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Slogans, Sermons, and The Celebration

A devotional thought for our days…

Jesus went with them, and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Him, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. d I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Luke 7:6-8  HCSB

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

Yesterday, my birthday presents were delivered a bit early.  Actually, they came just in time for the Superbowl ( my second favorite part of tomorrow!) 

The present included two items, a hat and a sign for my office. 

The first is a new cap, with what I thought was my favorite slogan for sports and ministry.  “Do Your Job” and that is a critical aspect in football, in the military (as the centurion noted) or in our relationship with God and the ministry that is created by God in our lives.  

We simply need to walk with Him and do as He leads.  Which takes faith, the dependence on God that provides the will and ability (Eph 2:13) to do what pleases Him!   Do Your Job, do it trusting in God.  Do Your Job, loving God

The second slogan now hands on my office door, a few feet from me.  No Days Off!  Oddly enough, this slogan was not revealed during the march to last year’s Superbowl victory, but afterward, during the victory parade.  What was the secret to the victory?  The coaches and players lived football, they lived the game, in season and out of season.  They lived according to the standard of their slogans… and did their job, whatever it required.

Can you imagine if the church did this?  If it made the sacrifices to walk with God each day?  If it dwelt in His presence, depended on His mercy, realized His love and peace fills our lives?  If we stopped treated being Christian was a part-time gig, and desired to live in His love, not just part-time (as if to hit the minimum requirements to gain heaven) nor even full-time ( meeting what we think is our duty) but every day treasured our time with Him, and rejoiced in the love that is our, in and through Jesus?  That is really what our “job” is, everything else, worship, loving for others, caring for others, these things are just the impact of walking with Him. 

Then there is the motto I don’t have anything on, one that I couldn’t find applicable in the Kingdon of God.  The most recent slogan, ‘Not Done Yet”

Then I realized where that slogan comes into play in the church.  It happens as the sermon finishes, and for some people, that is the high point of our church time together.

It isn’t even close.

Altar with communionFor the sermon is simply revealing God’s plan in our lives.   But we aren’t close to being done at that point.  The greatest time in the church comes when we approach the rail together, as we bow together, recognizing the presence and invitation of God, and those who can kneel, and as a community of His people, share in the Eucharist as one.

As I preach, my hunger for the sacrament grows, and I pray it grows in my people.  To be welcome at the table, fully righteous in the eyes of God, fully cleansed by Him and made ready to celebrate.  Even as we realize we are not done yet, as we take a knee, the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the celebration of Jesus completing His work in us,  For He has done all it takes to make us His own.  And the Eucharist is His thanks to the Father, and our thanks to Him, for it is finished.

He Has done and is doing, His job.  
He takes no days off…
And He is not done yet but will be, when He brings the last prodigal home.

Until then, let us walk with, work with and celebrate the love of God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Whose Side is God On? The Battles to See Who is Right?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 *While Joshua was near Jericho, he raised his eyes and saw one who stood facing him, drawn sword in hand.h Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you one of us or one of our enemies?” 14 He replied, “Neither. I am the commander* of the army of the LORD: now I have come.” Then Joshua fell down to the ground in worship, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15 The commander of the army of the LORD replied to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.  Josh 5:13–15

“..what difference is there between philosophy and the teaching of Christ? If we merit the forgiveness of sins by these elicited acts of ours, of what use is Christ? If we can be justified by reason and its works, what need is there of Christ or of regeneration?”  (Apology of the Augsburg Confessio; Article IV

I have a friend who still contends that the Dallas Cowboys are still America’s Team.  I will concede that in his presence, noting that Bill, Tom and the rest of the New England Patriots are God’s team.  Another friend declares that God is surely a fan of the Nebraska Cornhusker’s while demeaning the Oklahoma Sooners to be cheered on by someone a bit south of God’s abode.

Most of the time, I think such revelry and rivalry is fun, as we claim which side of a battle is holy and righteous.  Except around the college bowl season – or the NFL playoffs.  It is then that such discussions take on a more serious form.

We do this in other arenas as well, such as the political arena, as those who are pro-gun rights seek a verbal “trial by combat” with those who are for taking care of refugees and immigrants seeking solace.  Or those who are pro-life take the field against those who want universal healthcare. Republicans versus Democrats, Tea Party versus something called being progressive.

We also do this in the realms of philosophy and theology, as if who wins in the public debates of blogs and podcasts determine where there is truth, and who is correct.  Lutherans versus Reformed, Catholics versus Protestants, Pentecostals versus Baptists, Liberals versus Conservatives, Traditionalists against those who prefer Innovation.   Everyone, absolutely everyone attacking the Muslims.  Oh, and we are all on the defense against the JW’s and LDS.

Even within denominations we see this, and it tears the church apart.

Listen, folks, Melancthon nailed it.  You are not saved by your pure theology or the logical supremacy of your philosophy.  It is not what you think or what those thoughts cause you to do that saves you.  What Joshua realized as he talked to Jesus, was simple.

It isn’t about whether God is on our side.

It isn’t whether your blog or mine has more followers or hits. It’s not whether my Patriots can again intercept a pass on the goal line.  There are political positions on both sides of the aisle that need to be listened and heeded.

But what is important is whether you find yourself in the presence of God, with other broken sinners, finding the healing that you need.   That the Holy Spirit will bring you to life spiritually, whether you will be transformed, and live in peace.

The desire to win so divides us if our definition of winning is causing the other person to submit to our view.  But a desire to see God’s love win is one where humility reigns, not bravado.  It is where sacrifice and service take on more meaning than statistics and trophies. It is where hanging in there with that person who others would give up on matters more than attracting the stars, and the crowds.  It is where truth matters more than our opinion, and, therefore, the journey is mutual, not combative.

We seek fellowship, with all, based in our relationship with God.

This is life, in Christ.

May we seek it in the next year, and lovingly work with all.  AMEN.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 109). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Death, Grief, Sports, and the Company of Heaven

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image2  This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 (NLT)

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

“with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we praise Your gloriously name”  (words of our liturgy, prior to singing the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)

It was October 28th, 2004 about 8 o’clock in the morning. I was listening to Jim Rhome’s show on the radio, driving up Palms to Pines Highway, heading to a meeting at my church in Anza.  I had to call into the show, but even as I wanted to tell the story about my grandfather playing catch with me and telling me stories of the red sox greats…. I was overwhelmed, and missed my grandfather.  The grief was hard to bear… even now remembering the grief that flooded….

Friday, two of my friends  and I went to see the move Sniper.  Watching the PTSD build up in Chris Kyle made me think of my dad.  No movies were made about him, but he too saw things, did things, that would haunt him.

Sunday, after an incredible morning in church, my son and I watched our family’s favorite football team, the New England Patriots, come from behind to win a superbowl.  I put on facebook my feelings a few moments after, as I walked through the bedroom and saw the flag presented to me at my dad’s service.  How he would have loved the game.  How he would have loved watching my son throwing a ball back and forth with me during it.  Flashbacks to our driveway in New Hampshire, and my dad and playing catch.  More and more emotions… more and more grief….

Being raised in a Irish/Italian home, I tend to sentimentality.  Even more though, I was raised not to bury grief, but rather to embrace it.  As I say the words in blue above, as I look out over my congregation, faces comes to mind.  I can almost hear their voices as well, part of the great company of heaven.  Those we’ve lost for the moment, those we’ve said good by to over the years.  Guys like Dale, and Richard, my first vicar Clyde and his buddy Armando, Rich B, who helped me define a vision for my present church, and Warren, who helped that vision become reality.  Others who’ve placed great faith in me, like my wife’s grandmother, or Joseph, a dignified retired pastor from Guyana, who pastored “his pastor” with encouragement.  Or Harley, a man who proved I could be his friend as well as his pastor. And yes, my dad…

Grief upon grief, we face a lot of it in life.

Some is quite poignant, the bitterness of not being able to play catch anymore, or watch a game together, arguing about referees calls, or trying to break the record for the most consecutive throws and catches.  (football with my dad was 232 – don’t know why I remember – with my son yesterday… it was 33)

The experience as we get a sense of the great cloud of witnesses, the whole company of heaven is different.  Yeah, I wish I could commune my dad one more time, or either of my grandfathers just once.  Or have a service with all those guys mentioned above…..and yet I know there will be a communion, that lasts eternally, that lasts forever.  And this celebration here, is a small sense of the one there.

For all who believe in God, who trust Him for what He promises will be gathered together again.  We can have confidence in that, because it was promised, this plan of God that even preceded creation.  This promise is the joy that Christ focused upon, even as He was crucified by us, for us.

We will all share eternity with God, our Father, ou Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  I can’t tell you what that will look like, because it will beyond anything we’ve ever seen, heard, even thought of, but it will be with Him.

As we hear those words, grief becomes… blessed… it transforms into yearning, and hope.  Not just to see them again, but to be together in the incredible presence of God. He’s promised it, this family gathering that will be forever.  We take that hope into the world, an share it with those who need it as much as we do.   we share it with those who know it, as we celebrate it together, and with those who do not…as we minister to them, where ever we encounter them in life.

even as we play catch with them…. or watch a game with them… or argue about which team is the best in history….

God’s peace to you… in

Are You Ready….. for Something Far More than Football?

Devotional Thought for the Day:
Featured image
15  I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: 16  When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17  Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 18  That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. 1 Corinthians 10:15-18 (MSG)

Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.(1)

828      Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that he makes it so easy for us to come to him: but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves very well to receive him.  (2)

I’ll be the first to admit to loving watching football.
Especially watching the Patriots, who in the last 21 years, have been in the Superbowl 7 times!
I really love it when people write them off, say they are done, and they make it look like child’s play in the playoffs.
Tomorrow, I hope they beat the Seahawks, and I hope they come back for one more, next year.  B

Yet, if the game started at 9:50 here, rather than at 3:15, you wouldn’t find me in front of my television.  There is something more precious, more meaningful, more important to life where I am a spectator, and yet, am a full participant.

The Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, Communion.  the Feast that is a foretaste of the feast to come.

St. Josemaria above puts a perspective on it….what if tomorrow was the only day, the only time you could receive it in your life?  What would your thoughts be today?  What kind of expectation would be building?  what would get in the way?

is a Superbowl big enough?  is the need for sleep?

If tomorrow was the only day you were able to commune with God, what would stop you?

If the answer is, ‘nothing”, then apply the question without the frequency, is it the same/  should it be/

This is a hard question, because to ask it could promote shame or guilt, or harden you against those things.

It will also make you examine what you think the Lord’s Supper is, and how it benefits you….. strengthening your confidence in the Lord’s love and presence in your life, healing you from the brokenness of sin, relieving stress and anxiety, and mostly giving you the rest and peace that comes from knowing the Lord is with you……

I am glad this is not a once in a life time thing… in fact, I am somewhat envious of those churches that provide it daily, simply because I know people who need this sacrament, this holy time, this holy meal…. more than once a week.  Or who cannot get there on Sundays…..

So are you ready?  Do you recognize your need for it?

I am!

(1)   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained. Part 6, The Sacrament of the Altar

(2)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2940-2942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Give me this victory – over any other…

Devotional/Discussion of the day…

I am, without hesitation… an avid sports fan.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the highlights of my favorite Patriots this day, and I even enjoyed watching other teams – as they do their best, seeing the games which speak of the training they endured, the pain, the sweat, the preparation….

Yet, those are but games…. the victory not comparable to another victory, another one where pain was endured,  Here is how one pastor/priest

The Lord’s triumph, on the day of the Resurrection, is final. Where are the soldiers the rulers posted there? Where are the seals that were fixed to the stone of the tomb? Where are those who condemned the Master? Where are those who crucified Jesus?… He is victorious, and faced with his victory those poor wretches have all taken flight. Be filled with hope: Jesus Christ is always victorious. (1)

As we worked through Romans 6:1-11 this morning in Bible Study,we see why this victory is more important than any other….why it means more to me than every Boston team winning every championship for decades….

Because while a Pats/Bruins/Celtic/Red Sox domination of pro sports would bring a smile to my face… the victory of Christ, for me and every believer, is personal.

What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not! 2 How can we who died to sin yet live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 5 For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. 7 For a dead person has been absolved from sin. 8 If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. 10 As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. 11 Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:1-11 (NAB)

That’s why this is the best victory – dead to sin, and alive to Christ.  Nothing – nothing – in all creation… tops this victory… perio
That is why St. Paul will say… When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NLT)

Remember that victory, when you can remember no other….

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2428-2432). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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