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Why am I stuck with doing this?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

10 Moses heard all the people complaining as they stood around in groups at the entrances of their tents. He was distressed because the LORD had become angry with them, 11 and he said to the LORD, “Why have you treated me so badly? Why are you displeased with me? Why have you given me the responsibility for all these people? 12 I didn’t create them or bring them to birth! Why should you ask me to act like a nurse and carry them in my arms like babies all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Numbers 11:10-12 GNT

479         “Pray for me,” I said as I always do. And he answered in amazement: “But is something the matter?” I had to explain that something is the matter or happens to us all the time; and I added that when prayer is lacking, “more and more weighty things are the matter.”

It’s the thought of the mom as she picks up after her children or her husband. It’s the thought of the manager after he sends his workers home for the day, It’s in the mind of the secretary who has to deal with unreasonable people, guarding her boss from them. It’s the thought of the nurse, who has to care and clean up patients, who cannot care for themselves. it’s the thought of the pastor, burnt out after the holidays and yet still having to meet the needs of people in crisis. The denominational officer, trying to figure out why another church is struggling.

And we cry out to God, why have YOU stuck us here?

Why did you give these people into my care?

Why can’t these people be “normal”, why are they so needy, so unaware, so irresponsible, and why do I have ot work them, clean them up, get them back healthy, and teach them to play well with others?

If St Josemaria is right. we are going to deal with those people all our lives. There is always something broken, or some relationship that is breaking. There is always another mess to clean up, another person or church in trauma, another friend caught up in sin.

So how do we survive? How can we keep our strength

Fellowship with God, deep, intimate fellowship, and sharing that with others, so we develop a burden to pray for each other, to bring the other before the throne of God, knowing that is where they will find the peace, the rest, the healing they need.

And that includes those people we have to serve, whether those in ministry with us or those we serve.

And it is where we need to be ourselves. Because life is like a boxing match, and sometimes it seems like the bell will never ring, ending the round.

So please pray for me… and let me know what I can pray for you!

may you know you dwell in His peace!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2100-2103). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who is Responsible for this Work?

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:
26  This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT2)

1         There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.

“Responsibility is something to be avoided.  Evade it at all costs!”

It seems more and more this is the mission statement of the church.  Not just in terms of man-made trauma, as people scatter, trying to avoid the blame game like kids playing tag.  But in regards to the work of the church as well.

And we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline!

We all know the great commission, we know it is the responsibility of the church to disciple those who are saved.  Yet we think its the pastor/priests responsibility.  Or we think the pastors/priests should train those people up to do it, but no one will volunteer.  Everyone avoiding responsibility, everyone pointing to someone else.

So the work goes undone, and we all shake our hands and wonder why…

How do we create in the church the attitude we see in Paul, who realizes this wonderful thought, Christ in you, which gives you the assurance of sharing in His glory eternally.

That people would know their share of this glory, that they would be free of the cruse of sin and enabled to do so, this was Paul’s struggle in life, one he threw himself into with all abandon, this was his reason for being here.

A reason that we, as the priesthood of all believers, have as well.  To tell others about Christ, warning them and teaching them, that we may present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Jesus!

So it is time to wake up church, to realize this love that Christ has for us, that welcomes us, cleansed sinners, broken souls who are finding healing in Christ Jesus, and helping others who need to heal. We have to realize that this isn’t an obligation or a task… it is the glorious blessing God gives us, to see others made new!

Whether we help them teaching Sunday school, or praying for someone on the street corner, or offering them a cup of cold water, or simply inviting them to comse see Jesus love of them revealed.

And at the end of the day, may we each look back in awe at what Christ has done in our communities, through and with us!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Church’s Obligation to Welcome the Stranger in Need

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, have mercy on us!

 

 

 

 

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

An Odd Responsibility: A Lenten Sermon on Ephesians 5

church at communion 2An Odd Responsibility

Ephesians 5:8-14

I.H.S.

May you enjoy the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that joy, may He shine through you to a broken world!

 An Odd Responsibility

Of all the things scripture tells us to do, the one we heard in the first reading today may be the oddest.

I mean we are encouraged to love God, to love our neighbor, to love even our enemy.  We are told to honor our parents, be faithful to our wives and husbands, to care for our children. We are told to no gossip, and be content rather than being jealous of what others are blessed with by God.

None of these are easy, but then we hear this one today, and they seem.. better defined?

Here it is again,

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord”

Across all of the Bible translations in English that I have, two of them use acceptable, and one uses “what God wants of you”.  The rest use the word please, or pleasing.  Knowing the Greek word behind it doesn’t help that much – it means good pleasure – or causing or creating peace.

So we are responsible for… making God’s life good?

That seems a bit odd.

And more than a little difficult!  How are we supposed to figure this out?  Even more concurring,, how can we accomplish it?

I mean if God can’t find peace or be pleased, how are we to see that happen?

The Darkness that consumes and burdens

I mean, at least for me, I feel that life is often just a longer edition of that feeling when you are asleep and someone comes in and turns on the 250 watt light in your bedroom in order to wake you up.

You know, the disorientation, the inability to really see clearly, the pain of looking at everything in harsh, painful more powerful than the sun – light?

Spiritually the world seems that dark at times, as people stumble around, not sure of what is right, but absolutely convinced of what is not good.  Sometimes we even justify staying in the dark, because if we saw what was truly going on, the shock and horror would be even more overwhelming.

If the darkness hides the world’s evil deeds and intentions, it can also do the same thing for us, hiding the thoughts, words, and deeds that we are personally ashamed of, the failures that haunt us, that cause us shame.  Yet the spiritual darkness gives us the illusion that no one sees those things, no one else knows them, even God.

The darkness may seem comforting, it may seem safe, but spiritual darkness and ignorance has severe problems, Guilt, shame, loneliness, despair, and the pervasive darkness which causes us to live without hope, without any healing of our soul, or the relationships that break.

The work of the light

 So into this darkness that oppresses more than it relieves, that hides from the world but not our conscience, comes the glory of Christ.

it takes us a while to get used to it.  At first, we might think that the light is the spotlight used to interrogate us, like the third-degree interrogations in old war and spy movies.  For it does reveal the dark shameful things, the thoughts and words and deeds of the past that haunt us.

We need to understand that rather than being an interrogation tool, this is the light by which God examines us, to cut away that which isn’t of us, the sin and unrighteousness, the shame and the grief, the pain and resentment, and the light which strengthens and allows our souls to heal.

It takes a while to get used to, to learn to welcome, but as Paul promises,

“This light within you produces only what is good, and right, and true.”


This light, this glory of God so shows things for what they are that we let God remove them from our lives.

Which is why we can live without them, though it may take a while to realize that, as we wander around, trying to get used to walking in the light, as those people who are the people of light.

This is what grace is, this is why we are here, to help each other realize we aren’t alone in this world, that we can live lives where forgiveness is more powerful than brokenness, where reconciliation is always possible, and is desired by God. That not only can we desire to grow in holiness, we can see God at work in us, transforming us into His holy people.

And this is what we discover pleases Him, it is what He desires, it is what He spent eternity planning, and why Jesus came and died on the cross to shatter our darkness, to remove our sin.  It is what we truly need to understand – that what pleases God is our being His people, trusting in Him, depending on Him to care and provide for us, having faith in the promises He has made us, including forgiving our sins, and make us His holy people, and welcoming us as we dwell in His glory.

And freed from the darkness, freed from its oppression and evil, freed from the guilt and shame it causes, we live in the light, for we have had revealed to us the truth of the old hymn Paul quoted,

We have awoken, We have risen from the dead! For Christ has come and dwelt with us, and we have seen His glory.  AMEN!

Will you depend on your King?

   What was written, is written… in our hearts

John 19:16–42

† In Jesus Name †

May the cross convince you of the depth of God’s love for you!

The confrontation

Have you ever wondered why the chief priests were so frustrated, so needing to get Pontius Pilate to change what was on a piece of wood and nailed to the cross?

Remember – the relationship with between the priests and Pilate is already strained.  This is the same Pilate that when angered before mixed the blood of Gentiles he had put to death with the blood offering of the temple. He had backed down to the crowd, and let them have what they wanted – to crucify this man that Pilate had judged innocent.  And he did so at the risk of irritating his wife, who warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus.  With Pilate already on edge, with a temper that was infamous, the chief priests approached Pilate and told him to change the words.

His answer was a quick dismissal – but spoke to his authority, and to a truth that Pilate testified to…

What I have written, I have written.

End of scene.

Whether he meant it to mock the priests, whether he meant it to mock Jesus, no matter what Pilate’s reason, he actually bore witness to the truth.

Jesus is the King of the Jews, He is the long awaited Messiah, the promised glorious one of Israel – the one whom in even the gentiles find hope.

But why were the priests so… insistent? Brave? Demanding?

Could it have to do with what Pilate recognized, and the reason he was inspired to use this particular word to describe Jesus?

The Meaning of Basileus

The King, the one who preached that the Kingdom of God is with you – who sent others to preach the Kingdom of God is near, Do we get what it means for Jesus to be King of the Jews?

Here is the most important point – it has less to do with authority or responsibility – and far more to do with…. Responsibility.

The kind of responsibility a parent has, when their child breaks a neighbor’s window, or when their child is threatened, or hurt.  Someone who is King has responsibility for His subjects.  The one who makes things right, at whatever personal cost.

Such is the idea of kingship, such is the concept of leadership in scripture.  It is about providing for the people of the kingdom, about being responsible for their welfare, because it has been entrusted to you.

For the priests – this is not just counter to their own ministry style, where lording it over people was evident, but contrary to the kind of relationship they wanted with God.  The last thing they wanted was God’s personal involvement in their stuff, cleaning up after their act.

It’s sort of like a teenagers reaction to his father and mother deciding to clean the teenager’s room.  “it’s clean enough, it doesn’t need to be cleaned – and the embarrassment that comes when the pizza from a month ago is found under the bed.  Or some really worrisome thing is found on their computer. We get too easily embarrassed when we realize our need for dependence on God to clean up our lives, to be the only One who can be responsible for our sin.

Because it can’t be us…. We just can’t do it.  We, just like the priests who demanded Pilate remove the sign proclaiming Jesus to be the King, desperately need Him to be our King!  We desperately need Him to provide, to care for us, to take responsibility for our sins, for our errors, for that which divides us from God.

And He did….

to the extent that even Pilate recognized it.  Pilate who declared Jesus to be innocent.  Who washed his hands of the case, who yet still delivered Christ to the place where He would take up the responsibility for us, for our actions, for our sin.

Rejoice my friends, find not sorrow in this moment, but the deepest joy.  Because in Christ, we find our lives… cleansed, provided for, loved. And at peace, for

17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (TEV)

Amen!

Share what you have.. and it is priceless…

Devotional thought of the day:

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?” 11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:10-11 (NLT) 

Simple acts of love, really that is all John the Baptist is encouraging people to do, to show their love for God.  Jesus of course will clarify this, He will make it a clear call to love God, and to love our neighbor, by demonstrating that.

As I read this though, I wondered how John the Baptist would phrase this today.  Would he only talk about physical clothes and physical food, or because the people of God have a far greater treasure, would we be called to share something more valuable, priceless.

Even as we should share of our physical clothes, how much more should we share of our spiritual clothing…

 25 But now that faith has come we are no longer under a slave looking after us; 26 for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, 27 since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. Galatians 3:25-27 (NJB)

And the food – even as we share food baskets with those who have less, isn’t there also a desire that they share in a heavenly feast?  The one Paul talks of here?

16 The blessing-cup, which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ; and the loaf of bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NJB)

We have been given the greatest of treasures, the greatest of blessings, something that is described a the light breaking through the darkness, that which brings hope to the darkest desperation, that which brings love, where the was only hate, life where there was only death.  Should we not share this as well?  Should we not love our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers enough?

I love the way the Roman Catholic Pope said it – in a picture a friend shared this morning on Facebook:  It pretty much sums it up…

Leadership in the Church

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

As I am sitting in the kitchen, at the end of my devotions, watching an elder cook breakfast,  I am reviewing my study that I will share this day.

The theme of the retreat is the calming peace God brings to our lives in love.  Great stuff so far, but today it “comes home”  FOr I am going to take that passage and apply it to our leadership style.  Which is peaceful and calming because it is opposite  of our style in life.

Here are the passages we are using:

5:1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.   1 Peter 5:1-3 (NLT)

20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Acts 20:28 (NKJV)

2:27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Mark 2:27-28 (NLT)

In the church, leadership flows from Christ, it is sacrificial  it endures, with the same joy that Christ had set before Him, and endures crosses and suffers even, that those we are responsible for, know His love, that they are calmed by it, as we bring them into His presence (or perhaps better said, we reveal that they are in His presence)

That is challenging – for leadership in the church is messy, and demanding, and sometimes the people we serve are demanding, yet unsure of what they need, and anxiety laden to get it.  Sometimes in order to come alongside them (to be a paraclete) we have to endure their pain with them.  And sometimes – we have to get used to being discomforted, challenged, and we have to sacrifice our preferences because of the needs of those who need Jesus.

For that is our call – to be conduits of grace, not to block the transmission of it because of our own idolatry, because of our own narcissism.

We can’t let the sabbath dominate the people, as Jewish leaders did.  We can’t let the way we twist the law oppress them, and the rules we set to make governing it easier.  (it’s funny that my elders are now arguing over whose in charge in the kitchen, somewhat appropriate… oh wait, now to deal with gossip…sigh)

But that is the point of leadership – we need to serve – not command,  We need to be responsible, not authoritarian.

We need to be like Christ, and as we do, we find His glory, His peace, His love… just in the moment we need to reflect it.

Lord have mercy on your servants….. and help us serve as You did, for the joy set before us!  AMEN!

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