1 Why do the nations gather together? Why do their people devise useless plots? 2 Kings take their stands. Rulers make plans together against the LORD and against his Messiah by saying, 3 “Let’s break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.” 4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord makes fun of them.
10 Now, you kings, act wisely. Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, or he will become angry and you will die on your way because his anger will burst into flames. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 2:1-4, 10-12 (GW)
The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore, is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—“I am the Lord, I change not.”
I am getting tired of politics in the church. It literally is sucking the life out of me.
I see a pastor, sharing memes that deride those who are younger than him, those who have little hope because of what they see going on in the world. I wonder if he considers the effects of the youth in his church, and the effect of such memes on them?
I see a parachurch organization, applauding those who blatantly disrespect our country’s president, disregarding scripture and our role as God’s people to be agents of reconciliation. When asked about it, I am mocked for believing what God desires, and what the Holy Spirit calls us to do is impossible.
It doesn’t matter, right or left, traditional or progressive, the hatred I am seeing manifest toward those who don’t agree on this issue, it sucks the life out of me. It brings me to despair, and wonder if the church has completely lost its way. Whether it has forgotten the God who could redeem and reconcile Paul, the God who could change and adulterous and murderous heart of a King, the God who could look out on those who were killing them, and ask the Father to forgive them..
Do we believe God still reigns? Or do we, like the people described in Psalm 2 simply want to toss God aside, and ignore the fact we are all part of His creation.
My mind tells me that the church no longer trusts God, and that is why such things happen
my heart lies broken.
My soul tries to wait, hoping beyond hope that God will keep His promise.
Weary just after breakfast, I come into my office, I see Spurgeon’s words first, and long to be the spiritual version of the sailor he describes, who tired form the storm, finds rest and relief as his feet land on solid ground.
I find that ground in the storm, in a God who can laugh at the wayward children who need to be reminded of His presence. Who need to be corrected, who need to be reminded that God is still God, that Jesus is still our Savior, and our Lord. That even now, in our brokenness in our frustration, in our anger at others and our lack of faith in God.
God is still desiring our embrace,
God is still wanting us to take refuge, to find our safe place within His love.
God is still here, willing to clean up the damage our lack of faith in Him, to heal the brokenness caused by of all the political crap we experience.
God hasn’t changed, He’s the same God who brought Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot together.. and sent them with others to bring His people into the world. They were far more polar opposite than any extreme we see in American politics today… and in Jesus, the found unity and the ability to serve people together.
May we have the faith, the dependence on God to see such happen in our days as well.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
A Pastor Parker Parable/Devotional Thought of the Day
6† The LORD said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved.” Isaiah 49:6 GNT
12 At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God’s chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God’s promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God. 13 But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God. 17† So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all—to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. 18 It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.
19 So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God. 20 You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets,f the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. 21 He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22 In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit Eph. 2:11-13,16-22 GNT
In the Year of our Lord 1985, a classic movie came out. It told the story of 5 high school kids, the janitor and their vice-principal. What was supposed to be a day of punishment ended up to one of the moments that would become life-changing, and something they, or those who watched the movie, would never forget.
The Breakfast Club, the Brain, the Jock, the Preppy/Glamour girl, the Bad Boy, and the nonconformist. Each in their own world, and yet each of them a goyim, an outsider. SOmeone viewed with as much disdain as we might view the refugee or illegal immigrant today.
Throughout the movie they would struggle with each other, they would argue, cry, laugh, and bond together. Despite the stereotypes, despite the angst, despite the suspicion, they would come to know each other, and what the Vice Principal meant for evil, God would use for good. You even have a great picture of the transformation God works in people, through people, as Ally Sheedy’s character is transformed. Not that the others weren’t transformed, given hope, and started on the journey of healing. But her transformation was more visible.
It could be a parable of the New and Old Testament Quotes above, a prophecy of the work and its fulfillment, as Christ links us to His suffering and death and we rise from that death, as one. No longer alien, no longer the outcast, all welcome in the presence of the Father.
This is something we need to continually learn in our lives. It is something we continually have to be aware of as we encounter people that seem different that us. THat in Christ, we are meant to be one people, and we can trust God more than give into the fears and stereotypes. We can welcome those looking for help, those in trouble, even those who sins were as blatant and evil as they can get. God can redeem them, God can transform them. That is why Christ came and died…to set us free, to transform us, not into rule following robots/clones, but into the people of God, as diverse as the parts of a body.
Lord, help us look past stereotypes, not just we have of others, but those we have of our own lives. Help us to know Your presence, and Your love for all whom You are calling to be Yours – even though they might not know it. AMEN!
This is the power of Christ at work in His people, even those who are on detention for their sins
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7 You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid. 8 I called to you, LORD; I begged for your help: 9 “What will you gain from my death? What profit from my going to the grave? Are dead people able to praise you? Can they proclaim your unfailing goodness? 10 Hear me, LORD, and be merciful! Help me, LORD!” 11 You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. 12 So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. LORD, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.
Psalm 30:6-12 (TEV)
In the movie Gandhi, the young Indian lawyer and a white clergyman are walking together on a boardwalk in South Africa, contrary to its laws at the time. Some brutish-looking young white men threaten to harm them, but the ringleader’s mother calls from a window and commands him to go about his business.
When the clergyman exclaims over their good luck, Gandhi comments, “I thought you were a man of God.” The clergyman replies, “I am, but I don’t believe he plans his day around me!”
A cute point, but beneath it lie beliefs that make it difficult to take seriously the possibility of divine guidance. One of those beliefs is that we are not important to God. But we were important enough for God to give his Son’s life for us and to choose to inhabit us as living temples. Obviously, then, we are important enough for God to guide us and speak to us whenever it’s appropriate.
There he was, in the village, doing things that boggled the mind of those who knew Him. Teaching in ways that were simple, yet profound. The reports of the miracles that He had done were overwhelming, there was too much evidence to deny that this man who grew up in their midst was a divinely empowered prophet, and perhaps more.
But they rejected Him, their unbelief robbing Him of the opportunity to do something, anything in their presence. The one who drove out demons, the Lord who healed so many, who raised people from the dead, was tuned out, turned away, unable to help the people He loved.
It is the same thing in David’s psalm, as David describes being safe in God’s presence, too terrified because he couldn’t find God, no matter how hard he looked. And the pastor walking with Gandhi, who failed to see God’s intervention, which even the lawyer/philosopher was able to discern.
This is far more common in the church that we think. We know so much about God, that we reject Him from being our God. We are familiar with Jesus, but we fail to be united to Him, we fail to interact with Him in a way that is, for lack of better word, intimate, We fail to have the communion with Him, we fail to depend on Him, and we think He is hidden from us.
He is not hidden, or if He is, He is hidden in plain sight.
So how do we end this rollercoaster ride that David describes? How do we grow in our discernment of God’s presence, of His love and mercy being poured out on us, as He promises it will be? How do we constantly stay aware of God, seeing Him as He reveals Himself to us?
warning: this answer may piss you off
You cannot. You are as human as David, or the pastor Gandhi encountered.
This is not something we can accomplish by the force of our will, just as we cannot live a life that is not impacted by our sin. Trying to do so will only result in feelings of guilt and shame, and even more lack of awareness.
I am not saying that we cannot grow in awareness, and more importantly, grow in our ability to trust in God when we can’t see Him. We can learn to search Him out, knowing where we can find Him, rather than just dwelling in the moment we lost track of Him.
This we can do, especially if we have friends around us, able to encourage us when we struggle. For that is part of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
But even more, we have to learn from the story of the prodigal, we have to trust that God wants us home, we have to know we will be welcomed home. God wants us to realize His presence in our lives, not just as an observer, but as an active participant, empowering us, encouraging us, correcting us, and yes, comforting us.
He’s promised to do all that and more, and in our weakness, we realize how great that promise and that strength is.
So relax, look around, and realize He is your God.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought off the day:
28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!” 29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.
Acts 5:28-31 (NLT2)
383 In governing, after considering the common good, one must
I have often heard those in ministry talk about the pressure to please others. It is one of the things that contribute to clergy and lay ministry burnout.
Sometimes, we get so tired of being there for others, of trying to meet their expectations, that we decide to only please and look after our own needs. with a similar attitude, I have heard pastors and others justify their own attitudes that precede and accompany such burnout. I am going to please no-one – just be faithful to the scriptures, using a passage like the one above from Acts. In reality, the attitude is not one of a shepherd, but one of a scribe, using the law to condemn, rather than an agent of reconciliation
Let me be blunt, most of the times I have heard, or even said such a thing, the idea of pleasing God was not on the mind of the one spewing it forth. They might have been in burnout, they may have been overwhelmed, or tired of feeling attacked. But we weren’t trying to please God…
We were trying to find some respite, perhaps a little peace, and in a perverse way, the pleasure of telling someone off. We want karma (…err… God’s wrath) to bite them in the … well you get the picture
If we were trying to please God, we would hear the rest of the passage and realize what pleases God.
People being transformed, people having their minds renewed, for this is what repentance is. His goal and greatest desire is to see people forgiven and to be drawn into a relationship with Him. A relationship based in love, not fear. That is God’s end-game, it is His desire, it is what pleases Him.
One more thought, if we are patient and strong enough in our faith to strive for their reconciliation, if we depend on God for the words, the wisdom, the heart to see their redemption through, then we will have provided them with what will please them more than anything else we could ever do.
So work to please everyone, working not for the false pleasure of the world, but the real pleasure that is the result of God and His people, rejoicing together! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1747-1750). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13 When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. 14 In just the same way yourq Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost. Matthew 18:12-14
312 You should not want to make the world into a cloister, because this would be a disorder. But don’t convert the Church into some earthly faction either, because that would be tantamount to treason.
One of the great challenges facing the church today is sin, not its existence, but how we are to deal with it, and the damage it causes.
St Josemaria points out the two different dangers in our response to sin.
The first is when the church tries to isolate itself from the world, for instance, when we create all our own options so our people don’t have to mix with the world. Our own schools, our own fraternal clubs, our own coffee shops, and even stores and social media. When we try to create a community that isolates our people from the world, creating a victual cloister. You see this as well in the attitude that the church is here to minister to its own, and those like them.
The second seems like the opposite, when the church, trying to “reach” people and bring them into the church, allow sin to convert them. We then bring into question what God really meant by sin, and was it only in that context, or since God will forgive all sin, why do we bother with telling people to stop, and just focus on healing the symptoms, trying to teach them to live a symptom free life, without getting at the cause itself, sin.
These two approaches aren’t really that different. They both shy away from dealing with sin. They try to avoid the appearance of sin, not by avoiding it or finding ways to absolve it, but rather just bury it, or hide from it, or try to justify it, because if it isn’t sin, we don’t have to confront it.
And in both cases, we betray the sinner, by denying them the grace they need, by blocking them from the healing and the restoration they need.
Dealing with sin and the brokenness it causes is brutal. Whether it is our own sin, the sin we have committed; or the sin people commit against us, or the sin we witness and are entrusted to help bring reconciliation to God to those who commit the sin.
And we have too often, afraid of being contaminated, or being labeled as accessories, as Jesus was mocked and berated for hanging out with sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes of his day.
It is time for the church to start going out after the sinners, to bring them to the place where they can find healing, and hope, and be restored. It won’t be easy, we will have ot deal with both anger, and even being sickened by the sin and the damage it has caused.
The church must commit to helping people heal from this brokenness. We can’t leave people out in the darkness anymore. We have to do this cautiously as Jude warns, and aware of our own inability to deal with sin, depending on the mercy of Jesus. That is the key to dealing with sin, to be so aware of Jesus presence, of His intimate role in our lives, in the place He dwells in our heart, soul, and mind.
This is our vocation, the true role of the church in this world, to go after the one, the broken. Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, strengthen our relationship with You, through Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws us close to you. Give us the courage to honestly address sin, our own, and the sin of the world, turning to You to be healed, to be absolved, to be made complete. We ask this in Jesus name, depending on Your love, revealed to us at the cross. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1484-1486). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
51 He said, “God has made me forget all my sufferings and all my father’s family”; so he named his first son Manasseh. 52 He also said, “God has given me children in the land of my trouble”; so he named his second son Ephraim. Gen 41:51-52 TEV
I cannot count the times that I have heard, “I will forgive them, but I will never forget.” And I know the difficulty, as we deal with the pain of being betrayed, the pain of being the victim of sin.
But how do we turn our backs on the pain? How do we risk being so brutally betrayed again? And how can we stand with the victims, and yet be obedient to God’s call to work for the reconciliation of all to Jesus? How can we have hope as well, when we struggle to obey, “forgive us our sins, and we forgive the sins of others.”
I don’t know about you, but this isn’t just a matter of teaching others. It is a matter of my own ability to forgive. And I deal with the guilt of it, how can I encourage people to turn to God for forgiveness, when I can’t forgive them?
How I long for the blessed peace that Joseph must have felt as he encountered his brothers. The same brothers that so made his life miserable growing up, that eventually threatened to kill him, but instead simply sold him into slavery. The brothers he could exact revenge upon, without hesitation.
And he chose to love instead, able to because of God’s making Joseph forget because God giving him a new family in the place where the only a life of struggle had been known.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
It is God’s work that heals us, that removes the burden of resentment, that restores us from the brokenness that shatters us beyond repair. It is the loving mercy of God (cHesed) that enabled this to happen in the life of Joseph.
This is what we need, what we need to hope for and expect from God. It is the miracle we need to depend upon Him for, as the Holy Spirit comforts us, not only in regards to our being betrayed but in the moments we realize we betrayed someone else.
This is what grace is…
Heavenly Father, bless us as you blessed Joseph, as you made him forget, and enabled him to love and provide for those who betrayed him, knowing it was all Your work and ability to make it so. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: y God sent z His •One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation e for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 1 John 4:9-11 HCSB
197 Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.
A few decades ago, a preacher stood up and had a dream, a very valid dream where racism didn’t exist, where quotas and systems didn’t have a place, because diversity was natural, and celebrated. A great dream.
My dream is somewhat different, somewhat more specific. Yet with the same thought, a reconciliation so pure that we don’t remember the damage. It has been a growing desire, this dream of mine, you might even call it a prayer. (though my mind would consider winning the lottery more likely….I would rather this dream come true over winning the lottery.)
it takes place in a small quiet sanctuary, without the reporters, without the news commentators, and without FB and Twitter going crazy. Only three people would know the meeting ever took place. A pastor/priest, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford. And of course, the only One who could make this happen.
As they gather together, the love of God would cause the positioning to drop away, the perceptions and the individual realities would be swept away, and the sin, whatever sin there is, would be covered. Not covered up, but covered by the blood of Christ.
Healing would happen, as they are absolved by the Authority who can wash away sin. And with the sin, the anger, the hurt, the resentment begins to find healing
Because God loves them both, He ministers through the pastor/priests words to them both. And the love of God transforms them both. So much so that they both realize all the sin in the room is so washed away, it doesn’t even come to mind anymore.
All there is is love. The love of God poured out on them, reflected from them to each other.
The world doesn’t have to know about it, just the two, and the priest/pastor sworn to secrecy.
Yet, the love that can unify those broken has its effect, and the world, ignorant of the scene, begins to change, as the most powerful thing in the world takes a hold of people, and reconciles them, even as it will draw others to reconcile.
This is my dream, and more it is my prayer. That the ministry of reconciliation become the dominant ministry once again, as we realize that love is not a human emotion, but the power of God at work in us.
Lord, this day, help us to see the power of your love at work in us, as we find ourselves being reconciled to those we were once divided from… AMEN!
The question of the day.
If you knew reconciliation and healing was possible for the most broken relationship you have, what would stop you from seeking it?
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1031-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12 HCSB
28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11
There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.
It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world. And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.
A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love. And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.
Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.
A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee. I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape. I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him. In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.
Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind. And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims. No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.
Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.
And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues. And my heart tears for them as well.
And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism. All three warn us, they even command us not to judge. They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.
But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.
Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…
And rejoice in the presence in your life. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT2)
24 We believe and confess that these two doctrines must be urged constantly and diligently in the church of God until the end of the world, but with the due distinction, so that in the ministry of the New Testament the proclamation of the law and its threats will terrify the hearts of the unrepentant and bring them to a knowledge of their sin and to repentance, but not in such a way that they become despondent and despair therein. Rather, since “the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24), and hence points and leads not away from but toward the Christ who is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4), 25 the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Christ will once more comfort and strengthen them with the assurance that if they believe the Gospel God forgives them all their sins through Christ, accepts them for his sake as God’s children, and out of pure grace, without any merit of their own, justifies and saves them.
The method of preaching, no matter which tradition, can be simplified as telling people why they need Jesus, and how Jesus meets that need, and our lives change as we walk with Him.
In the Lutheran tradition, the method of communicating that is called preaching “Law and Gospel. It has been a focus and method of our preaching since Martin Luther was still an Augustinian monk. And the first president of the Lutheran Church gave a series of lectures which were turned into a book titled, “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel”. While this post will use the word “preaching” a lot, this rule is true for any conversation, whether from a pulpit or altar or over a pumpkin-laden coffee or a nice ale. Preaching is not just a formal sermon or homily, it is any time we take a moment to help people realize their need for God and His response to their need.
Preaching law and gospel is a method, and it is far more than just preaching the law, checking off a box, then preaching the gospel and checking off the second box. Unfortunately, we can often get in that mindset, settling for that simplistic understanding of the method.
Even worse, we often preach against sin with a bias. Some sins may be more repugnant to a pastor, or to an individual, and they may try to eradicate that particular sin with more force. We might even come across as trying to purify the church from sinners who have committed that particular sin, driving those who are guilty of it into despair, into hopelessness, further into the guilt and shame which already haunts them. ANd some would applaud this, saying we really crucified that sin, that we nailed it to the cross. They might see the role of the preacher, or the evangelist as the drill instructor, yelling at his recruits, trying to help them save their lives.
But that denies the purpose of preaching and in fact is contrary to the concept of preaching law and gospel. Reading the quote from the Formula of Concord above, preaching the law so that people fall become despondent and despair, is not appropriate. For doing so drives them away from where they could find hope, and the goal of preaching the law is such that realizing their brokenness, we can bring them to Jesus, we can help them see the cross and its blessed meaning in their lives.
What a challenge, to help them see their brokenness, to help them see their need for Jesus, rather than just making them feel guilty and ashamed! Helping them to seek a source for the transformation, a source that is provided by the Spirit, as He draws them to Jesus, and then in Christ to the Father.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he describes the purpose of preaching, the purpose of evangelism, which is far more than the method of preaching law and gospel. The purpose is to reconcile people to God. To help them realize that Jesus was the offering for the sin they are haunted by, that causes them to feel so ashamed, so full of guilt.
Proper preaching acknowledges its mission, to reconcile people to Father, by drawing them back to Jesus. The method can be the preaching of Law and Gospel, holding them in tension, but that tension is for the purpose of becoming the people of God, the people who know His mercy and feel compelled to explore the dimensions of His love for them.
And again, preaching is not just the formal presentation of a sermon, it is as we comfort those who are anxious, as we cry with those who weep, as we listen ot those burdened, helping them see God take care of their burdens.
This is our mission, it is our apostolate, why we are sent where we walk in this world, as we walk with the God who pours out His love and mercy on us, and through us. So remember this purpose as you are with family and friends, and even those who antagonize you. Remember these words as you sit in your study, crafting your messages, listing to the Holy Spirit. And rejoice, for you know GOD is with you!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 562–563). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. (Formula of Concordia: Solid Declaration: V. Law and Gospel
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life o for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another. John 15:11-17 HCSB
It is the urgent wish of this Holy Council that the measures undertaken by the sons of the Catholic Church should develop in conjunction with those of our separated brethren so that no obstacle be put in the ways of divine Providence and no preconceived judgments impair the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.
During the early years of the Reformation Luther and others proposed again and again that a general council of the church be convened to discuss and arbitrate the questions of doctrine and practice that were in controversy…..
It is a hard thing tl o love people you do not know.
It is a harder thing to love those you think you know, and whom you think wish you ill, but whom you do not really know.
This doesn’t matter whether we are talking about large groups (i.e. the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Lutherans looking at each other) or whether we are talking about neighbors or “those” people.
if we are honest, each of us has people we think we understand, and whom we think we need to protect ourselves from, for we know they mean us evil.
Even so, we are called to love them, really love them. Even to the point of death…
Surely then, if that is the length we are to go, we could try to get rid of the preconceived judgments that Vatican II warns us of, trying to put no obstacle in the way of divine providence.
We know, as St. John’s gospel pointed out, the will, the desire of God to see us one. Surely indeed we could pray for that, and learn to love each other so that it would be possible? FOr is this not the fruit of Christ being at work in our lives?
In the title, I asked whether the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960’s meant these words in blue above. If we ask that question, it has to be without the preconceived assumption that they do not. (Luther’s idea of best construction) We have to rely on God to move in that way, for it is our faith in God that
I believe many of the leaders did, they saw the need for the future. It has taken a generation for that to trickle down to the parish level, for the people of the church to know this was even possibly a desire. And I think, from the priests I know, that it will become more and more a desire for the church. (The last three popes made it an issue, and I think Francis will continue that!)
Do they all? It will take time, and teaching, by both example and instruction. But I believe it will grow.
Now the question becomes, can we mean it? Can we, like Luther, seek our, not compromise but community?
And if I can ask that of these huge groups… can I ask it of me and that person?
The answer if found in the same place. In the love of God, in know His will, and the providence He supplies to His people. For as Vatican II noted,
The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit.
So let us pray to the Lord of mercy. Amen!!
Catholic Church. “Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.