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The Difference Between a Preacher and a Pastor

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the day:
5 For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father r in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful t son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church.   1 Cor. 4:15-17 HCSB

How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus, how much tenderness is in there!
Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

But what is it to pray that his name may become holy? Is it not already holy? Answer: Yes, in itself it is holy, but not our use of it. God’s name was given to us when we became Christians at Baptism, and so we are called children of God and enjoy the sacraments, through which he so incorporates us with himself that all that is God’s must serve for our use.

As I was working through my readings this morning, the first, the reading from Paul’s letter to a church he loved (and struggled to love) kept coming back to mind.   And then as I read Pope Francis, and Pastor Martin Luther’s words, I saw great examples of what Paul was teaching.

Anyone can deliver a lesson, a sermon that is exegetical and explains the Bible passage more completely than someone can see at first glance. To be honest, you don’t even need a good preacher to do so, for we have 2,000 years of commentators like John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Lenski, Matthew Henry and William Barclay who will do that for you.

Someone whose primary goal is preaching can do the studies, or borrow them from someone else, and lecture you, mailing you on what you did wrong, showing you how you must behave, and reminding you of who God is, helping you explore the incredible knowledge we have in scripture.  They are instructors, and we need that kind of information.

But a sermon, a real sermon, is something a pastor crafts and delivers.  It is a pastor, someone who acts as a spiritual father.  Someone who has learned from their errors, and cares enough to help you when you are in error, guiding you back to the way that is “in Christ”.

The pastor brings you to see God in all His glory, the glory that comes from our love and our mercy.   He wants you to experience the healing that happens when seeing Christ, you respond to His love being poured out upon you. When you realize as Luther said, that God through His word and sacraments, just doesn’t teach you, but see you incorporated into Christ that our thoughts turn to Him, depending on Him to care for us. 

A pastor shepherds you to the place where you realize what a treasure it is to know God as your Father, when you realize the difference that makes in your daily life, no matter how challenged, no matter how boring, no matter how broken.

you see this in the words of Pope Francis, and Fr. Martin Luther.  You see them not just wanting to impart knowledge of God, but helping people experience the love. 

Imagine a boy learning to teach.  The instructor tells him all about the bait, all about the rods and reels, all about the way to study the river or the lake.  The pastor father takes the young man fishing, watching him learn, urging him to be patient, applauding him when he catches something, consoling him when the big one gets away.  This is the father-pastor at work, and that care needs to occur in the midst of the sermon, in the midst of the worship service.  Helping people “catch” God, who is never far away….reading to be caught, ready to be devoured, ready to be incorporated i our lives, as we are incorporated in His.  

This is a pastor’s calling… to help people experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great ot understand fully (see Ephesians 3:19) while being made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 216). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 425). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

Can We Recognize the Ministry of the Average Christian? (and help them accomplish it?)

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12  to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13  until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]  (Italics mine)

Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.  (Italics mine)

Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time.  I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition.  I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.

There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley.  The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people.  A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate.  It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people.  It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!

We don’t always get this correct.  Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church.  Pastors don’t save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church. 

We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).  He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.  

Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don’t understand this.  They don’t get that the ministry is God’s, entrusted to the entire church together.  It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God’s desire to reconcile all to Him.   Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry. 

Such a responsibility isn’t to be hoarded like Gollum’s precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks.  Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines.  It is best done, when all, so in awe of God’s love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God.    Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.

We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.

It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world.  AMEN!

[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.  Italics mine

How can I fail to take up your soul….?

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our days:

 15  GOD then said, “Dress up like a stupid shepherd. 16  I’m going to install just such a shepherd in this land—a shepherd indifferent to victims, who ignores the lost, abandons the injured and disdains decent citizens. He’ll only be in it for what he can get out of it, using and abusing any and all. Zechariah 11:15-16 (MSG)

15  And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 (NLT)

14  “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15  just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 (NLT)

There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun.
I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood!
How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?

As I begin to read St. Josemaria Escriva’s devotional book the Forge, I came across the words in blue in the prologue. It describes the heart of a pastor, a priest, a shepherd and caretaker of souls.

It is a heart to aspire to, at least in my mind.

I have been involved in a couple of conversations recently about pastors and their relationship to their people, to their parishioners.  One raised the question of whether pastors could be friends of their parishioners. Another was about the difference between worship and work at the church.  A third was about pastors retiring from ministry, and finding something completely different to do in their retirement.  Let’s just say I was in the minority in several of these discussions, and to be honest, I don’t understand the idea that ministry is work, that it is just a job, like caring for inmates or hotel guests.  

I think our hearts have to break when our their hearts break.  I think we have to desire what God would have for our people, to realize the treasure He sees in them.  To give them the sacraments, assured of the blessing we are giving them, as we untie them to Jesus death and resurrection, as we give feed their souls, as our words (actually His words) mend and heal broken hearts and souls.  

So how could this be a career, isn’t it our very life?

I won’t claim I have arrived.  There are still long days that weary me out, there are still people who ability to get under my skin challenge the pastoral heart I want to have.  There are people that hurt me, and I struggle to have a pastoral heart toward them, Or the people who won’t listen to God, and choose lives that are lived in rebellion to God.  Those people cause frustration, and often tears.  ( I want to say I would love to just stuff them into St Josemaria’s forge)  I am not going to say pastoring these people is easy, but it is necessary.  A pastor can’t just dismiss them as alligators, that decision and judgment is not in our pay grade.  Weare simply to try to reconcile them to Jesus.

This is why Jesus talks about good shepherds, as opposed to the stupid shepherds that have served his people in the past.  About shepherds who will have His heart for His people, which can mean laying down our lives for them, sacrificing time, energy, money, whatever it takes to see them drawn to Christ, and made holy by the Spirit that works within us all.

Again, even as I write these words I am torn.  For that is what I would desire as a pastor, yet I know I fall short, often too far short.  That is not an excuse or a reason to stop desiring to see my people grow.  Their failures and mine are not a reason to distance me from them as if that can reduce my brokenness.  Instead, it is a reason to cling all the more to God, for He will pour out comfort and mercy, continue to transform me, and yes, He will continue to cause us to grow, to forgive our sins, to transform us into the image of His son ( see 2 Cor. 3:16ff)

Lord, have mercy on Your shepherds, break our hearts and give us hearts like Jesus, so that your people can be assured of their salvation, and set apart to walk with You!  Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Necessity of Ministry…and those who minister.

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.    Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)

36  As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37  So he said to his disciples, “The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. 38  Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38 (TEV)

914    How pitiful are those crowds—high and low and middle-class—without an ideal! They give the impression that they do not know they have souls: they are a flock, a drove, a herd. Jesus, only with the help of your merciful love will we turn the flock into a legion, the drove into an army, and from the herd of swine draw, purified, those who no longer wish to be unclean.

The coach of my favorite football team has two very simple and yet profound slogans.

The first is “do your job.”  which helps keep focused each member of the team, from players to coaches, trainers, the owner, and even entry level office staff and custodians.

The second talks about the nature of the focus.  “No days off.”  That speaks of the team as something more than a job, working on that team is what theologians call a vocation. It is who you are, it is part of what defines them.  These two catch-phrases have come with a fair share of success.  Actually, according to some, far more than just a fair share.

These are lessons those in the church and who lead it need to understand.  Our ministry is more than just a job.  It is a vocation, it is what we’ve been sent to do, our apostolate, our mission. Because of the nature of what we do, it demands our focus, and it should define who we are.

It is critical, far more critical than winning trophies and wearing five rings.

We see this in words from the Old Testament, a passage often translated  “where there is no vision, people perish” or sometimes “where there is no prophetic vision.”  But the translator of the Message has its sense – for the vision is not of what we are called to do, but what God is doing.  It is the vision of the promises God the Father has given to us, delivered in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord who delivers us from evil. This isn’t just a vision for the church to grow, or build a new building, or raise money for this and/or that.  It is the vision of God, gathering His people from every tribe and language, to live with Him.  The vision of God being their God, and they being His holy people.   

It is the vision that pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets and apostles are to give them, what our worship is to cause them to be aware of. Which is where we come in, and where Jesus’ words about shepherds are so relevant.

People need those who are ministers in their lives, so that they might be drawn to God, and be given the vision of what God is doing in their lives.  This is our job, primary and completely.  It is the care these souls need, it is the mission that our sermons are tasked with, our Bible Studies, and why we baptize and commune people.

For without that, they are lost… they may not even realize what a soul is, never mind that theirs needs to be cared for, to have life spoken into it.  It is only with God’s help that this is changed, only His Spirit can breathe life into them who are dead, trapped and imprisoned by sin.

This is what we do, and as we study, as we visit and teach, as we lead and inspire, may it be focused, every day, on Christ, and drawing people to Him. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Pastor/Priest’s Kobayashi Maru

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”    Luke 4:27 (NLT)

15  And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.      Jeremiah 3:15 (NLT)

7  Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8  “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9  This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10  This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. 11  Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12  Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13  Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14  Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15  Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16  Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.   1 Timothy 4:7-16 (NLT)

“In the stillness of the little room the bishop sighed deeply.  His eyes saw the bejeweled crucifix that hung at his chest.He prayed silently.  Then he sent for his secretary and ordered the searcht o begin.  Then, alone once more, he split himself into the three persons that all generals of the Church must simultaneously be.  First, the anointed Peter, first bishop of the Christ, with all that spiritually implied.  Second the militant guardian of the Church temporal with all that implied.  And last, just a simple man who believed the teachings of a simple man who the Son of God.
He settled back in his chair and let these facets of himself argue one with another. And He listened to them.   (from Tai-Pan by James Clavell – emphasis mine.)

One of my favorite authors is James Clavell, and his saga of Asia. The way he shows all of his characters, in both their best light and in their darkest moments, make the stories seem so life like, so realistic.  This is especially true about the clergy in the books, especially this Bishop in Tai-pan, who has to make a decision, a hard decision, whether to respond to the needs of an unrepentant sinner and an enemy of the Church  of Rome.

While I am no bishop, I understand the dilemma, the argument the bishop hears from his “three” persons are real.  I’ve been there as well, involved in the pastoral version of the Kobayashi Maru.

Do I make my decision based on what I perceive as is best for the church at large, a lesson for the encouragement of others, who might see my work as representing what I approve?  Would my helping out the sinner lead others into sin? Would the work compromise my ability to minister spiritually to others?

Do I make my decision based on my responsibility for the material nature of the church?  In this case, the Bishop was offered anything in the sinners power to provide a small portion of a rare medication to his mistress, who was pregnant with child.  Should he make the decision to deny this, the hero would certainly use his power and influence to gain revenge on the church.  If he helped, the advantage would be enormous,not just financially, but SStruanhad promised to visibly “convert”, even if he couldn’t in his heart.

The last possible decision, responding to Straun as simply a man to  another man in need.  To respond in unconditional love, to help out just because he felt Christ would.

I would normally say, go for door number three, that is the obvious answer.  Or at least it is the one I expect, even as first two personas kick and screw about the lack of logic in that decision.

Yet, in my heart, I know it is not accurate to make the decision based on the third option.  For my only responsibility is not to the third situation.   As a pastor, I must consider the impact to the entire church, both spiritually and physically.  And like the fabled Star Trek officers test, I must understand the implications, the challenges, and own them.

I love what the Bishop, this leader of the church did, in the scene.  He first prayed, and then he allowed himself to argue the situation out, listening, hearing each of the voices.   I won’t give the story away, but I can say this:

His answer would satisfy in the end, all three concerns.

He sweated it out, he worked through the dilemma, and because he prayed and listened, and was patient, he came to a conclusion.

It would cost him, and yet the cost would be having an enormous teaching moment, a moment to catechize Struan, and his community, and wait for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those involved.  It doesn’t resolve perfectly, in the end, yet, mercy was known, love was accepted, healing happened.

And peace was known, not just by those to whom he served, but amazingly, in his own life.  The kind of peace that is not of this world, nor would seem logical, but is the peace of Christ, the peace Christ gives to all those He treasures.

(BTW – this is applicable to more than pastors and priests. )

The Secret of a Pastor’s Success. The “M” word.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,his mercy endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: his mercy endures forever.
3 Let the house of Aaron say, his mercy endures forever.
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,his mercy endures forever.  Ps 118:1–4 NABRE

1  Church leaders, I am writing to encourage you. I too am a leader, as well as a witness to Christ’s suffering, and I will share in his glory when it is shown to us. 2  Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money. 3  Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. 4  Then when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will be given a crown that will never lose its glory.     1 Peter 5:1-4 (CEV)

And a minister who turns away from the inner source of his ministry can neither serve other people nor find fulfillment in his own life. There are many reasons why the reality that is the Church, which in the 1920s seemed to awaken so much expectation in souls, is regarded today as an alien and alienating mega-institution. But the most crucial reason is always the defection of a priest who ought to personify the institution and make her present in his own person, but who becomes instead, not a window, but a wall; who turns against his ministry instead of letting it become a trusted witness of the suffering and struggling of his own faith.  (1)  

Most pastors don’t want to admit it, but when people think of a church, or a ministry, they are the face of the ministry.  Not the physical face, but the reaction to the church itself is tied to the persona of its pastor, of the man who stands up, and has the responsibility of speaking for God.

It’s a heavy responsibility, a burden that easily tires out those who accept it.  Often, it tires them out too soon, and they determine that being a pastor is something else.  Instead of shepherding, they see themselves as communicators (preachers)  or leaders, or authors/bloggers, podcasters, who can remain at a distance, say what needs to be said, and walk away.  A couple of years ago I even heard one indicate that it wasn’t about pastoral care, because the ministry had changed, and we were no longer pastors, but ranchers.  He expected “real pastors” to leave pastoral care to lay servant ministers.

You see this in the modern drive to abandon the pastoral office to run para-church organizations, to be consultants or coaches, or to direct bureaucracies  What this does, far too often is that it distances them further from the people God called them to serve.  It becomes too easy  to become the wall that Pope Benedict describes, and their own spiritual life becomes dry and lifeless, institutionalized and alienated.

But, theoretically, safe. 

Safe from people realizing how broken we are, how desperate we are,  Safe from failing in the expectations we have, or that others place upon us. Safe from our doubts, our fears, our anxieties.  In doing so, we also become safe from the needing the faith, the dependence on God to survive.

You see, the more we are distanced from the pain our people endure, the anxiety that keeps them awake at night, the heartache that causes them to doubt God’s presence, the easier it is to become numb to our need to depend on God. When we weep and laugh, cry and rejoice with them, they see we struggle as well, that we share in this brokenness of life….

And hopefully, they see us run to the cross, to give thanks over and over for this mercy, this incredible loving kindness, this presence of God which comforts us when there is nothing left.  For that psalm to hit home, we need to know that mercy, we need to realize the power in it, the comfort, and for our people to “get it” they need to see this in us, a natural reaction. Then the psalm above wouldn’t just seem repetitive, but it would be a joy to hear, and it would undergird our meditations.

The mercy of God is the inner source of our ministry, it is the strength that sustains us when we are at our weakest, it is what enables us to have a sure and confident hope in God.  When we are in awe of His mercy, our people become in awe of it, and they depend upon it!

If only seeking and find that mercy revealed could become what we are addicted to, that which we crave more than life itself. If that was what we tweeted and posted about, even more, what we shared with our neighbors, co-workers, families and friends.

If only they saw God comfort us in our weakness, forgive us in our brokenness, if they saw us count on His mercy and grace.  How wonderful that we would know this intimacy this well, and no longer hide!  How wonderful that would be, for then, this would be real, not an academic exercise, and our souls would be the windows through which they would know God’s desire to work in their lives.

Lord, Have mercy on us!  AMEN.

(1)   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. 150). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

A Most Overlooked Blessing…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29  May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30  May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.  1 Kings 8:28-30 (NLT) 

 20  As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.John 20:20-23 (NLT)

If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9  if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.1 John 1:8-9 (NJB) 8

192  If ever you fall, my son, go quickly to Confession and seek spiritual guidance. Show your wound!, so that it gets properly healed and all possibility of infection is removed, even if doing this hurts you as much as having an operation.  (1)

 

It is one of the major events in the history of Israel.  it is right up there with the events at Mount Sinai, and the walk through the Red Sea.

As one of the wonders of the Ancient World was dedicated to God’s glory, the thing that the king prays for… is… forgiveness?
Really?  Not to dominate the world?  Not to have all his people become wealthy and successful, not for the kids to all be brilliant and well behaved… but blessed?

Forgiveness?

That’s the key to the Temple?

A Jesus appears before them in the upper room, after assuring them that there is peace – the very first thing He does there, is bestow on them the responsibility of fogiving (and retaining) sins.  Even as He breaths His spirit on them, this incredible ministry becomes theirs…this ministry of reconciliation, this ministry of forgiveness.

Forgiveness again?  Really – that’s the first thing Jesus wants them to know they have the power to do – as His apostles?

It’s still a amjor issue with John when he rights his first epistle – an epistle devoted to love.  Because I tell you something – you can’t love others, if you don’t know the forgiveness of God in your own life.   if you don’t know you are forgiven and cleansed, if you don’t get that God isn’t out to “get you” and “condemn you” for those sins, but would so much rather clanse you and bring healing into your life – you won’t get life. You will live defensively, your cynicism will rule over you, and anxiety will so cause you to defend yourself, that you won’t see the people you are called to love – much less be able to love them.

Forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness.  Complete, cleansing, healing, redeeming, reconciling, restoring…

Forgiveness.

I need it, you need it, we need to hear that we are forgiven, that God will make all things work for good, that everything is okay.

Years ago, there would be lines of people at Lutheran Churches, at Catholic Churches, waiting for private confession at mourning benches in Methodist and Holiness churches, people seeking the freedom of knowing their sin was forgiven, that they were purged of all unrighteousness, of all unholiness.  That God kep His promises. That’s what happened at the dedication of the Temple, it’s what the Tabernacle celebrated, it’s the story of the upper room – both on the night before He was betrayed, and on the night He appeared, wounds in His hands and side.

it is a blessing we need….

So as Josemarie is quoted above – even if it hurts to confess your sin – rush to those who are set apart to help you with this – to proclaim on God’s behalf that you are forgiven.  Don’t let it rot your soul, your heart, your mind…. Rush, confess your sins – as James says in his epistle – to another… and hear that you are forgiven.

And know the depth of the love of God, is greater even than your sin……

God’s peace… for you were meant to live in it.

Forgiveness?

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 866-868). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

VIP Concert Passes, Surgical Nurses and Divine Appointments..

Discussion thought of the day…

Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. 6  Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone. Colossians 4:5-6 (TEV) 

You always come out beaten. Resolve, each time, to work for the salvation of a particular soul, or his sanctification, or his vocation to the apostolate. If you do so, I’ll be sure of your victory.  (1)

I usually don’t write blogs about my life…just about the lessons I learn
So it was a very busy last few days…..

Friday night was a incredible concert and meet and greet with the “piano guys”  (youtube them if you never have) .  A anniversary present for Kay, to see the musicians that have gotten her playing violin again.. (she needs to pick up guitar again – but violin is very much a blessing to our praise team)
Sunday was an awesome tieme at church – attendance above average – and I think the sermon and Bible Study were above average as well….(music is also awesome…in that it beings us so aware of god’s presence!  (you can read it – it should be a blog
Then a bbq with friends so old, they knew me when I was still naive enough to think I could change the world, because of my great knowledge of theology… ( I still hope to  set the change some of the world… because I know of God’s love and work..)
Then this morning, up way to early… off to the hospital to have a procedure.. (they didn’t call it surgery… for some reason) – to cut me open, and replace my implanted guidant defibrillator.   A great staff there, they ever laughed at the jokes and stories I told… before they gave me the happy juice…

So how does this all roll into a devotional thought….

It’s all about God’s appointments… the people he brings us into contact, the lives we affect without knowing it..

At the concert, it was the lady sitting at the table next to me, a stay at home mom (dad sitting opposite a teacher from the desert) .  Another piano guys massive fan, I gave her the signed VIP guest card that the piano guys signed at our special meet and greet.  We had talked about God and the challenges of kids with special needs before the concert.  But it was the tag that she will probably remember – and the strange guy wearing a priest collar who gave it to her.  The joy on her face was incredible… and I pray the seeds were planted deeply…

The second one that comes to mind is my RN and the aide that were assigned to me.  We had a lot of fun… and talked about ministry and nursing ( lots of commonality there) and the a great last moment conversation occurred – as we sat outside the chapel waiting for Kay to pull the car around.   We had a lot of fun… if surgery…. err a procedure… was to be considered fun.   I’ve never had people thank me for my time with them in the hospital… but both did.

All through the weekend were such times.  Times to “be human”  (if ministers are allowed to be) times to enjoy life, but also be aware of God’s presence. of seeing people respond to mentions of God, not from a point of fear or dismissing Him, but a point of curiosity. Times which bring me great joy…

And as I sat at home… I wonder how many of those times I miss… because I am deep in thought, or somewhat anxious, or distracted by the trauma I am watching people experience, and so I don’t treat people all the time the way Josemaria Escrova encourages above.

What if every time we interacted with people, we realized that they were drawn closer to Christ, because the Holy Spirit was at work.  Either Christ delivering them from sin and the anxiety of death…or helping them realize the Spirit’s work sanctifying them and setting them apart for His work, or encouraging tthat work – for all have the vocation of God’s priests (as in St. Peter’s priesthood of all believers, not priest/pastor) . no matter whether their “other vocation” is that of priest, or pastor, or father or mom, or secretary, or pro athlete, or president… each of the those vocations is also that of a priest of God…..

St Josemaria Escriva

St Josemaria Escriva (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

I encourage you, as often as you can, and 10 times more, remember that you walk with God – and His desire is to call all to Him… for that is why Christ died on the cross.

Have a blessed day… and thanks for the prayers!

Dt

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 563-565). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Words of Life

Discussion thought for the day:

At lunch yesterday, I was reading a biography of a priest.  He was serving  in Spain during the Civil War that tore apart the country prior to World War II, and as he and many others were escaping across the mountains, the biographer included this…
“The student from Catalonia kept a journal of his experiences on the trip. On November 28 he wrote, “Here the most moving event of the whole trip takes place: Holy Mass. On a rock and kneeling down, almost prostrate on the ground, a priest with us is saying Mass. He doesn’t say it like other priests in churches…. His clear and heartfelt words penetrate the soul. Never have I attended Mass like today’s.  “*

As a Lutheran pastor, such an impact is what I would desire – that no matter the location, a incredible cathedral, a simple chapel, a campground or on a retreat  (this has happened on a few retreats I have been on – where everyone just knew… it was time to drop everything else… and rearrange the day around communion).  It is not the location, by no means, but the miracle of God, dwelling in the midst of His people….

Such words as the student’s…most pastors and priests I know… would love to hear… because it means God is working through us…

To know that God could use, would use our words, much as this priest’s, much as St. Peter’s at Pentecost.  To bring life and hope, to re-create the scene in Ezekiel 37, where life was generated, breathed into being… That the people would realize, not the presence of the pastor/priest, but the presence of God reaching them through the words, through the sacrament…

It brings to mind the words of Peter, as Jesus was abandoned by so many… and Jesus asks if they would desert him as well…

6:68 ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, 69 and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.’
John 6:68-69 (NJB)

May our words, the words of Pastors and Priests in mass/service, and the words of our people so be heard… for they are not ours – but His – words of eternal life, words that are clear, and heartfelt, but that penetrate souls…

* de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-19). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume II, God and Daring (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 3453-3456). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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