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Why a Lutheran Pastor Would Quote the Catholic Pope about the Church’s Mission…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day –

For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives.  And when you serve Christ in this way, you please God and are approved by others.   Romans 14:17-18 (TEV)

 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.”  “Do not try to stop him,” Jesus told them, “because no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say evil things about me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.  Mark 9:38-40 (TEV)

 Of course some of them preach Christ because they are jealous and quarrelsome, but others from genuine good will.  These do so from love, because they know that God has given me the work of defending the gospel.  The others do not proclaim Christ sincerely, but from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I am in prison.  It does not matter! I am happy about it—just so Christ is preached in every way possible, whether from wrong or right motives. And I will continue to be happy,  because I know that by means of your prayers and the help which comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ I shall be set free.    Philippians 1:15-19 (TEV)

“The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24) ” (1)

If you haven’t heard, Pope Francis is visiting the USA.  In green, you see one of my favorite quotes from him, one that hasn’t been pushed much on Twitter, or quoted on FB.   It is both this lack of attention AND the truth of it, that makes it possibly my favorite quote of his.

Some people are excited, some people are worried, some people are mad, and want everyone to know that the visit of the one they think is “the” anti-christ, in combination with a harvest moon, in combination with the green stuff growing in their refrigerator resembling the hairstyle of a prominent presidential candidate means the means to the end is near.

I do think it providential though, that the gospel reading this week contains the middle quote from scripture. The one that has Jesus crying out, “do not try to stop him!”

Let me start out with this,  According to the doctrines of the Catholic Church, some of what I preach is anathema.  And likewise, some, repeat, some of the things that are doctrines the are to hold to are heterodox and even heretical.  One could do several Ph.D. thesis outlining these things.   And several more outlining the things upon which we agree. Those need to be discussed not hidden.

But therein is the rub.  To dismiss each other entirely it is to dismiss where we agree as if it were as false.  For example, the truths found in the three Creeds.  Or the promises that God is faithful to the promises He makes to us, including the promises attached to the proclaiming of the Gospel, the promises attached to Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the forgiveness given us in Confession.  We can never dismiss each other entirely, because the core of our creed, we share in common.  We share a hope found in Christ Jesus.  For me to presumptuously say everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches is wrong is to dismiss the Christ in whom I find hope, and the mission, the apostolic mission given to the Church.

With this particular Pope, Pope Francis, what resonates of his message is what is found in 1 Peter, that God doesn’t desire any person to be lost, but that all would come to repentance, that all would be reconciled, that all would know the love of God, and the mercy poured out on us because of the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection.

That message of his won’t make the evening news often, nor will it make the conservative or liberal blogospheres in either of our church bodies. That won’t get attention, because it won’t cause hits to come in large numbers.  Controversy does that.  It draws us in; it creates elitists, groups that will become, as Francis points out – apathetic.  They will become apathetic to the real ministry, to the real mission, to the real apostolate. Their focus will go from that to their own personal crusade, and the Missio Dei will become a distant memory for them.  Not for all, for God has promised that as well.   That Missio Dei is our mission,  the reason we are sent to this world, which is the reason Christ was sent,

as Francis says,

“to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.”

May we bring that life to all,

A life in which Jesus guards our hearts and our minds, a life of peace the world cannot give, a life of incomparable peace which the Father in Heaven desires to share with us. The peace that is the answer to our prayer,

Lord have mercy on us sinners… AMEN!

(1)  From the Homily given by Pope Francis on 9/24 found here http://opusdei.us/en-us/article/canonization-of-junipero-serra/

Why I Believe “The” Church MUST Strive for Unity

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22  I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23  I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me. John 17:20-23 (TEV)

9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:9 (TEV)

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 5:20-21 (TEV)

19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:19-21 (TEV)

546      Pause to consider the holy wrath of the Master, when he sees that the things of his Father are badly treated in the Temple at Jerusalem. What a lesson for you! You should never be indifferent, or play the coward, when the things of God are treated without respect.

Dustin, as a Lutheran pastor you know very well the theological gulf that exists between Rome and the BoC.  Why do you continue to flog this very dead horse?

A few days ago, I was asked the question in green above, on a facebook forum. In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a man, a pastor who I admire, even as I note we don’t agree on a few important things.
And the four quotes have been swimming through my head since I was asked the question.

The four quotes from scripture are why I must “continue to flog this very dead horse”,  The quote from St. Josemaria is the reason I will do so with a lot of energy, put into prayer, into study, yes and into writing blogs and having conversations with friends across denominational lines.

A comment about each of the passages, might help.

John 17:  I don’t think we can read this prayer without seeing the desire of Christ and the Father.  Read it carefully, our unity ( real unity) is sourced, not in compromise, but in the love of the Father. Even by praying for it publicly, Jseus is noting that it is going to require supernatural influence. (deistic cessationists might have a problem with this…)  Yet it is in the very deep, personal, relationship we have with Christ, that we find ourselves in a relationship with each other.

2 Peter 3:9  Last I checked, God wanting all to come to repentance (to have the mind of Christ) is also a supernatural manifestation of His presence. All means all, it doesn’t mean “us, but not them”.  This isn’t something you can try once, grab a t-shirt and give up on.  This call to repentance is not something we can dismiss by saying, “they aren’t of our brand” or “we are an immigrant church and can’t reach out to other ethnicities.”
If God wants all to come to repentance, if this is His desire, then we will begin to desire that, the more time we spend in His presence.
On further thought.  It doesn’t say God is patient with them…but us.   Think about that.  (Go – do it!

(no, I mean it – take 2 minutes to think that through)

(that was 10 seconds – go do it some more!)

2 Cor. 5:  We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (that’s what “Churchese translations” do for this passage) Simply put, God desires greatly to reconcile with mankind, to restore a relationship with Him, a friendship, a deep, permanent, relationship where love and mercy are the norm.
Mathematically, if a=b and b=c, the c=a.  Or, if you are reconciled to God, and “they” are reconciled to God, the you and they are reconciled.  That can’t be denied.  If they aren’t reconciled, your work, done in faith, is bringing this message of reconciliation to them, to give them this hope and celebrate it with them.  Either way you are stuck, you are reconciled with them, or your vocation is reconcile them to God.  This isn’t law, this is the work of God’s gospel in you.

Unless, of course, you need to be reconciled to God yourself….. in that case… let me let you know, God will remove every sin and all injustice that separates you from Him, and He desires to be in a relationship with you, and has made it possible.  Enjoy it!

1 John 4:  If this doesn’t provide the icing on the cake, I don’t know what does.  We must continue to work that people would be reconciled to God, and the goal of any unity discussion or work starts and ends there. At the altar of God, in His presence, God and His people.
Working for unity between the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran Synods and churches is as much included in this as working to reconcile with that obnoxious person in the pew behind you, or the neighbor next door.  If we don’t work for such, if we don’t care whether they are reconciled with God, how can we claim to love them?  If we don’t love the, can we really claim to love the God who loves us?

Some may read this, and say I am a dreamer, that the RCC and Lutherans are both so stubborn that they will never change. If so, that is sad. As I am reading through the Book of Concord and the works from Trent and Vatican II, I see a lot of areas we can find enough common ground, to strive together toward unity in Christ.

Even if our leaders are afraid to breach these conversations, it is the vocation of pastors and priests, those who pastor the people of God and the people themselves to bring this message of reconciliation to God to the world.  That will produce unity, even as we struggle with how that can be expressed, (and we should struggle with that, not just dismiss the differences)

And by the very word, and the promises given to us in the sacraments, this should become more and more part of our spiritual DNA.  It should be part of our vocation, part of our prayers, striving to bring this message of reconciliation, which will reconcile us, even as it’s heard…..

LORD HAVE MERCY!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2055-2057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lutherans and Catholic Thought about the Liturgy/Mass: Let’s talk

Discussion thought of the Day:Featured image

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 (NLT)

This particular blog post found some stimulus in a internet discussion group I was invited to participate in, composed of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and Lutheran followers of Jesus Christ.  One of the discussions the other day was about the encouragement given by Pope Francis for Lutherans and Catholics to talk together.  A continuation of what was began under his predecessors.

I will bluntly state that I am all for it, even as I admit that there are some who see such discussions worthless.

I see it as a blessing for the church at large, because of the Bible passage above, which I believe that many in the RCC and the Lutheran church strive to see accomplished in their ministries.  It is that hope, of seeing people realize that Christ is in you, that there is a relationship there that results in His sharing His glory with you.  Being assured of that, trusting in His promise of that, makes all the difference in one’s life, and as it does, in their living it.

And it is that bond we share in common.

Below are three quotes – two Lutheran, one Catholic (from Vatican II) that discuss this, in view of our mass, our worship services, the times where people are gathered together around word and sacrament.  In both cases, these are not the words of a pastor, a bishop, a pope, or some “expert”.  They are documents which define our understanding of scripture, and the ministry.  While there are things that will divide us in these documents, these quotes show something we might benefit from realizing.

For those of my readers who are more used to a devotional blog, or aren’t Lutheran or Catholic, read these anyways.  Feel free to discuss this, to ask questions, to evaluate and see, do all of our ministries do this – do they proclaim Christ in a way the people understand and benefit from them.  (Evaluate your own churches as well!)  I am not saying this is enough to tear down walls, or to solve every problem.  But in this we seem to agree – that people need to have a liturgy that clearly reveals to them Jesus Christ.

Maybe we can start a discussion here, that is beneficial, and not just focused on showing that we have irreconcilable differences.   read the quotes – look to what they have in common to  say…. especially in view of the Bible passage above!

Godspeed!

7 Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.

2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.

and
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray

“The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.
By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 56–57). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press  (first quote Augsburg confession Artical XIV, second quote Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIV
Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Augsburg and Trent, A Journey Through Both…. but to what end?

Discussion Thought for the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

3  Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. 4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (TEV)

2 The desire was also expressed for deliberation on what might be done about the dissension concerning our holy faith and the Christian religion, and to this end it was proposed to employ all diligence amicably and charitably to hear, understand, and weigh the judgments, opinions, and beliefs of the several parties among us to unite the same in agreement on one Christian truth, 3 to put aside whatever may not have been rightly interpreted or treated by either side,1 4 to have all of us embrace and adhere to a single, true religion and live together in unity and in one fellowship and church, even as we are all enlisted under one Christ.  (1)

For, whereas we saw that there was need of peace to deliver and preserve the commonwealth from the many impending dangers, we found all things replete with enmities and dissensions; above all, the princes, to whom well-nigh the whole direction of matters has been intrusted by God, at enmity with each other. Whereas we deemed it necessary that there should be one fold and one shepherdc for the Lord’s flock, in order to confirm the integrity of the Christian religion, and the hope of heavenly things within us; the unity of the Christian name was well-nigh rent and torn asunder by schisms, dissensions, heresies. Whereas we could have wished the commonwealth safe and defended from the arms and insidious attacks of the unfaithful, yet, through our transgressions and the guilt of us all,—the wrath of God, forsooth, hanging over our sins,—Rhodes had been lost; Hungary harassed; war both by land and sea had been intended and planned against Italy, Austria, and Illyria; whilst our impious and ruthless enemy, the Turk, was never at rest, and deemed our own mutual enmities and dissensions his fitting opportunity for carrying out his designs with success  (2)

 

I was messing around with some changes in my Logos Software last week, and I came across a crazy idea.

You see, my Bible software can take any of the thousands of texts and break them up into chunks.  You can read them over a week, a month, 6 months a year or more.

So I figured I would use it, starting November 1st, to read through the Bible again in a year.  While I was at it, it updated some of my books, so I thought about adding the Book of Concord, and just reading a small section of it over the next year.  (Not academic reading, just a light survey.  And for some reason, I then decided to add another work.  Looking through the works, I saw various works of Luther, and Melancthon, of other works ranging from Martyn Lloyd Jones ( a famous British preacher) and Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI.)

For some reason, my mind kept coming back to The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.

For those who are not theologians, putting the Book of Concord (which is the Lutheran accumulation of Doctrine in its early days) and the works Trent (which was somewhat written to counter the Lutherans, Calvinists and other early reformers) is like putting a Oklahoma and a Nebraska football fan in the same room.  Or a room with a Red Sox and a Yankee Fan…. or splitting an atom.  The two schools of thought are diametrically opposed to each other on many items (though on some they aren’t.)

They won’t match up, point against point, but this is not going to be an academic exercise,  I am thinking of it more as a devotional exercise, a way to go back 500 years and see the heart of men who professed to follow God, and struggled to put what that means in writing.  They were under pressure, both had an added incentive of trying to appease Kings so a war could be fought together against the Turks.  They both had stubborn folk involved. Like I said, these documents were written back when wars were waged, and people killed over differences in doctrine.

What will come of it?   I don’t know,   Probably a few dozen blogs, probably some shaking of heads at my silliness.  Maybe more confusion on my part.  Hopefully some great discussions….

So far, one of the things that amazed me was the desire for the church to be one, they both shared that in the quotes above.  I think they said it, hoping to convince by scripture and logic, and if not by force, the entire church to be one. Yet, that goal at least will be the same.  They see the unity of the church as the basis of the survival of life as they know it, the ability to stand together.

Five hundred years later.. we still stand divided.  I don’t commune with my friends who are Catholic priests, they don’t commune with me.  Some of peers rejoice in this, some of our peers, like us, weep that a church could be so broken. But rarely do we sit down and strive for unity, rejoicing in the Christ who died for us, who on the day of His return will unify those He has called His children.

Maybe I am a hopeless daydreamer to think anything will come of this… then again…we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation, of healing brokenness as people are drawn to Christ Jesus. So a little time spent pondering our common doctrine, and our radical differences, may be beneficial, if not, it should be at least interesting.

I would ask people who read this, and if any follow, over the next three years, to pray for all the people of God, no matter the name of their denomination, brotherhood, synod, or even the name of their church sign.  Pray that we could find healing for our broken church in Christ and that brothers could eventually break bread together, or at least look forward to the day we can, as we stand before His throne, at the wedding feast of Jesus, and His Bride.

God speed,

and Lord, have mercy on us all…..
 

 

(1) Tapperrt, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 24–25). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Buckley, T. A. (1851). The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (pp. 1–2). London: George Routledge and Co.

 

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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