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Is there anything on earth…like heaven?

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought fo the Day:

“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”  1 Cor. 2:9 CEV

When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22 Gideon realized that he had seen one of the LORD’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.”  “Calm down!” the LORD told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.” Gideon built an altar for worshiping the LORD and called it “The LORD Calms Our Fears.”  Judges 6:21-24 CEV

Even the atheistic philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There comes a time when you say even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’ ” How can we understand anything of Heaven if there is nothing at all on earth to compare it to, nothing heavenly, nothing that never gets boring? Thus either Heaven is boring, or something on earth is not boring, or nothing on earth is like Heaven.
There are two parts to the answer: first, that everything on earth except agape is meant to be boring; and second, that agape is not.

So let us take up this problem: genuine art is “esoteric in the best sense”, say Rahner and Vorgrimler; liturgy is simple; it must be possible for everyone, particularly the simple, to participate. Can liturgy accommodate real church music? Does it in fact demand it, or does it exclude it? In looking for an answer to these questions, we will not find much help in our theological inheritance. It seems that relations between theology and church music have always been somewhat cool.

As I read Kreeft’s words in scripture today, I was amazed by their accuracy. We don’t understand heaven, we can’t conceive of it, even as the Apostle Paul says in the first quote.

I remember a professor quoting one of the early revivalists who said if he could give people a minute of hell, he would never have to convince them to repent.  My sarcastic comment was, “but what if we could give them a glance of heaven?”

Sarcastically said then, but I’ve thought of the wisdom of it – how can we give people a taste of heaven?  How can we help them know the joys of which we should sing?  That which is “beyond” theology, that which defies our explanation?

How can we show them the holiness, the glory, the pure love that we will experience in heaven? How can we help them experience love beyond love, as radical as the day is from the darkest, stormiest night?

The church’s liturgy aims to do so, revealing the love of God as we celebrate our forgiveness, the Lord dwelling among us, the actions He takes to bless and transform us into His holy people, and the feast of the broken bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus. The feast that celebrates the love, the feast that opens, for a few moments, a view for our souls of heaven.

I love the story of Gideon, especially the verses above. Here he is, somehow missing the miracles the Angel did, then realizing afterward the significance of being in the presence of a holy messenger.  He starts to freak out, the anxiety builds as he realizes his own sin and inadequacy. His glimpse of something holy, someone from heaven, causes enormous fear.

Then the Lord God tells him to chill.

Wait – where was he?

God does speak to us still, just as He did to Gideon.  One of the ways that should happen is in our church’s gathering.  Even as we receive the message we will struggle with, that kills oof our sinful self, and raises us to life with the crucified Christ.  Even as we struggle with that, the Lord comes to us in His feast and tells us, don’t fear, I am with you…

That is why we have a dilemma about the art of leading liturgy and the art of leading songs and hymns that accompany it. The use of the term “art” makes us think it is a showcase for the best o our talents. It isn’t!

What the art is, is not found in the musician’s talent, or the pastor, in the charisma. It is found in the communion, the communication of revealing to people they dwell in the presence of God, and helping them to hear His voice. Therein is the art, there is our target, the goal we strive for, there is our art.

There is our joy as well, for the connection is undeniable, and beautiful beyond words, as people come to know they are loved… as they feast with the Lord, knowing the joy that only comes from knowing you are loved.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 88.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 100.

The One Line in Lennon’s Imagine, that I know is wrong (and it isn’t what you think!)

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

The Israelites tried some of the food, but they did not ask the LORD if he wanted them to make a treaty. 15 So Joshua made a peace treaty with the messengers and promised that Israel would not kill their people. Israel’s leaders swore that Israel would keep this promise.  Joshua 9:14-15, CEV

Concern for achieving unity “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.”But we must realize “that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts.” That is why we place all our hope “in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Man looks with suspicion upon God, so that he soon desires a different God. In brief, the devil is determined to blast God’s love from a man’s mind and to arouse thoughts of God’s wrath.

There was nothing that Jesus sought more than faith, except love. Faith is the necessary beginning of the Christian life, but love is its consummation

Listening to my favorite “radio” channel the other day, they played one of the songs I hate and love.  Musically, John Lennon’s Imagine is right up there, and I understand the sentiment, the yearning, the great desire for there to be peace, and unity in this world.

Musically, I love the piece, it is my favorite style of music, the ballad. But what Lennon demands people to give up, doesn’t guarantee there to be real peace or real unity. For he is asking them to give up things that clearly define us, our culture, our beliefs.

Most of all there is one line that bothers me, far more than most.

I’ll get to it, in a moment. (It’s not the one you think!)

In my readings this morning, the  Israelites fell into the same trap for peace.  Tired of conflict, they entered into a covenant, a sacred treaty with people that was based on lies. They sought something good, but they didn’t look to God. and they fell prey to their own desires. This would become a curse to them, and to the Gibeonites for centuries.

This is what Luther was talking about, as they didn’t even bother to consult God, but made up their own mind.  Satan blasted God’s love from their minds, giving them a goal, a god to pursue, and they did earn for a time, God’s wrath. ( I’ve always wondered what would have happened if they went to God and pleaded with Him to save these people? We can not ever know, but we have examples of such prayer!)

What did satan steal form them?  What did he blast at?  The religious structures? The doctrines of the Faith? The traditions, the laws, and promises?

No, Luther says, it is the love of God that Satan would have out of sight and out of mind.

Kreeft tells us that Jesus sought love more than faith. What are the two greatest commands?

And what do we have faith in, if not the absolute love that God has for us? He loves you, and He loves me. Absolutely! Purely! Passionately! With such love that He doesn’t ignore our sin, but He deals with it, and had planned to – from before the foundation of the world!

That is what sustains us, and that is what can create true unity, not just unity that hides conflict, but true unity and true peace.  That is where the Catholic Catechism has it correct, our hope for unity is found, not in the boardroom, not in the halls of academia, but at the altar, where we find ourselves enveloped by His love.

Which brings me back to Lennon, and the line that bugs me, that I truly can’t accept. It is not the one about no religion. It is this one,

Nothing to live or die for…

Love does have something to die for, One who loves will die for the one who is loved.

Without that kind of love, the kind that sacrifices self, unity, and peace is but a dream…

One last word, that love is not something you have to dream about, for God loves us that much, that Jesus would die for you… because He loves you. And in doing so, all that would impede peace…are shed, and are left behind, as we discover this new life in Jesus.  

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 218.

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), 103.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 77.

Do We Have the Courage to “shut up?” Some thoughts about worship…

ST MARY OF PEACE

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Stay quiet before Yahweh, wait longingly for him, do not get heated over someone who is making a fortune, succeeding by devious means. Psalm 37:7 (NJB)

The continual recitation of the canon aloud results in the demand for “variety”, but the demand is insatiable, however much these eucharistic prayers may proliferate. There is only one solution: we must address ourselves once again to the intrinsic tension of the reality itself. In the end even variety becomes boring. This is why, here especially, we are in such urgent need of an education toward inwardness. We need to be taught to enter into the heart of things. As far as liturgy is concerned, this is a matter of life or death. The only way we can be saved from succumbing to the inflation of words is if we have the courage to face silence and in it learn to listen afresh to the Word. Otherwise we shall be overwhelmed by “mere words” at the very point where we should be encountering the Word, the Logos, the Word of love, crucified and risen, who brings us life and joy.

It happens every so often, when a worship leader or the rubrics (the small italic letters in our hymnals or bulletins) call for silence, that a musician determines that he must fill the silence with a solo.  Sure, it is well-meant, and not ostentatious. just a little light playing.

But there is a reason for silence, a reason for the awkward feeling of emptiness. the time when we are left alone with our thoughts when we need to realize they aren’t on God.

It is awkward, it even may produce a moment or two of guilt and regret.

That doesn’t mean we should ditch those moments.

In fact, we need them!  Desperately need them.

We need to enter the heart of worship, as the old worship song describes, the moment of awe in the presence of God, a presence so powerful we cannot speak.  It is not that we dare not, rather, we need to wait for God to speak.

We need to be comforted by Him, we need to enter into His presence to hear that He is taken care of our sin, and we belong with Him.

We can’t do that if we are trying to fill each and every moment with sound, with novelty, with trying to make things fresh and new.  Eventually, you can only overload people with so much, before the stimulation overload numbs them, and their participation is minimized.  ( Try playing five songs without a break, each one with the congregation clapping – how many are left at the 13-minute mark? )

I am not saying we do the stuff dry and without meaning either.  And i don’t think Ratzinger/Pope Benedict was saying that either.  Rather I think his point is making sure people realize that they are in the presence of God…..

and are loved by Him…

and have the time of silence ot know this… to realize it, not just as an academic point, but in the depth of their souls, the place that needs the most healing.  Time to descend to that place, and there, even as we cry out because of the pain, we find God at work, cleansing the wounds, healing them, comforting us…

We need this.

For it is the heart of our worship…

Lord, help us to shut up… and hear You, see You at work comforting us, and healing us.  AMEN!)

 

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 73.

Can his “Dream” become reality?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for the Day:

Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3 Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4 All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people. 5 We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 6 There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us.  Eph. 4:2-6 CEV

It becomes genuinely possible for people to share in a common expression once this interiorization has taken place under the guidance of the common prayers of the Church and the experience of the Body of Christ which they contain. Then people are no longer merely juxtaposed in role-playing but actually touch one another at the level of being. Only in this way can “community” come about.

He means that in human relations it is not peevish, harsh, or implacable; that it covers up some of the mistakes of its friends; and that it puts the best construction even on the more offensive actions of others, as the common proverb says, “Know, but do not hate, the manners of a friend.”

We call God “our Father” because we believe in His fatherly love and care.
We want His name hallowed and loved and praised, because we love Him and want others to do the same.
We want His kingdom to come because His kingdom is the kingdom of love.
We want His will to be done, even in preference to our own—we will the abolition of our own will when it is out of alignment with His—because we know His will is pure love. Ours is not.

This morning, I led the invocation and benediction at our city’s Martin Luther King. Jr. Day remembrance in our community. As I listened to the young people sing, read, and recite, and my friend Bill preach, my heart wanted to see the dream come true.

A day when the color of their skin and my son’s skin didn’t matter at all. A day when Dr. King saw coming to fruition as we found our way onto a mountain top. As we obeyed God more than we obeyed our hearts.

As I left, I wonder how many left determined to do what would make that dream happen?

It will, of course, when we reach that mountain top that Dr. King spoke of, when we enter into the presence of God, when those who see Him face to face understand true peace that comes from a love we can not wrap our heads around…yet.

It is not a coincidence that my readings today approach this subject of unity.

Nor is it a coincidence that the quotes above, from those readings, all focus on God as the hope for such a life.  It is, after all, how He designed for us to live!  It is God’s dream, even more than Pastor King’s.

It is why the Father sent the Son to reconcile us to Himself, and therefore to each other as well.  For the sin that so marrs our unity, the self-centeredness that stops us from loving our neighbor can only be dealt with in Christ. That is where God’s will becomes a reality, as we are joined to Christ’s selfless act of sacrifice, as He, in His mercy pays for our sin.  It is there, united in His heart, that our hearts find each other, and learn to value and love each other. There we find the power and desire to forgive, to cover our neighbor’s, and our enemies’ faults and brokenness.

It is there, with our souls resonating in a way stronger than this broken life can manage, that unity occurs.

Unity in Christ then becomes something to cherish, to rejoice in, to work to maintain, looking again to Jesus, who is the author and perfector of our faith. Reconciled to Him, we find our lives reconciled to each other.

Therefore patience and love, mercy and understanding become something that is our norm, and not just the virtues of saints.

You want to see these kids’ dreams, based on a speech decades ago come true?

Realize the love of God, realize His mercy and sacrifice, His patience,

with you.

And then, in Him, you can share it with your community, and the world.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 70.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 141.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 46.

What Should Make Christianity…. different?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on.  Mark 12:43-44 CEV

By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”

The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”

172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”

The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.

This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading.  I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.

They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there.  In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.

What an incredible concept, this salvation.

But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?

I do not think we do, at least not always.

How about this explanation.  We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.

Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.

The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.

We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.

She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…

May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.

Defeating the Idol of Time…

ST MARY OF PEACE

Devotional Thought of the Day:

While you are prisoners in foreign lands, your own land will enjoy years of rest and refreshment, as it should have done each seventh year when you lived there. 7 In the land of your enemies, you will tremble at the rustle of a leaf, as though it were a sword. And you will become so weak that you will stumble and fall over each other, even when no one is chasing you.  Leviticus 26:34-37  CEV

684    So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”

We live in a culture that adores action, even as it hates inaction. Ambition is a virtue in today’s culture, and someone content with where they are at in life is odd and perhaps more than a bit eccentric.

Those who aren’t always moving, working their plan, aren’t considered lazy, or lacking motivation and drive. Everything in our society must be put to use profitably.  We’ve made time an idol to serve, a god that demands all that we have, and more.

In the Old Testament, there were times of rest – Sabbaths.  Weekly, monthly and even every 7 years, everything was supposed to rest, finding what it needed, not from work, but from the hand of God. In fact, part of the punishment for Israel’s sin in the captivity was due to not hearing God’s call to stop, to rest, and let the land find its rest. So during the captivity, God provided for the land what we did not.  A time of rest, a time to recover, a time to let God provide.

I think this is St. Josemaria’s point in the quote from “The Way” I read this morning.  I didn’t like it at first, for I understand the feeling that comes from inaction.  I may have gotten past the idea of leaving food on my table as wasting it, but I can’t abide “wasting time” or even worse, not being able to use what God has gifted me with to help or disciple others.

Yet there are times to rest or to use Biblical/Agricultural terms, to lay fallow.  To get past the guilty feeling, to simply leave it in God’s more than capable hands.  Offer the stillness, the inactivity to Him.  Indeed, to spend that time with Him. No agenda, no purpose, simply enjoying His presence.

A time where we don’t notice the passing of time. We just are there, in the moment, with Jesus.

The challenge is desiring this time, looking forward to it, not feeling guilty, but realizing it is time God would have us set aside, with Him. Yet that is the reward…time, with Him… communion with God, and the peace we need, in our lives.

Take the time, waste it in the world’s view, but take it and please God with offering it to Him.

Lord, help us realize the need to find rest in you, not just when we are exhausted and overwhelmed.  Help us to not get to the point where like the Israelites, You have to take us captive, to get our lives and homes to rest, and the peace be restored. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Please! Stop Trying to Be Holy!

This word... princess pride

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.”  CEV  Matthew 22:21

See, now you understand the meaning of the term “to hallow” and “holy.” It is nothing else than withdrawing something from misuse and dedicating it to its proper godly use, just as a church is dedicated and appointed solely to the service of God. In like manner we must be hallowed in our whole life, leaving nothing but the name of God to dwell in us, in other words, nothing but kindness, truth, justice, etc. Hence the name of God is hallowed or profaned not only with our lips but also with our soul and all the members of our body.
Second, God’s name is defiled by robbing and thieving. Although wise men will at once understand what I mean, it will be too subtle for the simpleminded, since we are here referring to the arrogant ones who regard themselves as righteous and holy and do not feel that they are profaning the name of God as those in the aforementioned group do. While they dub themselves righteous and holy and truthful, they freely and fearlessly pilfer and purloin God’s name

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

As I read the words Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago, I knew I had to write on the first paragraph, and what holiness/perfection truly is.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be spoken about enough.  We hear, 44  I am the LORD your God, and you must dedicate yourselves to me and be holy, just as I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 (CEV)) and we get to work, trying our damndest to become what we think holy means, or when we fail, working equally hard to maintain the illusion of holiness.

It is the latter action that leads us to be convicted of robbery, trying to steal what is not ours. We profane God’s name, Luther writes, when we pretend to be something we are not when we put up the charade that we are perfect, that we are righteous, that we are holy.  For not only do we not understand holiness, but we also take the responsibility that is God’s alone when we declare we are. What a scam the devil has laid upon us, to get us to think that we determine whether or not we are righteous, and others are not!  Falling for it, we try to determine what is good and what is evil, unaware of our own spiritual blindness.

Holiness is as simple as what Luther notes, taking something misused and redirecting it towards its purpose. Whether it is God’s name, no longer used to swear, condemn or falsely justify ourselves and others, or whether it is our lives, created in His image in order to spend time with Him. This is the truth that St. Josemaria talks of, in regards to being pious and holy, the key is simple. Being constantly in the presence of God. Finding out that we are int he presence of a loving, merciful, gentle God who will gently (and firmly) heal our brokenness.

Stop trying to be righteous, stop putting on an act that presents you as holy and perfect. Instead, spend time talking to God, letting Him do the work that only He can do. Look to Him, focus on His love, spending as much time aware of His presence as you can.

Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.

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), 29.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Bother… to preach

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6  For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NLT2)

16 as Paul says in Rom. 5:1, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.”
19 In former times this comfort was not heard in preaching, but poor consciences were driven to rely on their own efforts, and all sorts of works were undertaken. 20 Some were driven by their conscience into monasteries in the hope that there they might merit grace through monastic life. 21 Others devised other works for the purpose of earning grace and making satisfaction for sins.
22 Many of them discovered that they did not obtain peace by such means. It was therefore necessary to preach this doctrine about faith in Christ and diligently to apply it in order that men may know that the grace of God is appropriated without merits, through faith alone.

c. Through the Spirit of Christ, who is the Spirit of God, we can share in the human nature of Jesus Christ; and in sharing in his dialogue with God, we can share in the dialogue which God is. This is prayer, which becomes a real exchange between God and man.
d. The locus of this identification with Christ, facilitated by the Spirit, which necessarily implies that those involved are also identified with one another in Christ, is what we call “Church”. We could in fact define “Church” as the realm of man’s discovery of his identity through the identification with Christ which is its source.

On Mondays I sit in an office, with my monitors full of Greek and Hebrew and the work of scholars. It is easier of course these days to do the work than when I was a young pastor, but it is still tedious work. I mull over the results, as I do the research, and then plan our a service that works on the same message that I see coming from the text.

On Saturday, after considering the passages and the questions and answers the research and prayer bring, the manuscript is formed. Some weeks this takes 6 hours, others eight, and depending on how many stop by to chat, or to unload their burdens, or simply to hear that God is indeed, with them.

That’s a lot of work to invest in 12-18 minutes of life. And while it is not back breaking work, it is challenging, and the returns take a while to see, if they are seen.

So why do it? Why pour my mind and my heart and a lot of time into those few moments, where the “return on investment” is so… vague?

The Augsburg Confession, which started this thought process this morning gives me the one great motivator for my preaching. I treasure the moments when “my” people can drop their worries, their problems, their pain and for a moment experience the peace of God. Do they always see it? Do they always know that God is with them? No, but they grow in recognizing it,

It is that moment when what Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict calls the point where man discovers his identity in Christ. That is when the peace comes, when we can rest, when life is focused and we know He is with us.

When it happens, when I look at the growth in people, not in their being independent, but in their growth as they learn they can depend on God, as they learn that in that dependence on Him, n their interaction with Him, they find peace.

The peace the angels mentioned as Jesus took human form, to bring about that peace, and to defeat all that would steal it, including our sin.

That is why we bring the good news, much as the angels did…

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 43–44.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 26.

Weary and Broken by watching people post about politics… is there hope?

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1  Why do the nations gather together? Why do their people devise useless plots? 2  Kings take their stands. Rulers make plans together against the LORD and against his Messiah by saying, 3  “Let’s break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.” 4  The one enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord makes fun of them.
10  Now, you kings, act wisely. Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11  Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12  Kiss the Son, or he will become angry and you will die on your way because his anger will burst into flames. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 2:1-4, 10-12 (GW)

The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore, is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—“I am the Lord, I change not.”

I am getting tired of politics in the church. It literally is sucking the life out of me.

I see a pastor, sharing memes that deride those who are younger than him, those who have little hope because of what they see going on in the world. I wonder if he considers the effects of the youth in his church, and the effect of such memes on them?

I see a parachurch organization, applauding those who blatantly disrespect our country’s president, disregarding scripture and our role as God’s people to be agents of reconciliation. When asked about it, I am mocked for believing what God desires, and what the Holy Spirit calls us to do is impossible.

It doesn’t matter, right or left, traditional or progressive, the hatred I am seeing manifest toward those who don’t agree on this issue, it sucks the life out of me. It brings me to despair, and wonder if the church has completely lost its way. Whether it has forgotten the God who could redeem and reconcile Paul, the God who could change and adulterous and murderous heart of a King, the God who could look out on those who were killing them, and ask the Father to forgive them..

Do we believe God still reigns? Or do we, like the people described in Psalm 2 simply want to toss God aside, and ignore the fact we are all part of His creation.

My mind tells me that the church no longer trusts God, and that is why such things happen

my heart lies broken.

My soul tries to wait, hoping beyond hope that God will keep His promise.

Weary just after breakfast, I come into my office, I see Spurgeon’s words first, and long to be the spiritual version of the sailor he describes, who tired form the storm, finds rest and relief as his feet land on solid ground.

I find that ground in the storm, in a God who can laugh at the wayward children who need to be reminded of His presence. Who need to be corrected, who need to be reminded that God is still God, that Jesus is still our Savior, and our Lord. That even now, in our brokenness in our frustration, in our anger at others and our lack of faith in God.

God is still desiring our embrace,

God is still wanting us to take refuge, to find our safe place within His love.

God is still here, willing to clean up the damage our lack of faith in Him, to heal the brokenness caused by of all the political crap we experience.

God hasn’t changed, He’s the same God who brought Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot together.. and sent them with others to bring His people into the world. They were far more polar opposite than any extreme we see in American politics today… and in Jesus, the found unity and the ability to serve people together.

May we have the faith, the dependence on God to see such happen in our days as well.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

God wouldn’t allow “that” to happen, would He?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

The LORD is compassionate, and when you cry to him for help, he will answer you. 20 The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more. Isaiah 30:19-20 GNT

This will all happen when the LORD bandages and heals the wounds he has given his people. Isaiah 30:26 GNT

102    Your mind is sluggish and won’t work. You struggle to coordinate your ideas in the presence of our Lord, but it’s useless: a complete fog! Don’t force yourself, and don’t worry either. Listen closely: it is the hour for your heart.

As I read the passages from Isaiah this morning, I thought I knew what I would write about, I thought I knew the route my devotions would take me. This idea of God making us go through hard times is a challenging one, even with the promise of His presence there in the background. Knowing He is ready to heal the wounds, knowing He has got us, and while we fall, it will be into His arms.

Simple, profound, difficult thoughts.

Would God really do that? Yes, He would do anything that would help us realize He is here. To get our attention, not for His sake, but because life is too challenging to go through without knowing He is there, caring, providing, yes, disciplining when necessary – but He is there.

With this thought in mind, I turned to the last bit of devotional reading, the words of St Josemaria, and my thoughts took a different direction.

You see I resonate with the sluggish mind, I too often find myself in a fog, unable to understand what I need to, never mind be ready to teach it to others. The days when my meds slow me down, or perhaps I didn’t eat right and my blood sugar is too high or low. Or maybe it is, like so often, I have many things to cope with, and it takes a while to hear which God would have me see Him work in, in that moment. (Rather than my prioritizing them!)

But added to the fog is my guilt and shame over it. Why can’t I beat it? Why can’t I be at my peak performance at all times, why do I have to grasp? Why can’t I force myself through this mental/spiritual block I have? Anxiety will set in, and I keep imagining the disappointment of God, because the things I have been entrusted with, take more time than they should, and aren’t done to my specification.

St. Josemaria tells me not to worry. Huh, what does he know! (did I actually just say that?) In fact, having read The Way a half dozen times or more, I don’t think I really read this one, really read it an thought thorugh it before.

As is proper, the Scriptures give me what I need to understand why I shouldn’t struggle and force myself, and why I shouldn’t worry and get flabbergasted. Isaiah gives me the “why”.

If there was an issue, if it was serious, then I believe God would, in His time, bring about the hard times, the wounds He would need to bandage, He would bring me running to Him. He cares about us that much, He loves us that much. He wants us aware of His presence.

There is a time for this fog, a time to be still and listen with the new heart that God has given us when He baptized us, The heart of Christ, where the Holy Spirit resides and makes Himself at home.

It is a time to be blessed, a time to be comforted, a time to be able to realize only one thing, we dwell in His presence… and that is enough. Confident that He will do what is necessary, we depend on a God who loves us, and find the rest we need.

(Realizing of course, that if we are off course, He will correct us.)

That is what faith is… being able to stop… and enjoy the fog that blocks everything until we recognize the Lord is with us!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 390-392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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