadership in the church and outside it today.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 348-349). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.