Devotional thought fo the Day:
19 My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)
Anyway, I would gladly know how things are with your soul. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.
What a question for Martin Luther to ask his friend George!
Can you imagine me, or any pastor, or any friend asking that question of you? What would be your response? How would you respond?
Maybe I should ask you!
Or perhaps it is isn’t as questionable as “maybe”. We need to ask this question of each other. We need to care enough about people to ask them this, to genuinely care for their souls, for their spiritual needs.
And while I am not exclusively talking about pastors, elders and other church leaders, it starts with us. We are the ones tasked with shepherding souls, with reconciling the broken. This job belongs to the entire church, the caring for souls, whether they are members of our church, or atheists, whether they are our family and friends or our nemesis.
The words of James’ epistle strike this home. if someone wanders away, we bring them back, we cover a multitude of sins, and we save them from death.
As hard as it sounds, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters, to lovingly help them bring their sins to Christ, to let Him remove and annul them. Not just to look the other way, not to just say, “well, really, except for this or that, Joe was a good guy, good enough to get to heaven.” That is easy, but really, it isn’t loving, it doesn’t call him back to God, it lets him wander through this life. It leaves him bound to self-righteousness, or to the guilt and shame he dwells in.
The church, you and I, have the ability to be there, to assist the prodigal on the way home, to help them know what we should know so well, the words of God declaring we are forgiven. We need to help them do as Martin Luther encouraged his fried George to do, to take a “deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.”
Lord, help us not to hide our sin, help us encourage others to be drawn closer to You, to receive your promise of absolution, and to live lives free and forgiven. Help us to be one people, united together in Your presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 3). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 1 Thessalonians 5:13-15
Tenderness is not a virtue of the weak; on the contrary, it spells fortitude, attentiveness, compassion, openness to the other, in short, tenderness is the daughter of love.
If you minister to anyone, whether as a “professional” (pastor/priest, ministry director, worship facilitator) or as a volunteer (elder, deacon, altar guild, bible teacher etc) I want you to go back and read those words in red again.
Go ahead. Go back and read them.
One more time, please.
Sounds like a formidable task! I am not sure which of the tasks is the most challenging! Patience is tough, warning folks is often an invitation to pain. Then there is this, stopping people from repaying evil with evil. That might mean taking the damage intended yourself.
And this letter wasn’t written to pastors, but to the church. It is how we are to minister as a whole, to each other. And these things are challenging because they require great care and caution. They can’t be done with a velvet-gloved iron fist, but with tenderness, with discernment.
And it is what our broken society needs. It is what is relegated to a class or two in seminary, and rarely do we train our elders or Sunday school teachers in it. We by-pass this critical step of being a brother, of helping people to learn to love as Christ loved. For that is what soul care is, loving our neighbor, even loving our enemy.
It is the fulfillment of the law that happens as we are transformed into the image of Jesus.
We need to be there for each other, for the broken in our communities, for those who are questioning the world and all there is in it. We need to be there when we are broken when we are hurting when we want to give up. When our souls are thirsty.
That is what the body of Christ does for each other.
Who is God calling for your to treat tenderly today? WHo will you minister to tomorrow, that needs God’s mercy and love?
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 274). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9 *But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy! 1 Peter 2:9-10
A single hour of quiet listening to the word of God would often be more effective than whole days of sessions and discussions, and a moment of prayer would be more effective than whole stacks of paper, for it is not only what we do that makes us effective. Sometimes the impression arises that behind our hectic hyperactivity there lurks a paralysis of faith, since in the last analysis we have more confidence in what we ourselves contrive and accomplish.
47 For this reason, too, Paul asks, Since we are called according to the purpose of God, “who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?” (Rom. 8:35).
48 This doctrine will also give us the glorious comfort, in times of trial and affliction, that in his counsel before the foundation of the world God has determined and decreed that he will assist us in all our necessities, grant us patience, give us comfort, create hope, and bring everything to such an issue that we shall be saved
For a decade or more, I have the phrase post-modernism adapted and used to describe a weak church, and so developed phrases like “a post-Christian society” or living in a “post-church society.”
I will agree that the church seems to be less “effective” from a business perspective, at least in areas where it was thought to be very “effective” for decades. Among those of European descent, among those who were upwardly mobile and driven to live life better than their parents did.
But calling us post-church or post-Christian is wrong, for it presumes that the society we are discussing knew the riches they had in Christ, that they were recipients of the grace and mercy, the peace and love of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
And then walked away… not just from the church, but from the love of Christ the church was there to help them explore, to be at their side as they in awe, encountered God revealed to them.
To call this society “post-Christian” means they walked away from what St Peter describes as leaving the darkness for a wonderful light, that they abandoned being God’s people, and recipients of the mercy that would bring healing and hope to shattered souls. I don’t see people doing that; I see them walking away from meetings and discussions, from stacks of paper describing programs, and from a church that ministered only to their sense of logic, and couldn’t continually keep them in awe.
That which they may have walked away from, did it give them comfort in the midst of suffering, did it bring them a sense of God’s peace that goes beyond explanation and understand? If so, why would they have walked away from it?
So what is the answer? Perhaps it is to evangelize the church first, what is called the New Evangelization in some circles. To teach people that God does answer a cry for mercy, that He hears their prayers, that he will offer them comfort and peace. As this is taught, as it is revealed through His word, and through His sacraments, then the church will naturally evangelize again.
Teach them about Christ,God incarnate, God crucified and raised, God who comes near, and stays. God who listens and comforts, who guides and gives meaning to life. Who walks beside them in this lonely life.
It may sound too simple, but simple doesn’t mean wrong, nor does it mean ineffective. It means that we communicate and reveal the love of God to those who need it, in the church and presently outside it.
It is time to give people the hope of sharing in the glory of Christ, in the presence of Jesus.
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.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Discussion Thought of the day:
5 I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6 an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7 For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8 He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it. Titus 1:5-9 (TEV)
George Weigel, in the book I am finding more and more remarkable, continues on his list (which I commented on 2 points of last week) for the standards for priests:
3. If this priest has been primarily engaged in parish work, have his parishes grown through his ministry? If his principal work has been in a seminary, college, or university, have his students flourished under his guidance, spiritually as well as intellectually?
4. How does this priest celebrate Holy Mass, in specific and concrete terms? Does his liturgical ministry lead those in his pastoral charge into a deep experience of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension? Does his manner of leading the Church in liturgical prayer honor the baptismal dignity of his congregants? Is he regularly found with his people in Eucharistic adoration?
5. How many men have entered the seminary under this priest’s guidance? How many women have entered consecrated religious life through his influence? Does he foster holy marriages and stable Catholic families that are themselves “little churches”? Does he encourage lay movements of Catholic renewal? Does he guide popular piety well? Does he promote frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance, and does he devote significant time to his ministry as a confessor? Does he encourage his people to read the Bible daily? Is he, in other words, a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself?
Obviously, there are a few differnces in terminology and practice between men who are Lutheran pastors and Roman Catholic Priests. (for example – while many of us will meditate on the passion of Christ and confess it is Christ’s Body and Blood, we don’t have a service of Eucharistic Adoration) this lists thrills me, and yet… well…. let’s just say I am convicted by it – especially point 5.
But a pastor/priest of whom these things are true, is one people will entrust their souls to, as the one appointed/ordained to care for them, a call of God, recognized through the church. They will confess their sins to him, and receive absolution ( I do need to devote more time to make myself available for this) I love the prahsem, “a man who can facilitate the universal call to holiness because he is a man of holiness himself.” Such a man is one whom can be what old Lutherans calls a seelsorge – the caretaker of the soul.
We desperately need that, these days. Recent events and conversations in my life more that confirm it, and to me it ticks me off, until I ask the same about me. Are my people willing to let me care for their souls? Have they grown to know I will be there for them, that I will speak to them God’s mercy – with more zeal and energy and desire? Will they also be encouraged to walk with God, forsaking all that would be the world’s preference? Will they lay down their worries, their burdens and concerns as I encourage them? They need it, we are the ministers of the gospel, the good news… need to provide these encounters with Christ where they will see His love revealed to them….
Will they grow in trust of God, will their dependence on His love and mercy and presence deepen?
It’s not all up to me, I know this… and God will work, even through my errors. (although that is no excuse)
But do i desire to see my people know what I’ve known?
Yesterday, a dear friend came and spoke to some pastors in my area. He talked of coping with a family member who was significantly challenged. And he spoke of his own battles with darkness. In the middle of his self-disclosure and hope in Chirst, he quoted this passages.
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT)
Lord, Have Mercy on us, that we might show that comforting mercy to others….and have mercy that they will desire it more and more! AMEN!
Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 122-123). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.