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It is NOT Enough to Be Theologically Orthodox…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)

959      We cannot give way in matters of faith. But don’t forget that in order to speak the truth there is no need to ill-treat anyone.

One thing that history has shown us is the need to be theologically astute, as well as to know the history of theology.  There are no new heresies under the sun, and they come back with greater frequency than the seasons.  As St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, the role of ministry is to stop us from being tricked, by people who sound like they have the truth.

But it is not enough to simply be orthodox, to have the right explanation theologically, or apologetically.

There are a lot of theologians out there, brilliant men and women who can correctly and clearly explain why they know about God, and even why a contrary view is not dangerous.  And there is a myriad who are quite vocal and prolific in their writing, yet still have gaps in their knowledge.

But even for those who have a mastery over theology, it is not enough, and those learning need to learn this as well, less their zeal for orthodoxy become a barrier to the ministry they desire.

Theological orthodoxy is not enough.  It never has been.

We have to speak the truth, but it is not enough just to speak it.  We have to speak it, loving the person to who we are engaged in conversation.  Desiring not to win the argument, or that we were able to zing them.  Rather we need to desire that they can glorify God more because they have gained a greater insight into the dimensions of His love for them, that they have experienced His love and mercy.

Too often I have seen the damage the theologian ( or a theologian-in-training like myself) has done because their words were not delivered in love. Words which had unintended consequences, and to use a military phrase, severe collateral damage. The damage that leaves people thinking the church, and therefore God, is heartless and doesn’t care about them, just creating clones, or getting people inside without caring enough to confront their brokenness.

And for us who claim to have some level of wisdom, how heartbreaking it is to realize that we have driven someone away from the love of God.

We can change this tendency we have, we must change it! But it is not simply through our will and determination.  FOr we will find ourselves doing the same thing, to different people.  Or we will find ourselves responding defensively to others.

It is through learning to adore Christ, as we ourselves are changed by His love, that this change occurs.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, revealing to us and helping us explore the depths of God’s love.  That love changes us, enables us to love, and therefore to speak the truth in love.  A maturity that is nourished in sacramental times, and in times of prayer and meditation.

So let us encourage each other to know the love of God, which is the reason we have hope and peace in this midst of this broken world, fr we know He will answer when we

Lord, Have Mercy!!!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3383-3385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Do We Play Hide, and Not Seek?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought fo the Day:

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)

323         Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.

3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.

There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought.  So they had one of two easy solutions,  Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.

If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help.  If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same.   But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family?  How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?

St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us. 

That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception. 

Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace. 

It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.  

God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts.  He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.

Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.  

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Lord, You Really Want Me to do this? Don’t you have a better option?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

17 When the seventy-two n came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”
18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20  NCV

 

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.

For priests, pastors and all those who minister to others, there is a fine balance between humility and confidence.  And if we are honest, it is when we are struggling with the latter that we don’t act all that humble.  I imagine there may be one or two of us that think they are God’s gift to the church. (In a way they are0  But many of us still wonder why God has put us here, why God has entrusted to us this incredible, sacred, beautiful, demanding ministry.

I love Pope Francis’s words about our ministry. He nails it when talking about the awe that hits you when you pray over someone, or see their body loose every bit of tension and anxiety as they realize God’s forgiveness, as they realize He is present.   I still can recall the eyes of people after I have baptized them, or their children.  (Two incredible “devout” atheist/agnostic types come to mind as I baptized their children – eyes bright and full of tears… and God isn’t done with them either!) But his also occurs when we pray with someone over breakfast, or see people having an “aha” at work, as they realize another dimension of God’s love because we said something.

It is in those moments that our lives do feel like a work of art, as God weaves our lives with others, and creates something wonderful. If it iis awe-inspiring to consider sinners in the hands of an angry God, how much more incredible is it to see God work through the hands of a repentant sinner who trusts in Him?

Still, my heart cries out… why?  Why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Nothing of course.

Which is where the first gospel reading helps us maintain some manner of balance.  As wonderful it is that God can use us, the even more wonderful thing is that we already are certain He’s got us, we are HIs, our names are written in the Heaven,

That is even more amazing.  As broken, as sinful, as able as I am to screw up something, God has claimed us as His.

SO tomorrow, as you go to preach, or lead worship, to distribute communion or work with the children’s ministry, or just tell the person next to you – God is with you, indeed, you are being used by God, you carry His presence within you, and it is blessing others.   Remember though, that is simply proof of a greater mystery, a greater blessing.  You are one of God’s people, He is your God, and He loves you!  (me too!)

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

The Prayer, and the Cross.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
29      My God, how is it that I do not cry out in sorrow and love whenever I see a Crucifix?  (2)

They are to correct the mistaken view that prayer is not action. The men are admonished to overcome the false sense of shame that would seek to conceal their interior life—their silent relationship with God—as something unmanly and old-fashioned. Granted, piety is not to become a public exhibition; discretion is always necessary. But neither is it to be hidden away. It should be courageous, for the body, too, belongs to God. Faith is not just a matter of the spirit; prayer is not just interior. The body must pray, too.  (3)

.Yesterday, I thought, and introduced the idea that the Lord’s prayer is not just what he taught us with words, but rather with how Jesus actually lived.  His life was the prayer, a lesson in humility, in being the Son, not the Father.

If we are to be Christlike, if we are to grow and mature in our trust in God, this prayer must be seen worked out in our lives as well.   For it is not enough to just say the words, but rather we need to trust in God hearing them, and answering them, here and now.  That is faith that is not just Spirit, but life.  It is prayer that is not just internal, but the prayer of our life.

So as I encouraged us yesterday, let’s begin to see the Lord’s Prayer lived out again, in the life of the Lord we are called to imitate, to be transformed into the image of.

 Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.  (1)

Here is where it all begins, as Jesus lives as the Son.  Fully obedient, fully adoring, fully bending His will to the will of the Father.  Equal in divinity, the creed informs us, Jesus still submitted in His humanity to the Father.

He didn’t seek emancipation, he didn’t strive to become the alpha male.  He loved the Father, He honored Him, He grew up (as a man) to be like His Father, to the extent that to look on Christ was to look on the Father. The image of the invisible God, that is how He is described.  We know about the love of the Father because we see it in Christ and his movement to the cross.  We know about the Father’s desire that no one should perish, again because of the love of the Son which accomplished the calling of all to repentance.

Something that doesn’t happen unless there is communication. And as Jesus lived in view of the first commandment, He lived in view of the second.  For to use a name, to keep it holy, is to use it well, to pray, praise, give thanks, to pour out your heart.  We see that in the garden so clearly, and in the high priestly prayer.  Prayers we know about, so that we can trust in Jesus, so we can learn to pray as well.

 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (1)

I just referred to this, but it iis one thing to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done, and another thing to grow in desire and want it to come here, right now.

To love your enemies, to live life full of mercy and righteousness. To live a life where you live humbly, as Jesus did.  He laid aside it all that was self-centered.  Even facing the betrayal, the kiss of Judas, the denial of Peter, He loved.

Someone once said that Christ would have died on the cross for us, even if they didn’t nail Him there. He wanted the nails though, not because of some masochistic tendency, but because the Father had said they would look upon the one they had pierced.

God’s will, God’s kingdom doesn’t always seem pleasant, or easy, or joyous.  Until you realize the joy is in the one lost sheep coming home, one of the repentant who brings heaven so much joy!

To pray that God’s Kingdom comes, and will is done, requires that we accept the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, that we die to self with Him, and bear our own cross, humbly, and in love of the Father.

We need to pray, not ofor God’s sake, but for ours.  To communicate with Him, to know His love, to see His work, tfor it is in prayer’s dialogue, and in celebrating the sacraments (which is really prayer as well!) that we begin to see the trasnformation God would owrk in us, where faith and work are not longer divided.

It is the beginning of Christlikeness!

So cry out, and pray!

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(1)  Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 344-345). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(3)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 98–99). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

Is “Love Thy Neighbor” simply Law, A Commandment, Or it is something more?

Featured imageDiscussion Thought of the Day

 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27b (NLT)

9  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. John 15:9 (NLT)

16  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:16-17 (NLT)

21  When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:21 (NLT)

In a recent blog, I made mention that loving our neighbor is not just law, it is always gospel.  The contention was over evangelism, when I said doing such was an act of love, that love compels us to work for reconciliation.  But what compels us is not the law, but the love that is the effect of the gospel.  And to not love our neighbor, by sharing the greatest treasure we have, the love and mercy of God, is sin.

SO I was asked to clarify how “love thy neighbor” isn’t just law, but the purest of Gospel. Because of that, we have a blog about it.

The simple truth is we aren’t capable of loving each other as God commands, in the midst of our sin.  Therefore, a directive to love our neighbor is the law, and we can be judged by it. For most Lutherans (who the discussion seems to be between) this is normal use of the law, it guides our actions in community, and it reveals our need for God.  It also shows how we should live, (what it called the third use of the Law)

But it is more than just a command, it is a commission, a way of life God prepared those of us in Christ to walk in,  (see Eph. 2 10. )  It is who we are in Christ, formed by Him, transformed by the Holy Spirit.  It is the effect of our reconciliation, our redemption and sanctification, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

It isn’t about living within the confines of the law, the don’t touch, don’t do, type of law.  It is more than the third use of the law – because it isn’t about obeying, it is about being in Christ, about the Holy Spirit’s work.  If it is the only law, it is about us.  But loving God and loving our neighbor is more than that.

It is the freedom of living and abiding in God’s love. That is where the commission to love comes from.  It is the encouragement to live within the reality of your salvation, As we look to Christ, as the Spirit transforms us, it is indicative of who we become, of who we are in Christ.

If loving our neighbor is only law, it is not an indicative state, it is not that which the Father commissions and makes happen  as we are raised with Christ. We are no longer Christ’s masterpiece, the work that He is glorified and raised above all others for accomplishing.

But love is not just law.  It is life, in communion with God and all of His people, all of His creation.  It is indicative of the eternal life promised and given to us, as the Spirit quickens and transforms us.

AMEN.

Real Men can Love God Deeply.

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image
15  After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16  A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17  A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, Take care of my sheep.” John 21:15-17 (TEV)

9  Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? 10  Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? 11  As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 (TEV)

499      We men don’t know how to show Jesus the gentle refinements of love that some poor, rough fellows—Christians all the same—show daily to some pitiful little creature (their wife, their child, their friend) who is as poor as they are. This truth should serve as a salutary shock to make us react.  (1)

I keep hearing that men are afraid of commitment, or they shy away from deep abiding relationships, and that is the reason why they struggle to church.  There are even a number of books out there about why men struggle at church, and how to make the church “men friendly”. I even have a couple of friends who mock me (when they aren’t to criticizing me) when I talk about having a relationship with God, and that it has to be a deep, intimate relationship.  “Those words will scare off men,” they protest.

But they realize that need is real, that we need that relationship with God.  We need to know His love, the perfect love of a Father for His children, the love of Jesus, the perfect love of a husband, for us His bride.

A few days ago, a pro basketball player weeped because a young girl he knew passed away because of cancer.  He broke down in a press conference after a game.  Isn’t that a level of deep love, we often don’t hear guys expressing?  What about the deep love that is show at funerals, or when a friend is hospitalized, or when we see someone hungry and in need?  If you are old enough to remember Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo, how many guys didn’t watch the movie Brian’s song every time it came on?

Men are capable of deep emotions, of being dedicated and devoted to people. We may be silent about them, we may be afraid of them, we may not want to admit that we have them.  But we are capable of having them, and moe than that we need them.

Especially a relationship with God.  For that relationship makes everything else possible.  To know His mercy, helps us to be merciful.  To know His forgiveness, helps us forgive those who betray us, to know His holiness and presence, helps us to be holy….and to know the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love for us, helps us to have the courage and the love to read out and love others that way.

Real men can love, because in Christ, the fears are set aside because of the need of people to be loved.

We grasp that the little ways we love reflect that love, even as Jesus comments upon dad’s knowing what to give their kids.  Even as St Josemaria noted that among the “simple” people of his day.

But loving God means taking care of the people he entrusts to us, finding ways to love them  To care for them deeply, sacrificially.  It means letting our hearts break when His does, it means bearing our cross to love them, even to the point of confessing the depth of that love to those around us.  Peter, had to hear this three times, he had to get past the emotional tug of admitting his love for God, of admitting the intimate bond between them.

May we all find the strength and courage to love the God who cam to us, to show us love, and enkindle it in our hearts.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1907-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Odd Addiction…

Devotional Discussion THought of the Day:Featured image

9  O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. Psalm 48:9 (NLT)

7  Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. Isaiah 64:7 (NLT) \

436      God’s love for his creatures is so boundless and our response to it should be so great that, when Holy Mass is being said, time ought to stand still.

Without question, it is the high point of my week.  It is where time does seem to stand still, where the struggles of life seem to be of absolutely no matter. It is an experience that is “otherworldly”.  It is definitely beyond logic or reason, and it’s beauty and peace cannot be explained.  Right now, because it is more frequent, I rejoice, my days seem brighter.  Because of that, I would say I am addicted to it….

A simple move, my hand placing in another’s hand Something so precious, and words softly spoken, that change everything.

“Take and eat, the Body of Christ, broken for YOU.”

As I say these words, some hear them so well their body’s change, the relax, they smile, some even weep with joy.

It is that moment, as they receive the gift of the Sacrament, that life makes sense.  The presence of God is made clear, and that changes everything.

It is not that discussing God’s presence and praying with near strangers over breakfast is less, or praying at the bedside of someone having surgery, or helping two at great odds with each other know God’s peace isn’t as great of a moment.  All of ministry, all of life is filled with the presence of God.  We come to know peace in all things, in all places. His grace is needed in all those places.

But those are moments in this world, and there is something about the sacraments, about baptism and absolution and the Lord’s Supper that gives us a moment of heaven. It is, as St. Josemaria says, the moment time stands still.  A moment of clear communion with God.  It’s the time where our pleas and cries for God’s loving mercy are answered.   What is a brief second becomes without measure.

Over the last week, I’ve come across a word a number of times, kenosis. It means the  “emptying”.  The moment where everything in life is shed.  It is the description of Christ, emptying himself in order to become a servant.  As we receive the Body of Christ, that happens to us as well, all is stripped away, save Him.  Except His love. His mercy, His peace. It is the stripping away of sin, of all unrighteousness,  It is the reliving of our baptism, of our being united, forged to Jesus Christ.

Emptied of all that isn’t God, we find out how we have been united to Him, How He makes us whole.

God’s glory, revealed to us as love conquers it all.  All our sin, all our brokenness, all our rebellion and trauma.  It is pictured in the Old Testament, where God gathered the leaders into His presence, having lefft Egypt far behind… and as they feast in His presence.

Receiving the Body of Christ is a great joy, as is see those who God called to that moment.  The meditation and thought of that moment… that alone should compel us to know Him more deeply, to hear the stories of those He’s sustained, especially those in scripture.  The sacraments do that, they help us realize our dependence, our need on the presence of God, and reveal to us that He is here.

Such is why i love to dwell on the Eucharist, and why such a little thing is such a tremendous blessing to me. tO see this happen to 50, 60, 100 people, is amazing. ( If there is a reason I am envious of those with larger churches, it is perhaps this!)

The promises of God, delivered to us, that we dwell in peace.

(and we who serve are blessed to deliver it!)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1681-1682). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Mission, Vocation, and our Neighbor

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

25  A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 26  Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” 27  The man answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” 28  “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” 29  But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 (TEV)

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 4:20-21 (TEV)

 16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 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. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (TEV)

Does a believer have a responsibility to be missional?  To go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach them to treasure all God has commissioned?

To speak theologically, is this one of our vocations, along with being spouses, parents, employees, employers and good church members?  Are we all missionaries?  Do I have a responsibility as a believer in Jesus to those around me, who still are lost in darkness?

In a recent discussion, I put forth the first passage – the story behind the story of the Good Samaritan for a reason.  Notice that that our relationship with our neighbor (whether they are our spouse, kids, actual neighbor, co-worker, or whomever) comes right after our relationship with God.  Being a loving neighbor is our vocation.

Our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbors is inseparably intertwined.  The quote from 1 John makes this clear – our love for Him is seen in that love we have for our neighbor.  That’s why the teacher of the law combines the two.  We can’t love God if we fail to love those He calls us to love.

Loving them isn’t easy, it requires that we know.. no, that we dwell in the love and peace of God.  That His mercy so resonates with our life, that we don’t have to think about the ministry of reconciliation being given to us, we simply work in that ministry.  We seek to free people from the darkness of sin, the oppression of satan, and break the grip that death has on them.

Loving them means inviting them into the relationship where God reconciles them, where He makes us His friends, where we understand what He is about is bringing us home to the Father.  That is what being missional is about, or what some others call our apostolate. It is in loving our neighbors as God does, not because we have to fulfill some quota, but that’s what we do as we walk with Him.  (He describes it clearly for us, but we hear it…. like a duty, not as an invitation to spend time with Him)

We are missionaries, for our Lord is, and we walk with Him. It is His mission – and we live and breathe in Him!  Therefore we work with Him in seeing His desire come to being.

We love our neighbors, we desire to see them reconciled, to become friends with God, because He has done this with us.

May we rejoice in every baptism, and may we teach them to rejoice and treasure this life He has given us!

The Lord’s Supper, and Spiritual Apathy

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 1 Corinthians 11:28-30 (NLT)

“These words, I have said, are not preached to wood or stone but to you and me; otherwise Christ might just as well have kept quiet and not instituted a sacrament. Ponder, then, and include yourself personally in the “you” so that he may not speak to you in vain.

In this sacrament he offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us, to which he most graciously invites us in other places, as when he says in Matt. 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you.

”Surely it is a sin and a shame that, when he tenderly and faithfully summons and exhorts us to our highest and greatest good, we act so distantly toward it, neglecting it so long that we grow quite cold and callous and lose all desire and love for it.”

It’s my twenty-fifth anniversary today.  As I was thinking about that, and about my sermon this week, the quote from Luther’s Large Catechism above kept coming back to mind.  Let me explain why.

Twenty-five years is a pretty decent period of time.  We’ve faced unemployment, major health issues (2 years in I had a massive cardiac arrest due to a genetic problem).  We’ve faced adjusting to having a child after seventeen years of just us.  An incredibly brilliant son, but who has some challenges as well. We have survived, we have endured.  Like our parents, who also have endured much.  There is a challenge to this though, and that is frequent interaction with each other.  Reminding each other of our love for each other. Being passionate and perhaps even more… compassionate towards each other.

It is all to easy to stop working, to just assume the other will be there.  To become apathetic in our relationship, to just get by.  But the problem is that when our hearts look for that which is needed.  The support, the encouragement, the interaction.  The rest that comes when a couple’s home is their place of rest, their place of being nurtured, their place of being able to drop everything.

Are Kay and I perfect at this?  No. ( I am involved in this after all!  🙂  )  But we do well… and have endured by God’s grace.

So what has this to do with communion?

Well, it is a primary contact point – a refuge, a place of peace and restoration in our walk with God.  It is a treasure, that too often we get apathetic about, not realizing what it is… God calling us to gather around His table, and feeding us in way that is incredible.  The family of God getting together, celebrating the forgiveness of sins and mercy of God and His love for us all.  Clearly seen when we realize that piece of bread – yes it is His body, that little cup of wine, His precious blood – give for you and I.

As Luther says – those words aren’t for rocks and stones – Jesus spoke these words for you and I!

There are two ways I see us growing, as the church at large, callous and cold to it.

The first is when we think that it is somehow less necessary than the sermon, and therefore we celebrate it far less often. Or we cut it out of our masses or worship services because of time or convenience.  (even heard one church that wanted to cut it out because of the cost of bread and wine..!)  What message are we saying when we do such a thing?  Are we reducing our belief that it is effective, that it is not profitable for our spiritual renewal?

The other way is when we just look at the celebration mechanically, as a duty, not as a joyous celebration of love.  When we realize that God wants us there, that His greatest desire is to fellowship with His people – and that is why we gather.  That we look at it with anticipation, recognizing what God is doing in this precious time.  The more we consider that, the more hungry we get for it, the more it takes on a meaning that is precious – the more we desire it.

In both cases – in determining that we don’t need to celebrate it often, and simply it being a duty and not a celebration – we lead people into apathy, we lead them away from realizing the grace and love revealed to them in Christ.  Paul says such is the reason for our spiritual apathy, and even spiritual death.  Luther concurs with scripture, calling such an attitude a sin.  It’s something we need to think about today, as the church in America has fallen asleep… and in some places is beginning to revive, breaking its fast from the blessings of God, and growing in desire of them.

This is a precious time with God, some of the most valuable and nourishing time we have in our week.  It is a treasure, a necessity, a blessing beyond our able to understand, but easily one we can appreciate.

it’s a homecoming, a feast, a celebration, a time that should inspire us to worship, a time where we can know God’s promises are true in Christ.

So come, blessed children of the Father, to a feast prepared for you……

[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.LARGE CATECHISM – Sacrament of the Altar

Why Do We So Struggle With Sin….

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

 7  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.  1 John 1:7-10 (NLT)

 15  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:15-16 (NLT)

 25 He shows a great deal of enthusiasm and understanding. But when he realises that it refers to him, and that it is he who has to contribute in earnest, he slinks away like a coward. It reminds me of those who, during moments of grave danger, used to shout with false courage: War! War! But they did not want to give any money or to enrol to defend their country. (1)

In a number of conversations this week, people have had to deal with sin.

In one case, a young man tried to convince me that he is the first since Jesus to completely live without sin, to live the perfect life.  In several others, this being Lent and all, we’ve talked about calling people to repentance.

Like the man in St. Josemaria’s quote, everything changes when it comes to dealing with our sin, with our personal challenges, with our….gulp…. sin.

Take on the sin of the world in your sermons pastor – just don’t hit me with mine.  That’s right, go after the Fred Phelps, the homosexuals, those who are addicted to porn (well the hard stuff) those that fornicate outside of marriage – get them!  Take on those politicians. Warn them all about hell!

My resentments?  My lack of forgiving others,My inability to live at peace with those around me, my inability to love as I want to be loved?  My anger issues, my self-defensive mechanisms?  That just small stuff pastor,  There are bigger sinners to fry.

We struggle with sin,OUR sin. We deal with it, much like we deal with death, or any issue where we find ourselves grieved….

We DENY it… we claim it isn’t sin, even though we know it is.

We BARGAIN  – we want to make it seem less destructive. less of a sin than others sin…

We get DEPRESSED…. – we wonder if we would ever get past win the one that haunts us, the one we can’t overcome!

We get ANGRY… especially if someone questions us, or compares our sin to murder or adultery or gossip…

We ACCEPT it…  we just give up – and continue letting sin dominate us, letting it rule over us, letting it wreck our lives, steal our peace, drive us nuts……..

Unless, in accepting it, we do what God tells us to do, to lay it at His feet.  To let Him bring us healing, to allow those He has brought into our lives, to shepherd us through the dark times.  We learn to accept our brokenness, not in despair, but because in doing so, in admitting it, confessing it, we can hear His voice, “Do not be afraid, do not be anxious…”  When we, like the woman at the well, hear that God has sent us the Messiah, the Lord who will care for us, love us, cleanse us.  When we hear like the man let down through the roof by his friends, and by the man at the pool, “your sins are forgiven.”

When like Peter along the lake, we realize what Jesus is asking, when we are more aware of our failures than His presence isn’t whether He knows whether we love Him, it is whether we know it….

Sin?  Struggling with it isn’t in our job description.  It’s above our pay grade… it is what Jesus did.

So don’t hide it, or minimize it, or despair over it, or get angry when you pastor meddles with it….

Let God deliver you from it, heal and restore you, and remind you that you are His Child, and He is your Loving Father.

Hear Him as He answers your cry, “Lord, have mercy!”

Come, confess your sins, and know He is faithful, they are forgiven, you are cleanse of all unrighteousness.  AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 336-339). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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