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Why I Am Thankful for Non-Theologian Believers

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT

The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.

But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.

To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”

In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.

And I know I am not alone.

We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.

you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.

That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.

It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.

And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.

They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.

This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.

Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. Amen.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Where God Puts His Name

Where God Puts His Name

1 Kings 8:22-30; 41-43

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

May your ministry as people and pastors, proclaim the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to all of the broken people you come in contact with, including each other

When God Put His Name

Ted my friend, today you are going to hear some very special words… then again, you have heard them before.  Sometimes with your ears, and other times, they sunk right down into your soul.

The first time your soul heard these special words, was just three years after the end of World War II.  You were only three months and seven days old, and before you could even play the organ (I think), those words forever changed you, and your life.  God marked you with them, He put His name on you in Baptism.

I messaged you last week, and asked you to think about how many times you’ve heard them in your life, and I could hear you laughing.  Just the number of times you heard them, while sitting over on that organ bench, is beyond count.

From that bench, you heard Dr. Hendry say them, and Pastor Jerry, you heard the Reverend Vicar Dustin say them, and watched Vicar Matthew say them, and heard Dr. Stoterau say them, when Matt became a pastor, your pastor.

Each time you heard them, it was a blessing.  It was a moment to remember and re-call that God made you one of His children, and the blessings of that relationship, both in this life and for eternity.

Today, when Dr. Stoterau says them over you as you are ordained, it is not for your sake, it is not to bless you.  Stand up, and look around, see your friends, your church family.  The reason you will hear these words is for their blessing… even as it costs you.

Adter you hear the words “I ordain you”, these are those special words, “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Those words are for them to hear, as God places His name here, for them!  When you see the excitement in their eyes, because God has marked you again with His name, when they are as excited as Patriot fans in February, it is for their sake you will endure this.  They may not realize it, but those words are for them.

The Parable of Solomon’s Temple

The Old Testament reading this afternoon is a parable, an illustration for everyone here to understand what ordination is.

As Solomon prays, he reveals why God puts His name places, why He will identify certain buildings and people to have an identity that is set apart from the norm.  Maybe that is why pastors are not all that normal!   Seriously, you know enough of us Ted to know it is not that the person who is ordained is anything special, it the reason that God ordains us that is special…

The same reason the Temple was built, for your parish to know that God hears their prayers, and responds to their prayers.

For Your “Identified” Parish!

When someone works as a chaplain, or a social worker in the medical field, you talk of your identified clients, and your unidentified clients. It is true about ministry as well  You have your identified parish, and your real parish,

Your identified parish is the people here at Good Shepherd, the members, regular attendees, young and old, brand new Christians and those who have been Christians back into the middle of the last century.

When they come to you, whether it is here, or to your home, or at C&S coffee shop, pray with them, just like people went to the temple of Solomon.  As you do, assure them, what was true in Solomon’s day, is still true.  He prayed,

And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

By the way, this is the hardest part of your ministry, and sometimes the most frustrating.  For in helping them to hear that God forgives them, you must remind them that they need to be forgiven.

That can happen in a coffee shop, as you preach, or hear their confession.  It can happen as you counsel them.

Every one of us needs to know that God desires to forgive us, to heal our brokenness, to give us hope.  Every one of us, including your peers in ministry, especially us.  For if God can clean us up…

That is why God is marking you with His name.  So that they can know that nothing will separate them from God, including their sin, and the sin of this world.   As John writes in his first epistle, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous forgiving us of sin, and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.”

Still, they will not like to hear that they are sinners.  Be patient and loving and you will get past that.  They realize you are here, that God has put His name on you to assure them of that forgiveness, so they could audibly hear it, then, they will rejoice.

That is why you will preach, that is what you guarantee them in baptism, and part of what they receive as they the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is what they hear when you say, as a called and ordained servant, I forgive you in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  You will use His name, as He calls you to, and they will know they have been reconciled to God.

It is what they need, what God wants them to have.

It is why He marks you with His name today.  To make sure they know His love and mercy!

For Your “Real” parish

Solomon’s prayer insisted that the temple was not built just for Israel.   It is the same thing for you.  Never think your people are only the people who find their way here on Sunday morning.

Your parish includes every person that comes to you!  It includes the former students of La Contenta; the people you know about the town; anybody who knows you are a pastor. Your parish includes those who come up to and says, “Ted, can I have a few moments of your time, I need to talk.”  It might be a former co-worker, it might even be one of these guys dressed funny.  It might even be someone you do not know, who sees you in your collar.

God is putting His name on you for them that they too could pray, even if they do not know God by name yet!  God knows their name, and He will have them contact you, so that you can encourage them to pray.  Remember Solomon’s words here as well,

“In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)

The same Name that will mark you as one of the shepherds that He has given to His people.  Not to make you famous, or special.

He is putting His name on you again, so they can know Him.

I’ve said this day, this time is a blessing for all of the people you know, and will know.

God placing His name on you is going to cost you a lot, and I am not just talking about those college loans. You already know this, that you will spend time at people’s bedsides.  You will miss dinners (and Barb will miss you cooking dinner!).  You will hand someone those last couple of bills you have in your pocket.  You will cry with them, rejoice with them… be crushed when they refuse to repent, dance (reverently) when the prodigal comes home.

You will be here. You will be the place where God has put His name.  So the believer can pray and know that God hears… and forgives.  So that the unbeliever can pray, and know God hears… and know and trust in Him.

Those two things will make it all worth it.

When God puts His name on you, and makes you one of those that gets to help people realize He makes them His… I cannot explain the joy of this ministry (I can explain the pain) …but you will know it.

Blessings to you my friend, for God has made you His child by placing His name on you, and is putting His name on you again, to bless them, and so many others,
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!  AMEN!

The Laity and the Clergy – proclaiming the gospel together! Evangelical Catholic IX

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, A...

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, Article VII, “Of the Church”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day:

Thus the priest, like the bishop, is first a preacher, teacher, catechist, and sanctifier before he is an administrator. Priests are leaders of their parishes, as bishops are of their dioceses. But in a fully embodied Evangelical Catholicism, deacons and other qualified lay members of the Church will handle more and more of the routine business of parish and diocesan administration. The pastors— bishops who are true successors of the apostles, and priests who form a presbyteral college with and under the bishop (as the bishops form an episcopal college with and under the Bishop of Rome, the pope)— have more urgent matters to which they must attend. Yet the lay vocation, as understood by Evangelical Catholicism, is not primarily one of Church management, in which only a small minority of laity will be involved. The lay vocation is evangelism: of the family, the workplace, and the neighborhood, and thus of culture, economics, and politics. As Evangelical Catholicism rejects the clericalism by which the lay members of the Church were simply to pray, pay, and obey (or, as a nineteenth-century aristocratic English variant had it, to hunt, shoot, and entertain), so it rejects a clericalized notion of lay vocation as primarily having to do with working in the parish office or diocesan chancery. 34 There is important work to be done in those venues, and lay Catholics can and ought to do more of it, thus freeing priests and bishops for the work they were ordained to do. But the primary lay vocation, as John Paul II taught in the 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, is to bring the Gospel into all of those parts of “the world” to which the laity has greater access than those who are ordained: the family, the mass media, the business community, the worlds of culture, and the political arena, for example. (1)

I’ve mentioned before that I am sort of reviewing this book – Evangelical Catholic – slowing – digesting the differences between how its author describes the changes manifesting now in Roman Catholicism – and what I see in the present and in the hsotiry of Lutheranism – which was originally called – “evangelical catholic”.    Not as a devotional persay, but it ends up being so for me.

Today is no different – as I think about the deacons I train  (historically assistants in the college – as they were/are ordained )and about the work of the people here in my church.  Wiegel’s point about their having a primary vocation of evangelist is an awesome point – I highly agree – and it is their primary vocation, as they bring the gospel into their homes, into their friends homes, into their workplaces and the conversations they have out there in the not so “real world”.  

Some would argue that the proclamation of the gospel is the role of the clergy and indeed it is.   But it isn’t only the clergy’s work – it is the work of the family of God – YHWH & Son’s (and daughters!)  The pastors and priests (and bishops and deacons ) preachin a way that the laity comprehend the grace of God, which the Holy Spirit actively embodies in every moment of their lives – bringing joy and peace into some of the most challenging situations that they, and those around them, encounter.   It is there – that the gospel is shown through their lives, through their loves, through the hope they have – even in the midst of situations that would be considered hopeless.   Places that wouldn’t necessarily be a place where my black shirt and collar are welcome.   

But that is a harder calling for the priest and pastor, to preach in that way.  It is a more demanding way, is a sense from the people who sit in the pews.

It is, and isn’t. 

For Evangelism isn’t a duty, it is an act of love.  It is realizing that what has brought healing and peace to our broken lives will bring healing and peace to others lives.  Such healing and peace – in the midst of such brokenness, that we cannot bear to see those who are broken in such a way continue in it.   In love we come to them – to help them with their burdens, to calm their anxious souls, to bring healing to shattered lives and shattered relationships.  That means – that most of the time – it is the laity that see it first – that come alongside them – that bear them to us, were we continue the word and sacrament minsitry together.  

It’s not the laity or the clergy – it is the people of God – as He has called and equipped and sent us…. to bring His love. 

This is a good thing!   A very incredible thing!  God using us all…. how awesome!

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 80). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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