Blog Archives

Whatever happened to purity?

Discussion Thought fo the Day:

2  But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. 3  All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
1 John 3:2-3 (MSG)

2  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV)

413      Each person in his own situation should lead a pure life, courageously lived. We have to learn to say No for the sake of that great Love, Love with a capital letter.

We hear the word used in church, or maybe we read it in scripture, We bypass it quickly, either not thinking about it or dismissing it as a foreign concept.

Pressed on the issue, we will probably define purity in a way that appeases our nature. We will dismiss it as impossible, we will justify our impurity by indicating such purity doesn’t save us, that the law of Moses which defined purity isn’t binding on us any longer.  We will hide our desire for impurity behind theology, behind reason, behind whatever we think will cover it up.  And we will accuse those who encourage/demand purity it of being pietistic and hypocritical.  ( This is not to say that some who encourage and demand purity are pietistic and hypocritical, but we apply the mocking labels far too liberally!)

So let’s talk about it. is there a sense of purity that is neither hypocritical, but that we should strive to be?  Is it possible to be concerned with our own state without submitting to a legalistic system of demands?

Of course! It is possible!

The problem is that our idea of purity is too narrow, it is focused on behaviors, what we do or do not do, and maybe what we say or don’t say, rather than on who we are.

Purity in Greek is related to the idea of holiness, of being set apart to a relationship with God. It is about who we are in God’s sight, in His eyes.  It means living a life that is devoted to Him, that we strive to please the Lord who loves us, who is compassionate toward us, that is merciful.

Which means we strive to live life as He would desire.  That when we fail and think, say or do things that are not pure, we immediately we turn to Him and let Him cleanse us once again. For God purifies us, He refines us.  Purity is about being grieved by our sin enough that we desire that he care for us, about hearing His voice comforting us with the words of forgiveness, and encouraging us not to sin anymore.

Is this easy?  No, it is much harder to seek forgiveness than it is to enjoy for a moment the sin.  But it is needed.

This is what life really is, living in His presence, not anxious or afraid, but full of joy.  It is about dwelling in peace, assured that our purity isn’t fake – because He is the one who is our model, and who makes us pure and holy.

Let’s not waste His work, let’s not run or hide from it,, but rejoice as His glistening purity becomes ours, as we dwell in Him.

AMEN1

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1597-1598). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The One Exception to Judge Not… there is someone needing judgment.

484816_10151905916665878_807738773_n

Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:
27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (TEV)

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” says the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke, 6:37). “No,” says the holy apostle, “judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (2 Cor. 4:5). Oh, how displeasing are rash judgments to God! The judgments of the children of men are rash, because they are not the judges of one another, and therefore usurp to themselves the office of our Lord. They are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention of the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us. They are not only rash, but also impertinent, because everyone has enough to do to judge himself, without taking upon him to judge his neighbour. 

As I read the words in blue this morning, I knew I had to write about them.  

I didn’t want to, because the moment I read them, I start judging all the people around me who are not just judging others but condemning them. The spirits of division, of bitterness, of hatred aren’t just seeping into their lives, we are drowning in the flood of them.

We aren’t foolish enough to claim we are more righteous than the world, but we are more than willing to bash people, Trump, Clinton, the Kardashians, people of other religions, heck some even bash the New England Patriots and their loyal fans.  And the bashing is always judgmental, always condemning, always done in a way that raises anxiety

It is a sickness, one which depresses and isolates.  Personally, I long for the days when I was an introvert and could shut out the world. Even as I write this, I see it for what it really is, a form of judgment, a temptation to isolate myself from the evil, without recognizing that I can’t escape from it, for in trying to do so…. I embody what I am trying to flee.

It was the last line from St. Francis de Sales that helped me this morning, the line about everyone having enough to do to judge themselves.

You might think it odd I found this to be good news, the purest of gospel.  For judging myself does bring the gospel into my life, erasing the need to judge others. For there, when I realize my frailty, when I recognize my sin, my instinct is to cry out for grace, to find sanctuary from the evil that not only threatens me externally but seems to well up internally.

In examining myself, I find the need to find a safe place, a place where judgment is cast aside, where burdens are lifted, where hope is revived and finds stimulation.  Where I find a love beyond measure, seen in a grace where God forgives my desire to judge others, and the times where I do so. Examining myself drives me to absolution, and to the altar where God reminds me of His love by giving me His body and blood to eat and drink, where I get to fellowship with Him!

There, I find not just the peace I need eternally, but I find others receiving it as well.  I find it offered to those I struggle with, those I want to judge, those I want to condemn.  And even if they aren’t there as my parish communes, they might be on their own, and they are to be welcomed at all places. 

Not only am I reminded of God’s grace forgiving me, drawing me to Him, into Christ, but I also am reminded that forgiveness is for all….

And for the moment, peace invades my darkness, shattering it, revealing a wholeness, completeness, that will be mine when we are found before Hi throne.

This is life in Christ, this is why I try to remain devout, depending on Him.  For there I find the answer to my cry,, not for judgment, but for mercy.  

For all of us.

Judge not… except yourself, so you may run to Him and find peace.

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Do We Choose and Pursue the Unprofitable?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought fo the Day:

38 And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  TEV Mark 14:38

23  “We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful. 24  None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interests of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (TEV)

Games, balls, feasts, dress, theatres, are not evil things in their nature, but indifferent, and may be used both well and ill; yet, notwithstanding, these things are dangerous, and to have an affection for them is yet more dangerous. I say then, Philothea, that although it may be lawful to play, to dance, to advice yourself, to be present at moral dramas, and at banquets; yet to be over fond of such things is contrary to devotion, and very offensive and dangerous. It is no sin to do such things, but it is a sin to pursue them to extremes. It is a pity to sow in the garden of our heart such vain and foolish affections, which take up the room of virtuous impressions, and hinder the sap of our souls from nourishing good inclinations.

When my devotional readings harmoniously scream the same message and grab my attention, I tend to want to hide, accosted by a law which seeks to conform us to the image of Christ.

It’s too random to be random, one might say. 

As I did my reading this morning, this happened.  De Sales’s comments struck a chord, thought I would replace the events with other things. Hobbies, Television, “computer” games, golf, even social media, all these things can be neutral, and even positive.  Moments to relax, times to share with friends (Pokemon hunting with 4 or 5 is kinda fun, and other conversations happen ) theses are all beneficial.  We could add to that even our religious traditions, music, cultural identity, etc.  We in the USA talk about the “pursuit of happiness”, which, divorced of the joy of God’s presence, becomes a demanding idol to pursue.

Any of these can dominate our lives (and some are programmed to!) as they become things we grow in affection for, as we grow fond of, and those feeling turn to desire, desire which enslaves us. Which is when what is permissible become unprofitable, when our desire for these things override our desire to love God, and love our neighbor.

Which sounds all too easy. 

For we are like St. Peter, so desiring to follow Christ in the spirit, yet so weak.  Affections for things distract us, anxieties cause us to turn away. We deny Christ, we allow our time with Him, and our time working in his kingdom to be minimized.  Am I one of His?  Hmmm, I will be after I do this.  I’ll get back to you after I….

I am not talking about asceticism here, that too has its ability to become an affection, it too can become a form of pietism, and looking after out own self-interest.  (think about the idea that those who fast should not show their hunger – but how do you do that without your own pride taking control?)

I am talking about realizing the presence of God, in our lives.  I am talking about depending on Him, asking the Spirit to mold us as He would. To see others needs before our own, because God puts us in the place we are, not for our benefit, but that they would be reconciled to Him, that they would be cared for, that they would realize they are loved.

The only way to see these things put in their proper place, is to find Christ’s love so incredible, that it draws our attention. To become so enamored, so wanting to know His love, that all else fades, and is dropped asidee.

This isn’t easy…. for it means shedding those things we are overly attracted to…. to allow God to break their hold on us.

Lord have mercy on us!  Help us to have no greater desire that to know your presence, and then to minister at Your side to those you bring into our life.  AMEN! 

 

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

 

A Very Needed Lesson in Church Leadership..

Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  After Jesus had washed their feet, he put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table. “Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked. 13  “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. 14  I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. 15  I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you. 16  I am telling you the truth: no slaves are greater than their master, and no messengers are greater than the one who sent them. 17  Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice!   John 13:12-17 (TEV)

12  Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” 13  Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14  so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” 15  Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” 16  “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17  “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18  But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20  These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
Matthew 15:12-20 (NLT)

Today how can anyone deny the fact that some men of the church are in a state of moral ruin?  The careerism and the temptation to worldliness that the successor of which Peter speaks so often are very real evils.   Some people imagine that they are products of the pope’s imagination.  Alas , clerical narcissism is not just a literary theme. The sickness can be deep-seated.  
In order to turn the tide, we must first reform our interior life. The church depends on the purity of our souls.”  (1)

The quote in blue comes from a book, basically an enhanced interview with a Roman Catholic Cardinal from Africa.  His story is a remarkable blend of suffering and hope, of wisdom born from times of real persecution, and a desire to see Christ.  This is the story of a man who came from a village in the middle of nowhere, became a priest and bishop in a place where his predecessors were jailed and murdered.  His dependence on God was tried in a way we can’t quite imagine, here safe and comfortable in the USA.

His critique of leadership in his church is accurate, and perhaps even more accurate in the Protestant church, and in my comparatively little corner of the church universal known as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  His presentation of where hope is found?  It is also I believe accurate.

If the church is spoken of as being immoral, most would assume we are talking about either sexual immorality or fiscal impropriety. I am not naive enough to deny that exists, but the Cardinal speaks of something just as devastating.  A sense of careerism, and a sense of clerical narcissism pervades the church today.

We see the results in the church, as parishes are closing, and others in steep decline.  Where men are not entering programs that lead to ordination. Some will blame these things on finances, others on the decline of births among sections of the population. Some will say the decline is because they don’t appear to have the right sense of mission, or the appearance of the church, how it looks and sounds is not up to an ideal.

This is a sickness, and it is not imaginary.  These attempts to fix it are attempts to clean up the appearance, to clean up the exterior, while the defiled nature is left intact. That is why a pastor or priest can easily fall into the sin of careerism, can quickly abandon the basin and towel and find the office and title, far away from the parish so appealing.  (though we might on occasion return to give somone else a break)

So where is the hope?  Cardinal Sarah pointed out these challenges given St Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, and their focus on the interior life. To realize that the church does depend on the purity of souls.  Not pure by their own work, but by a interior life that is simply depending on Christ Jesus.

There in meditating on His work as we are united to Him in Baptism,; it begins the cleaning fo the inside.  There as we kneel and are given the body and blood in the Eucharist, we find ourselves being cleansed still.  There as we deal with our brokenness and confess it, as we hear God absolving us, we find that the old nature has been nailed to the cross.  That the old Adam was drowned in those baptismal waters, that we are free and able to die to self, to give our bodies over as living sacrifices.

This is where the church finds it hope.  Not in men who are pure by the sweat of their own brow, but by men who are broken, yet, who find themselves at the cross. Who are drawn to Jesus who is lifted up, and find themselves being healed, who realize that healing is needed by those around them.  The purity found in walking with Christ, in meditating on that which He has promised and accomplished.

The interior life is not something of our own making or sustained by our internal strength.  It is the work of poiema found in Eph. 210, the work of art created in our lives by Christ. That is where the church finds its hope, for in shepherds who are so broken, who are the chief of sinners, if in them we see God at work, then the church has hope. As in their own healing they begin to wash others feet, as in their healing they bring healing to others the hope is magnified.  The church then hears hope, It comes to know and share that hope with those who are around them.

Our church needs to be defibrillated, but that can only happen as hearts stone hearts are broken and removed, and hearts of flesh, filled with the Holy Sprit as God promised He would.

It is knowing the promise of God, the love and mercy we find as Christ is revealed, and depending on it, that we will find the hope for the church.  May its shepherds learn to cry out what they teach others to.cry out.  LORD HAVE MERCY!

(1)  God or Nothing   Robert Cardinal Sarah, Ignatius Press 2015  pg.100

Why Are We Satisfied With GIGO? (garbage in – garbage out)

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7  But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. 8  Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9  and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:7-11 (CEV)

8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

65         Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realised that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning. (1)

In the movie “Footloose”, there is a characterization of Christianity, or at least Christianity that used to be.

A Pharisaical legislative, in your face, take names Christianity where those that danced, or drank, or went to movies rated “PG” or worse were held up and scorned.  Where the rules of behavior were set in stone, and by golly, if you weren’t going to obey those rules, you were going to be tossed out.  If you questioned the rules, you were considered a rebel and someone to be watched.

A generation later, and perhaps we’ve gone the other way, yet are still “legislating” what is right and wrong.  Or more accurately, we are simply legislating everything as right, and banishing any thought of the idea of something being “wrong”.

The Pendulum has reached the other side of the swing,  This time, it has done what it rarely does – it has taken the church with it, gotten the church’s okay for what is vulgar, profane, sinful.  I look at my fb page and what I and others post, and am shocked.  Even if permissible, the things we post aren’t beneficial, (didn’t Paul say something about that?)

As one whose vocation, whose career deals with helping people in their brokenness, I see both these extremes as wrong. I have dealt, and continue to deal, with those damaged by these forms of legalism. The damage is horrendous, the pains are real, the broken families, broken marriages, broken friendships, broken people just mount up,

The ways that would excuse and/or justify any behavior, and the kind that would force behavior modification.

That’s not how it works in scripture, for like the old computer rule, these tactics focus on negative behavior – and even taking them in leads to sin.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Both ways do this – one by approving it, the other by making it tempting and looking good, in the very way we forbid it.

Holiness is something else though.  It is abandoning all of these behaviors, not because we are forced too, but because we realize their value compared to the value of knowing Jesus, to knowing the love of God, to knowing His comfort and peace.

Paul’s idea of Phil. 4 – about concentrating on the “good stuff” isn’t law – it is 100% gospel, when you hear it with chapter 3 still fresh in your mind.   Because those things he says to focus on are found in the presence of God. They are God’s nature. They lead us to adore Him, to want to be like Him, and in Him finding the strength to that which is positive. The more we see this, the less desirous the life of the prodigal will be, the more we realize the grip of sin was broken at the cross.  There is something about that cross, about the crucifixes and crosses we have, that remind us of His love, of His devotion, of that which is unlike anything else we can now.

Will we see God’s glory for what it is? Will we walk with the Lord?  Will we realize the garbage that we feed on daily for what it is, and leave it behind to know the love of God?

Lord have mercy on us, and help us to desire you in our lives, and therefore find the holiness that is found in your peace.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Struggle of Holiness

Devotional; Discussion thought for today.

” Sanctity does not consist in great concerns. It consists in struggling to ensure that the flame of your supernatural life is never allowed to go out; it consists in letting yourself be burned down to the last shred, serving God in the lowest place… or in the highest: wherever the Lord may call you.     Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 441-444). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tomorrow I preach on the topic of “Spiritual Warfare”, not a favorite topic at all, because I think I see so much misunderstanding of it.

The first reaction when it is mention is “gung ho!”  Let’s go attack the hordes that would tear down and destroy the church!  Let’s go to war with sin and sinners and if God is with us, we shall surely wipe them out!  ( Depending on the time period, this is either burning them at the stake or forcing them to submit and tap out because of our superior logic and strength! )The church militant, misapplied!  The other reaction is the one that heeds “discretion is the better part of valor” and high-tales at speeds reminiscent of of the USS Enterprise at the sight of Evil, or an encounter with the demonic.  (btw – I highly recommend the latter if you resonate with the first – check out the sons of Sceva!)

But the answer, seriously is found in the quote above.  Sanctity, Holiness, the struggle, the battle to cling to that which kindled our lives and set us ablaze.  Ablaze to the point where our lives become living sacrifices, not on the battlefront, but in serving others.  I love how Fr. Escriva talks of God burning us down to the last shred – and in places of great humility or honor – but to the last shred in either place.  Being willing to follow God where ever He leads – no matter the personal cost.   As I’ve mentioned before – holiness isn’t an attitude – it isn’t some smug feeling that I am purer than those others. It is gratitude that despite my impurities, God has called and cleansed me and given me a vocation – several vocations, where He has put me – not to glorify myself – but to reflect His love to a broken world.  With that gratitude comes a sense of joy and fulfillment that only comes when we walk with Jesus throughout out lives.  For it is God, the Holy Spirit – that continues to kindle and stoke our fires – that bring people before us, who need, desperately need to know the love and healing that comes from being in Christ.

The struggle of holiness of being sanctified isn’t about preservation, or about becoming pure and devout.  It just isn’t.  Those are side effects of being in the glory of God, sharing a life of ministry in vocations that God has called us to, and accompanies us on the journey, as we our hearts burn, as He reveals His love and mercy poured out on us.

So hear His voice, walk with Him in His glory, as He loves, guides, purifies you… His children!

AMEN

%d bloggers like this: