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The Art of “Fixing” the World!

Why does Jesus continue to come to us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Here on Mount Zion the LORD Almighty will prepare a banquet for all the nations of the world—a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine. 7 Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow that has been hanging over all the nations. 8† The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The LORD himself has spoken.
9 When it happens, everyone will say, “He is our God! We have put our trust in him, and he has rescued us. He is the LORD! We have put our trust in him, and now we are happy and joyful because he has saved us.”
Isaiah 25:6-9 GNT

Though we cannot fix anything, the presence of Jesus lightens the burden of the Poor and gives them strength. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to approach the Poor with the gentleness, mercy and delicacy of Jesus Himself. We need humility to listen, lest we go to them with ‘solutions’, having no idea what pains and wounds are in each heart. Our every word or gesture can bring light and joy into a heart, or they can increase the darkness and pain. That’s why we need Jesus!
We do fail, and I never stop placing all my failures into His Sacred Heart and plunging them into His precious wounds where He alone can redeem and make all things new.

At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things.

There is a part of every person that longs to be a superhero, a crusader to fix that which is wrong, and make it right. Sometimes that aspecto of our personality is dimmer and even blotted out by failure. Other times, the crusade we choose is too large, and we learn we can’t fix the world.

Other times, we try to lead the horse to water, and make it drink, but it will not do so, and that frustrates us. We do everything right, we assume, but it doesn’t work. Sometimes that is because the horse is stubborn, other times it is because the horse isn’t thirsty, but rather it is hungry, or it needs rest. An example, often as a hospice chaplain, I watched doctors try to find cures for people that were terminally ill. They never gave up trying to cure them. However, if they were able to help the person cope with the pain, often the person would die in great peace, and sometimes, their bodies would do what the doctor couldn’t. With all the good intent and sincerity, their hope

It is as the nun wrote above, we need the humility to go and listen, to go with an attitude of gentleness and mercy, and with great delicacy. For there are often far to often, wounds and pains which we cannot see, that need to be addressed before we can address the problems we see.

So how do we overcome this crusading mentality? How do we find the patience and the humility to allow the brokeness, that poison that destroys souls to be drawn out?

I think is starts with remembering the end game. To recall the promises Isaiah wrote down, inspired by God. We need to remember that not only does he dry away the tears and provides, but He is the one who delivers us. Depending on that leads us, eventually, to realize that Has this day, and the person we hope to help, in His glorious loving hands.

Often our best option is simply to do as Luther advised, to share with those we are responsible for (great question there) the love of God revealed in the basic creeds, to reveal His presence, to reveal His care, His mercy and His delicate patience in bringing s to wholeness, and to health. In the process we help them discover it, not forcing it, but asking the questions that will lead them deeper into a relationship.

As this happens, we find out how to address their poverty, whatever that poverty truly is, as we see God already doing this. We simply learn to walk with them, addressing where we can, but primarily serving to remind them of the presence of God.

If you want to change the world, this is how it is done, by being there as God changes their world, and yours.

Lord Jesus, give us the patience to see that the issue we want to help with isn’t always the issue that they are ready to see You bring healing to in their lives. Help us to realize as well, that all “fixes” are actually your responsibility, and our role is to remind them of Your presence, Your love, and that You are at work in their lives. AMEN

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 183). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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

Injustice. Sin. Brokenness. DEAL WITH IT

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then, should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us. Hebrews 12:1 (NJB)

Worship of God is an act of justice towards Him which disposes us, indeed sets us free, to be just towards one another, because it is the living out of our filial relationship towards God; and it is the living out of our common filiation or sonship in Christ. Worship is therefore in a very real way the basis of any human action, especially towards one another. Pope Benedict XVI echoed similar sentiments:

There is a permanent temptation for the Church: to put aside the cross
(cf. Mt 16:22), to negotiate with the truth, to avoid persecution, thus diminishing the redemptive power of the cross of Christ.

Yesterday I was talking to a young lady at the chiropractor’s office. She was kind of curious about me wearing a collar, and while I waited to get adjusted, we talked quite a bit. She was a little surprised at how I talked about my church, and how we tried to deal with our brokenness, rather than hiding it, or ignoring it. She liked the idea, even more than she liked hearing about California and the celebrities I have run into across the years.

As I was reading this morning, I thought about the fact our society is broken. We see it in the poverty in some communities. We see it in the interaction of our public figures. We see it in the horrors that we encounter, if we bother to hear the news from Africa, where illness and disease and war still kill people daily.

There is a part of me that thirsts for justice, that thirsts for it all to be fixed. To see our politicians grow up, to see them work together to bring peace, and if not prosperity, then at least and end to poverty that results in death. We need to deal with it, just not ignore it! We need to take on such injustice and brokenness, and work to find the healing of our lives, and our society, and our world. I want to see the brokenness of the church dealt with as well, rather than just ignored, or dismissed because it won’t affect me or mine.

I want to cry out, “Deal with it!”

But that is a temptation that I consider naive at best. Not because people will not (and for the most part, they won’t) but because how we cast aside everything and “deal with it”.

You see, what I need to do is cast aside all of that stuff, all the stuff I need, that we need to deal with, first. Because, let’s be honest, I can’t cause AOC and Trump to sit down and reconcile, and I can’t solve the problems in middle Africa, or for that matter in Cerritos, Ca, or Windham, N.H. I can’t replace injustice with righteousness quickly enough.

But I can walk with the Lord, who will do that, who will work thorugh His people, who will change us, and through that change enable us to love each other in a way that is effective and transformative. That will bring about reconciliation, that will teach people to care more about helping others than compiling their own wealth.

You see these things that we long for are the side effect of something bigger. They are results of worship, of clinging to the cross where we discovered we are loved, where all of the injustice in our lives is crucified with Christ, where all our sin and the things that break us down are shattered. Where we learn what matters, what is worth our praise, what transforms us.

And as we look to Christ, as we worship, as we dwell in the presence of God, we are transformed. We begin to love because we are loved, we begin to help others find that justice and righteousness and they in turn are transformed as well, not by force, but by the process of realizing they are loved.

Deal with it…

Father, deal with us!

“deal with it, please, dear Father in Heaven… by dealing with us! Make real Your presence, Your love, Your transforming us… AMEN!”

Turkson, P. (2012). Adoration as the Foundation of Social Justice. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 172). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 233). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Church’s Obligation to Welcome the Stranger in Need

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

41  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Away from me, you that are under God’s curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42  I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink; 43  I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.’ 44  Then they will answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we would not help you?’ 45  The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’ 46  These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.Matthew 25:41-46 (TEV)

In short, thievery is the most common craft and the largest guild on earth. If we look at mankind in all its conditions, it is nothing but a vast, wide stable full of great thieves.
229 These men are called gentlemen swindlers or big operators. Far from being picklocks and sneak-thieves who loot a cash box, they sit in office chairs and are called great lords and honorable, good citizens, and yet with a great show of legality they rob and steal.
230 Yes, we might well keep quiet here about various petty thieves in order to launch an attack against the great, powerful arch-thieves who consort with lords and princes and daily plunder not only a city or two, but all Germany. Indeed, what would become of the head and chief protector of all thieves, the Holy See at Rome, and all its retinue, which has plundered and stolen the treasures of the whole world and holds them to this day?
231 This, in short, is the way of the world. Those who can steal and rob openly are safe and free, unmolested by anyone, even claiming honor from men. Meanwhile the little sneak-thieves who have committed one offense must bear disgrace and punishment so as to make the others look respectable and honorable. But the latter should be told that in the eyes of God they are the greatest thieves, and that he will punish them as they deserve.  (and then a few paragraphs later)
247 If, when you meet a poor man who must live from hand to mouth, you act as if everyone must live by your favor, you skin and scrape him right down to the bone, and you arrogantly turn him away whom you ought to give aid, he will go away wretched and dejected, and because he can complain to no one else, he will cry to heaven. Beware of this, I repeat, as of the devil himself. Such a man’s sighs and cries will be no joking matter. They will have an effect too heavy for you and all the world to bear, for they will reach God, who watches over poor, sorrowful hearts, and he will not leave them unavenged. But if you despise and defy this, see whom you have brought upon yourself. If you succeed and prosper, before all the world you may call God and me liars

There is a struggle in the church today, one that is neither simple nor easily solved.

It is dealing with the issues of social justice, and how we treat the homeless, the needy, the stranger in our midst, that comes to us, asking for help, crying for a place of refuge.

And far too often the church looks at the situation as if the problem is them  How do we solve their problem, how do we help them live within what the laws (federal, state, local) demand of them, at the same time,  helping them as we ought to.

The words I encounter in my reading in the Large Catechism, and in the gospel show me the problem isn’t with them, but with us.  It is them we look at as if they were the disgrace, yet our lack of love is more disgraceful.  It is their cries, unanswered byt the world of the church, that rise up as prayers to God.  It is our hearts that need to be confronted, broken, and restored by God’s mercy.

Hear that again, it is those that have, and especially those who are in positions where their actions take what little the needy have to rely on, that are more in need of mercy, God’s mercy, than those who cry out to Him.   For if they understood that mercy, it would result in their caring for those whose situations may indeed be shameful, or disgraceful, even such that in desperation they turn to crime.

And then what is to be said for those who vote for those people, or invest in their companies, or work with or for them, or do business with them?  DO we not bear a burden for those sins as well, and thereby need God’s mercy?

The other day I was touched by a friend, one who doesn’t have much herself but gives what she has and even buys somethings intentionally to give to the homeless that live between her work and her home.  She wondered where the homeless had gone to, for she had a trunk full of food and water for them.  What a wondrous thing, someone who understands that while she can’t do much (in the world’s eyes) she can do something!  And she hurt because she couldn’t find those she regularly helped.

Jesus tells us we will always have the poor and needy and the alien among us (Stranger in the Greek is Xeno – alien, those not of us,) but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to love them, to assist them, to defend them.  For in doing so, we encounter Jesus, and in doing so, we encounter the mercy we ourselves need, as we find forgiveness, and restoration, and the power of Christ in our lives..

Lord, have mercy on us!

 

 

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959).( Explanation of the 7th commandment of the Large Catechism), The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 396). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Poverty Is A Christian Value?

Discussion thought of the day:
25  ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! 26  Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? 27  Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life? 28  And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; 29  yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these. 30  Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith? 31  So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?” 32  It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. 33  Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. 34  So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 (NJB)

“Yes. poverty is a Christian value. The poor person is someone who knows that, by himself, he cannot live.  He needs God and other people in order to be, flourish and grow.  On the contrary, rich people expect nothing of anyone.  They can provide for their needs without calling on their neighbors or on God.  In this sense, wealth can lead to great sadness and true human loneliness or to terrible spiritual poverty.  If in order to eat and care for himself, a man must turn to someone else, this necessarily results in a great enlargement of his heart.  This is why the poor are closest to God and life in great solidarity with one another.; they draw from this divine source the ability to be attentive to others.”  God or Nothing,  Robert Cardinal Sarah   p.140

In the reading in blue came from another source, rather than a priest who grew up in true poverty, I would be more likely to dismiss the words as naivete, or as some idyllic rationalization.  But they come from one who was poor, who ministered among the poorest of the poor.  

One of the reasons I will struggle with this for a while is because it is written by one who has been there, seen it, ministered among it.

I want to justify this, to spin it, to remind the writer that money isn’t the root of all evil, but that the love of money is.  Another way to confront the writer is to compare my wealth to those around me, and claim that I am relatively impoverished. After all, I don’t own my home, and the last time the place we rent remodeled was when Kennedy was president.  And my salary is not what it could be by the standards my denomination set.

Compared to 95 percent of the world, we are, in fact wealthy. Maybe even 98% of the world.

Cardinal Sarah points out the real issue.  The issue is not wealth, but how wealth adds to the problem of independence, of self-reliance. Wealth destroys the independence of a community.  It is easier to forget the needs of others, when we do not have need, or have not faced it.  It is easier to write off what happens outside our walls, like the Rich man and Lazarus.  Like the Rich man we don’t have an appreciation what he is going through, and the value of the soul and mind of the impoverished. 

If poverty is to be considered a virtue, a way to grow in faith, then we begin to see self-reliance as the real problem, the real sin.  Or should I say, the illusion of self-reliance?  Because poverty normally is thought of as financial, but the other poverties, spiritual poverty, emotional poverty, relational poverty – they all lead to brokenness, to a solitary existence that is contrary to who are made to be.

Here it is, blunt and to the point.  We were created with one mission, one purpose.  To love, to love God with everything we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. To have intimate relationships (not physically intimate – but spiritually and emotionally intimate) is the concept.  It is in such relationships that we see the fruit of the Spirit grow, it is in such relationships where we can depend upon others and are depended upon by others., that the faith, hope and love the Holy Spirit nourishes in us matters, and is treasured.

Do I have to give up my wealth?  Do I have to be like St Francis of Assissi or Luther (giving up law practice) or a Mother Theresa?   

Honestly, I do not know.  There is a harder option, which is to ensure the things that I own don’t become treasures.  The treasures I have are found delivered by the means of Grace. First, the audacious love and mercy of God, and secondly the community of faith and those who will be part of it, delivered through word and sacrament with us.  Those are our true riches.

May the Lord’s Mercy remind us of this, and may that reminder bring us to love one another.

 

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