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Is Correct Doctrine and Practice Enough? Are We Just Going Through the Motions?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our Day:

2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6  NCV

Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.

A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God. 

It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church.  That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol.  That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.  

It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing. 

The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above. 

They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.

They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)  

They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it!  Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against.  When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)

Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even.  Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important.  Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous.  But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry. 

St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God.  It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway.  The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!

I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution.  THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself.  Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him.  I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.

FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.

For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…

Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.  quote from Melancthon

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

What Did the Apostles Do Today…?

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8  None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9  but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him10  to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God.   1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)

318      Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you.   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge

Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping.  They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.

They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him.  They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him.  They rejected Him.

Just like we do at times.

But what did they do today?  Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors?  Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught?  Did their fears and anxieties oppress them?  Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?

What did they do?

I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today.  Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame.  We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.

We need to see Jesus.  As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive.  We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.

And with Him, we died and rise as well….

 † Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises.  We pray this in the name of the Father,  † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN! 

Great Confidence in the Message. A Sermon about the Transfiguration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreater Confidence in the Message

2 Peter 1:16-21

Jesus, Son, Savior † 

As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love!  AMEN!

An Odd line

I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church.  They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.

Much like I do.

And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today.  A moment that everything becomes more real.

The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.

But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement

“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”

Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them.  It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.

The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth

We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.

Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us.  It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.

While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way.  Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better.  One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work.  They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now.  That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.

And what Peter talks of counters that.

These are just stories from an alternate reality.  They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.

And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect.  Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that.  History and training in being a good person.  Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.

But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…

And Peter says it will change our lives as well.

The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!

 You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

These words in scripture.  They aren’t just words.

They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.

In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.

For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it.  One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.

God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..

Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.

Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there.  AMEN!

Has the Church become a pathetic loser?

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Devotional Thought fo the Day:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first! NAB-RE Rev. 2:2-4

414    How pathetic: a “man of God” who has fallen away! But how much more pathetic: a “man of God” who is lukewarm and worldly!

A lot of conversations I’ve been in recently have been about the church in decline.

One talked about how we need to start lots of new churches because old churches can’t grow.  

With another friend we talked about how three churches, healthy two decades ago, may share in the services of one pastor, rather than simply have someone come in every Sunday to preach.

A third conversation was about one of the largest of mega-churches, and how it, and its worship, are but a shadow of what they once were.

We look at the extremes of the church, and it is no less grievous.  One side wants to embrace society’s ills, setting aside the scripture that tells us to shine the light in the darkness.  They do such by just agreeing to live there.  The other extreme also avoids shining light in the darkness, by shining light where there is the brightness of day.  Like in the passage from the Revelation, they do all the good things, they detest the false teaching, they suffer abuse and endure.

What you don’t often hear anymore, is how in love the church is with God!

How head over heals we are, how much we are in awe and wonder, and how we adore God. How amazed we are to find ourselves counted as His loved ones.

The result of loving our love for God?  Lukewarmness, busyness, being focused more on what is going on around us, than being aware of His glorious presence in our life.  A church that focuses itself on outreach, or on maintaining a level of purity.

We need to remember this – we need to rekindle that love!  But how does that happen?

We need to spend time, resting in God’s presence, meditating on His love, hearing His voice which calls out to us. We need to hear of His love for us, His desire for us to be in His presence.  As we meditate on such things our love for Him grows, depending on Him, having faith in Him becomes easier, as does sharing that love with others.

Pastor  – you want you church to come alive, for people to grow in faith (and in a pure faith?)  Then fall in love with God, rejoice in His love for you.

The rest will fall in place.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Words of Divine Wisdom from ???? him???

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. 36 *Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. 37 After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. 38 So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. 39 But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him.   Acts 5:35-39  NABRE

His name was Gamaliel, one of the greatest of Jewish Rabbi’s, not just of his time, but in history.

Not exactly a friend to those who followed Jesus; though, in this situation, he certainly had words of wisdom that were beneficial to them.He’s not the only one throughout history who was not a believer, yet God used to deliver and guide his people. Jethro’s father was one, and Cyrus the Persian for another. I’m not sure that Balaam’s ass was a believer, but God even spoke through it.

So how do we deal with such things?

We know that there are two forms of revelation, that is two ways in which we know about God.  The first is through scripture, specific revelation.  This is where we get to know God deeply.  He tells us who He is, how much he loves us, how Christ came and proved that love. The second way is what is called general revelation, and is what we can discern of the Creator through nature, through observation, through the various sciences.

Even the observations and thoughts of man that create idols and establish man-made religions have some truth in them, some portion that is written based on how God has ordered things. For such false religions were created based, not in a vacuum, but withing God’s creation, within His world, by humans who are made in His image, and have a portion of the truth.

Remember – they aren’t His enemies, though they may fight against God, and struggle with His direct, specific revelation.

That doesn’t mean they have the complete truth. Or that we should just accept what they can observe as being equal to what we interpret from scripture.  But we can consider their wisdom, measure it against scripture ( not just our interpretation of scripture). and rejoice where it is found consistent.

Is this easy or fast?  No. Sometimes testing their belief means that we spend a few hours in scripture, and in prayer. But Gamaliel’s advice is similar – let’s see if God is at work in this.  And hold fast to the truth we know!

Does it change how we relate to those who believe other than we do?  Yes – we see them as people who are looking for God, and doing what they can to deal with their own brokenness.

This change in attitude leads us to a position that means we aren’t opposition, but rather working alongside them. There may be a line in the sand – but that isn’t to divide us, it is to remind us of what has been specifically given to us, through Christ’s life, death, burial,and resurrection.  There is the line – that love of God revealed in Christ. That specific, merciful, glorious revelation of His love.s

In the midst of all of this, praying and asking God to bless us, we find a very special ministry, that of seeing all reconciled to Jesus.

And that my friends, is worth it.  .

New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.

This Same Power: A Sermon on Eph 1:15-23

This Same Power
Ephesians 1:15-23

 I.H.S.

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ flood your hearts with His glorious light so that we can understand and this confident hope that He has given us, that we are His people, Christ’s rich and glorious inheritance!

The forgotten prayer or… the prayer of our very lives?

When I first started to write this message, as I considered this epistle reading, my heart began to ache a bit.  Because when I think of who I am praying for, and for what, my mind goes to this prayer list insert that we have.  Or my version of it a list which has a few more names on it, with prayer requests I cannot share.

But I see here a different prayer of Paul, a prayer for people that wasn’t just a prayer for peace, for strengthened faith and healing. Those prayers are needed, and I will not stop them, but how often do we pray for each other as Paul does here?

I pray for you constantly, 17  asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19  I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. Ephesians 1:16-19(NLT)

I suppose I could ask the elders and deacons this too, how often have I encouraged you to pray for our people and each other this way.  It is our goal of our ministry; it is where we find the healing in Christ that enables us to help others heal, but is it the focus of our prayers as well?

And what if it were?

The early church knew that from our prayers come our faith, and from that dependence on God, comes our actions,  Lex orendi, lex credendi, lex vivendi is the formal name of that. We pray,  therefore we believe and therefore we have life! In this case, we know this revelation of God give us our life in Christ, yet, is it how we pray for each other?

So what would happen if this became part of our prayer life for each other, this prayer that Paul prays?  (Does this fit under the imitate me as I imitate Christ?)  Hear the prayer again,

I pray for you constantly, 17  asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19  I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. Ephesians 1:16-19(NLT)

Why don’t we pray this way?
While it seems obvious that this should be part of our prayer life, and it also seems obvious that God is, in fact answering that prayer, I think praying this way for each other would help us understand what God is doing in our lives.
So what stops us, what hinders us from praying this way for each other?

Is it just ignorance, and the demand of so many people in crisis and trauma? Is it that we too easily read over this passage?  Why don’t we think to replicate this prayer in our own lives?

As Paul explains that He prays the power of God is at work in us, He explains what that power is,

19  I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20  that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.    
Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)

The power of God that is at work in you is the same power, the same dynamic that raised Jesus from the dead, that caused the ascension, and installed Jesus as our advocate at the Father’s right hand.

That is the power at work in you – redeeming you, reconciling you to God the Father, sanctifying you, preparing us for what Paul told the Colossian church,

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.
Colossians 1:26-27 (NLT) /

This is where our hope lies, in this incredible promise of God, that we aren’t just going to be servants cleaning the bathrooms in heaven, or cleaning the streets of Gold, but we will be sharing in His glory, we will be celebrating the glory of that love, as the entire plan of God, His desire comes true

We will be His people, and He will be our God.
This isn’t just a transition that happens when everyone stands before the throne.  It is the promise that began as God worked to call you His own, as Christ died on the cross.  That point you entered this covenant relationship as God moved you to trust in Him, as the Holy Spirit cleansed you in baptism; and took up residence in you, sanctifying you, transforming you.

This is the power of God at work in you, right now – even as we remember our baptism, as we hear again that our sins are forgiven, as we continually hear that the Lord is with us and that Alleluia – He is Risen!

This is what we need to know – to know God is here, with us, in our lives, working in those very lives, that we are being transformed, that God

That is what we need to pray each other realizes, this incredible, glorious life-changing fact,  God is with us!

Heard the last  of the passage,

22  God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23  And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1:21-23 (NLT)

We are made full and complete in Christ, who fill us with Himself….

Who dwells in us, who is our life, our abundant life.

AMEN!

Revelation: The Hope for the Church, churches and all individuals

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  You are to open their eyes and turn them from the darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God, so that through their faith in me they will have their sins forgiven and receive their place among God’s chosen people.’     Acts 26:18 (TEV)

182      Be filled with wonder at God’s goodness, because Christ wants to live in you. Be filled with wonder also when you are aware of all the weight of your poor wretchedness, of this poor flesh, of all the vileness of this poor clay. Yes, but then remember too that call from God: Jesus Christ, who is God and Man, understands me and looks after me, for he is my Brother and my Friend.

A lot of my thoughts these days seem to be about the Church, especially as I see it enduring an ebb tide, as the everything seems to be receding.  From church attendance (especially in the USA and Europe ) to the number of men preparing for ministry as pastors, to numbers of other church workers, to the money which we think makes this all possible.

I also think about it because I get so many different “solutions” offered to me, or advice.  I hate to say it, but most of it is treated with the same attitude I have towards used toilet paper.  It’s not about the technology we use or the organ that we cherish.   It is not the philosophy that will address the issues of only one generation.   It’s not about planting new churches that are buying into the fact that they will be irrelevant in one generation ( that’s the justification in planting them – only significant growth happens in churches 25 years old or less – at least that is what we are told! ) It is not about keeping our doctrine and practice as pure as it was 50 years ago, or even 500.

Real growth, from maturity to conversion is the result of revelation.  It is found in the awe of knowing this paradox, that those who are evil, vile, depraved, wretched, trapped by sin, its shame, its anger, and resentment; that these same people are understood by God,  saved, found to be righteous, and made HOLY.  They are made God’s children, HIs family, HIs people, are counted as Jesus’ siblings and are called by Him, friend, and beloved.

It is hearing this revealed that a light shatters the darkness, it is more shocking than getting in your car after having lent it to a teenager and not checking the stereo volume before turning the key.  This is so shocking it is like a prisoner, kept in jail for 25 years, being let out, or the patient who was told they were dying being healed.

The shock of the Revelation, of the greatest Apocalypse ever, to know that God understands me, knows my weaknesses, knows my rebellion and brokenness and still loves me.  Jesus names means it all – God Saves.  His title Immanuel echoes it – He is God with US.  More intimately, more completely that even the apostles knew before the cross.

Despite my sin, despite yours, He came to us.  He cleanses us, He redeems us, He justifies and sanctifies us, not as a theological exercise, but as reality. 

This is the Revelation we need, it gives hope to the Church, as it creates and recreates life in Her.  It gives the meaning to her sacraments, to her work, to her worship and praise.  It gives the churches hope, for as God is transforming the CHurhc – this Revelation calls men to shepherd, people to serve. And to each of us, it gives the most incredible of hopes, the greatest expectation, we walk with Him, from now through eternity.

Share this hope, reveal the depth and height, the width and breadth of Christ’s love for those around you to them, and be astounded as it becomes more that the hope it of your love. For His presence will be the focus of your life.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 840-843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He is Risen! therefore We Recognize the Lord!

Alleluia! He is Risen! And ThereforeMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

     We Recognize the Lord!

Luke 24:13-25

May you become more aware of the grace of God that is yours, the love and mercy revealed in Christ Jesus!

Why didn’t He Reveal Himself Sooner?

Two men, walking down the road together, trying to get home for dinner.

Distraught, emotions all over the place as they try to make sense of Jesus’s death. Emotionally drained, they desperately need rest.

Even as Jesus begins to walk with them, He will comment about the deep discussion they are having, which leads me to one question.

Why does He wait so long to reveal Himself to them?  Why?

Or is there a lesson for us, in how Jesus ministers to these men, who are crushed and broken

including perhaps, realizing how God ministers to us?

Our Struggle to Hear God!

It seems sometimes, like everyone has gone, or is going through a walk like these men.

You don’t even have to hear their voices, to hear the stress, the anxiety, the despair as they speak.

The Man they thought was the answer not to just their dreams, but the dreams of a nation.  The Messiah, the long awaited anointed one of God, who was to deliver them to change their lives, to fix everything, from their economy to their families.

They had the kind of dreams that we see in one of those California Lottery commercials, as the winner dreams of the new yacht, the chaffered limousine, the mansion up on the hill with the heliport.

Except, the odds of Jesus being the Messiah were about a trillion to one better than the lottery. You see, as they informed “undercover Jesus”, they had based their hopes on the fact that Jesus had done miracles, and had talked with great authority.   That He was a leader, confirmed not only by people, but by God himself.  Blind could see, people who never walked, completely healed, those who had been dead, raised to life.  Even the Samaritans and Gentiles knew hope because of Jesus.  It had to be him.

They knew that Jesus spoke for God.

Then, they killed him.

If that isn’t a reason to put your trust in Him, to look for Him to fulfil the promises that were so well known, the promises they heard about in their synagogues ever Sabbath all their lives…

Those hopes, those expectations, everything they know about the Messiah, were crushed.  Everything they had hoped for, taken away in a few hours on Friday…

So why didn’t Jesus relieve their suffering, calm their storm by simply revealing His presence?

Yet God hid himself, even though they saw Jesus, they didn’t know Him….

Who Are These Two That Hear the Whole Story?
Beyond that question, I have another question about these two men, walking so defeated, so overwhelmed on the road to Emmaus.  Why them?  Why do they get to hear Jesus explain they entire Old Testament?

Shouldn’t it be Matthew or John? They will be writing the Gospels…

Shouldn’t it be Peter and James?  Why aren’t the leaders of the apostles

Why Cleopas and some guy we don’t even know the name of?

 

Why did Jesus choose to minister to these two?  Having chosen them, why didn’t He reveal Himself sooner?  Why did Jesus deliver to them a lecture about the Old Testament, instead of simply revealing Himself so that their pain would cease?

The Story Reveals

When we hear, that over several hours as they walk, Jesus explained that everything from the first five books of the Bible that Moses wrote, through all of the prophets, we have to hear the conclusion that is drawn.  Look there in verse 27, the things concerning Him. Jesus explains that the Bible is all about Him.  That is what it reveals, or rather, who it reveals.

In this way the Lord shows us the proper method of interpreting Moses and all the prophets. He teaches us that Moses points and refers to Christ in all his stories and illustrations. His purpose is to show that Christ is the point at the center of a circle, with all eyes inside the circle focused on Him. Whoever turns his eyes on Him finds his proper place in the circle of which Christ is the center. All the stories of Holy Writ, if viewed aright, point to Christ.
What these men needed to know, was that Christ’s death was from the beginning, the plan.  Jesus had to suffer, Jesus explains, it needed to be done.  Over and over that was the plan revealed in the Old Testament.  The word of God, the Old Testament Covenant promises, the Old Testament pictures of Christ like Isaac on the altar, the sacrificial system, the picture of the tabernacle and the temple and the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea….

They needed Jesus to be revealed to them, and He was. Not the way we would expect at first.  Rather, they learned that God had planned, from before the foundation of the world, to have Christ suffer and die.  It was necessary, it wasn’t a detour, but the very way in which we are saved.  They needed to understand this, so that they understand the depth of the love of God for His people.
Jesus taught them, He revealed Himself to them, without revealing Himself to them.

They couldn’t let Jesus leave.  Not that they realized there was one revelation left that had to happen to them.

He Reveals Himself

That is where the most miraculous moment for these two men, and for all of us like them occurs.

Thanks is given, bread is broken, and even as they lose sight of Jesus, yet they finally know Him.

They realize He is with them, and all of the hopes and all of the blessings come flooding back.  These men, moments before, weary, tired and broken, know Him in the breaking of the bread.   The presence of Jesus overwhelms them, even as it gives them the strength to climb back up the mountain to return to the apostles.  We aren’t talking about a hike from here to the Towne Center – we are talking about walking from here to Disneyland – if Disneyland was uphill.

Why didn’t Jesus reveal himself earlier?

I don’t know.  What I do know is that when He did reveal himself, it was the perfect time, they had heard, they knew of His love. They got it, and their life was forever changed.  Even as they confirm what the others had seen, had known, what matters in that moment, was Jesus appearing, and how they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

for us.

Why don’t we see God all the time?  Why do we have to walk these roads, knowing the despair? Knowing the pain, and wondering, “where is God in all of this?”

I don’t know. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is here, with His people.  But I don’t know why sometimes we walk that same road, not hearing the testimony of those we would normally trust.

I do know that we have all the same promises that God will redeem His people. We can know Christ through the pictures of Him that are drawn all over the Old Testament, We can hear all the prophecies and know that God has never, and will never abandon His people.  We know He walks with us, even if we aren’t always aware of His presence.

We can recognize His presence, here and now, even in the breaking of the bread.

Knowing those promises, that God will use even what was planned for evil for good, that nothing can separate us from Him, that all will work for good, and that He will complete the work He began in us, we taste and see He is good.  Our eyes are opened to His presence. We are 21 days out from Easter, yet the season continues. We know He is Risen – just as we have learned this has been His plan…. But because He is risen, we can recognize Him, we can know Him, and rest assured of His love and work that we shall know His peace, even now throughout all eternity.
A peace that goes beyond our understanding – but guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?
AMEN!

Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him!

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him!

John 10:22-30

 † IHS †

May you hear the voice of Christ, calling you to walk with Him into the Father’s presence…and being assured by His love and mercy as you begin to dwell in His peace.

 Hear, Know, Follow

I love the scene described in Revelation, and what I really love even more is that we see a little of it here, this morning.  Consider verse 9, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,

And though we don’t have a great multitude here, we do have people from so many places.  Little Chloe, our newest sister in the faith, here family is from Nigeria, and Helli, who read that passage so beautifully, is from Germany, We have people from the Philippines, Denmark, Switzerland, Indonesia, India, China, Guyana, from Boston and even that really foreign place… Los Angeles!  Five continents, gathered here by God to this place today, to share in His love, a foretaste of the gathering that there will be in heaven!

But there is another part of that reading – that just saw the preliminary fulfillment of today, as this little one was claimed by God, and united to Christ’s death, and His resurrection,

 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

That’s our little sister, Chloe, and it is us, those who have been gathered by our Shepherd, those who are the sheep He protects and who are given to Him by the Father.  And it is us that Jesus described in verse 27 of our gospel

27,  “. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Remember these words,  Hear.  Know.  Follow.

Hear – passive…yet empowering…

I don’t know if this happens to you ever, but it seems to happen to me more and more as I get older.  Kay is in the kitchen, and she’s about to come into the living room, so I ask her to get me a diet coke on her way.  She says, “okay”, and I go back to reading.  About ten minutes later, I realize I am still thirsty, and remember asking about the soda, but never “getting” it.  So I get up, go and grab another one, and as I go to put it down on the table next to where I sit, I see the one Kay brought for me.

If it was a snake… I’d be bit a thousand times.

Sometimes we can be pretty “oblivious” to that which is going on around us, and I bet I am not the only guy who is occasionally oblivious to the things his wife does for him.  Hopefully the occasionally aren’t more than 2-3 times a …

That is how the people of God were, as they surrounded Him and asked Him to tell them “plainly” if he were the Christ.  I mean – didn’t the healings, the freeing people from demonic possession and oppression, the teaching that was so unlike that others because it spoke with God the Father’s authority – wasn’t that enough “evidence” of the fact that Jesus was the Christ?

It is like the story found in the gospel’s about Jesus healing the man not just blinded – but born blind. When the Pharisees question him about the healing and Jesus,

30  The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! 31  It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. 32  That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. 33  If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.” 34  They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street. 35  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36  The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.” 37  Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?” 38  “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.
John 9:30-38 (MSG)

 

Hear, and specifically hear God when He calls to you, when He invites you to be part of His life, with the understanding that it means that He gets to be part of yours. No, not just part – but He becomes your life – and the focus of it.   But like those people – we need to heard when Jesus tells us He is our Lord, and our life  And we need to believe, we need to trust Him,

Which brings us to the second word….

Know… He’s the one to Know

 

The first was “hear,” the second is “know”.

Some people have said it isn’t what you know, but who.  In this case it is neither, it is Who knows you.

Hear, Know, Follow.

It is this middle one, this know, that is the key.  We have to learn, to experience that Jesus knows us.  We have to hear His voice – calling us to let Him cleanse us, even as He cleansed Chloe this morning of all sin.

The cross wasn’t just an event in history, it is the call of Christ, like the bugler calling reveille, and like the last trump will be, when He calls us all to come home.

The summons to gather is also because He knows us, He calls us, not to be perfect, not to get our acts straight and be holy and clean all the mud and sin off of our lives. He calls each one of us, knowing the work to be done, to make us clean and pure and holy. That is why He calls us to the cross, the place of cleansing, the place where He invites us, knowing exactly who we are, what we’ve done, good and sinful..

He knows us, and He still chooses to be our Shepherd, to call us to His side…

Follow – you really have little choice!

Hear, Know, Follow……

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

It is evident in the first two words, that we are passive – we are the recipients of incredible blessings.  In order for us to hear – He has had give voice to His love, to call us to be His.  We could do nothing.  Neither could we do anything for Him to come to know us, to do the work to cleanse us, to take care of us, to wrap us in His mercy and love. We are passive in both, recipients, not the gives and one who act,

I am not sure we get the same idea about the word follow.  It sounds like a choice, an action that we have to be continually in, focusing upon it as if our eternal destinies depend on it.

We hear follow – and we think of people on the trail – with Jesus setting the pace, with His deciding which path to take, when there is a branch.  That He is some kind of spiritual trailblazer, giving us the narrow road to follow.

Yet there is another way to hear “follow”, one that seems more akin to the word in Greek.  It is the word as it is used in dancing, where the lady is to “follow” the movement of the gentleman, where the moves are synchronized and yet so fluid, where the man’s gentle guidance turns and leads the woman, as combined He leads her in such a way, that following is not only natural, but incredibly beautiful.  So it is when we hear Christ’s call, and when we realize He does really know us, and invites us to follow Him.

We then find ourselves moving, “following” His lead, feeling His guidance, knowing His presence, for it closer even than any couple has ever danced.

He has made us His own, marked and sealed us in Baptism – united us to Him in such a way that nothing could ever snatch us from Him, that nothing could ever separate us from His love.  For He has joined us to Himself in Baptism, He has untied us to Himself, and therefore following Him becomes truly, how we live.  We simply hear, and respond, all the time focused on our Shepherd…

Hear…. Know… Follow…

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

 Where, in His company, they live in an incredible peace, for He calls and keeps their hearts and minds in that peace, the peace of the Father that goes beyond any explanation.  Even as Chloe has now entered that relationship – may we all remember and hear, and realize we are known, and follow our shepherd’s lead.  AMEN?

(the original intro was…)

When one is trained to preach, there are some simple communication tools given to a pastor.  Some of them, like the KISS principle, we “borrow” from other places where people are trained or taught.  For example – the KISS principle comes from the military and is an acronym for “Keep it Simple… “.

There are other tools – like using repetition and sequence.  That is what we’ve been doing for the past several weeks.  Let’s see if you remember them.  The first is, “The Tomb is….”, therefore we Praise God for He is Risen! (pause) which brings us to the truth that “The Lord is….” And the last one- anyone remember… If the Son sets you ….

 

Today I am going to go with the KISS principle, for a number of reasons.  Three simple words that I want you to remember, that if you do, will open up your memory and help you recall the gospel reading, and more importantly, the way it reveals Jesus and His love and care for each of us, from young Chloe to Oliver.

If you can do that, I will give all of the praise to God – for it is His heart, His love, that is revealed.

So the three words from our gospel reading to remember today are….

 

Hear!  Know! Follow!

We find those three verbs describing Jesus’ people in verse 27. )

Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V)

Devotional thought of the day:

So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? 8  I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” Luke 18:7-8 (MSG) 

We are three days into celebrating the fact that the tomb is empty, that the Lord Jesus Christ is Risen, and that because of that – we can know the Lord is with you!

We love Easter, the celebration, the enthusiasm, the overwhelming joy of coming face to face with God’s love, shown on the cross – where we find ourselves drawn into Christ’s death, and the miraculously, our spirits, freed from sin, soar incredibly without the weight of injustice, and sin and guilt and shame.  But soon we crash down into this false reality of life, for reality is that peace, we forget the life we have in Christ.  ( thank God we are reminded by Paul  “ 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!” Colossians 3:2-4 (TEV)   For we are assured that is our reality.

Back to today’s question!  In the passage at the very top, we are asked will Jesus find faith on the earth when He returns.  If He returned on Easter, as our churches are full, as people are singing and hearing and responding about His being risen from the dead, that day, the answer seems obvious.   Yet what about 3 days from now – just a week after Good Friday?  What about in August, when the heat is getting to us, and our patience is thin.  What about after the next major trauma – whether global in scope or personal?  We Christ find faith then?

Two Answers,

The first comes from the book Evangelical Catholic that inspired this post  – and it deals with faith from the perspective of doctrine, the Biblical teachings that are handed down to us through our churches.  The author, George Wiegel.  He makes a very solid point about the impediment of our own adaptation of the faith.

Deep Catholic reform in the United States is impeded by bishops, priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, intellectuals, and laity who are in a diminished state of communion with the Church— existentially if not canonically— because they deny to be true what the Catholic Church “believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God,” as the profession of faith for those being received into full communion with the Church puts it. How many Catholics in the United States— again, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, intellectuals, and laity— can say, without mental reservation, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”? To the degree that the answer to that question is negative, or ambiguous, then to precisely that degree is the deep reform of the Church envisioned by Vatican II being imperiled. (1)

Though I would need to adapt this a little, the idea that people who deny what is believed (faith placed in) and taught and proclaim that is revealed by God, is the key here.  We don’t get to redefine what the “faith” is.  It simply is what God has revealed it to be.  And the more we deviate with that, the more we slowly at first depart from the faith.   The more mental reservations we have, the more we say I believe what God has revealed in scripture, except XXX, the more we make ourselves the judge and jury over God, and the less we walk the life of faith, and to be honest, the more doubts we entertain.

I am not saying we shouldn’t challenge what we believe – exactly opposite.  But what we test what we believe against is not what is logical, when can always be easily perceived.  What is the standard is scripture.  What is standard is how God reveals His love, His mercy, His presence to us, even as He fulfills His promise of bringing healing and life to our sin-bruised, battered and broken lives.  The more we deviate from the God who is self-revealed in scripture, the more we struggle with placing our logic above God’s, the less we see His work in our lives.

Which brings us to the second point about faith,

Faith isn’t just a noun, it isn’t just getting to know what the scriptures reveal.  It is getting to know, to intimately know, the God who reveals Himself through those writings. That is why I titled the above – will Jesus find us trusting Him.  Faith is after all – the description of what we trust in God for, the expectation that He will be who He reveals Himself to be – for us, to us, with us.  That is also the context of the first reading – where the judge grants the widow’s request because she places her life in his hands.  (and even though an evil judge with be faithful and just, how much more will God be?)  So the context of the quote about finding faith is nothing less than will Jesus find us trusting in Him, living based in trusting Him to fulfill His promises, and giving to Him everything that burdens us, that causes anxiety, the things we don’t have an answer for yet?

Will we trust Jesus?  Will we realize what that cross and empty grave mean, and will we live life with Him, trusting completely in His promises?

That is what causes renewal in us, renewal in our parishes, renewal in our denominations and in the church universal (i.e. small c catholic)

BTW – He is the only one completely trustworthy.

Godspeed!

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 52). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

 

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