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Confronting The Inner Pharisee…

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. NABRE Matt 23:13-15

I have loved thy beauty, and the place of the habitation of the glory of my Lord, thy builder and possessor. Let my wayfaring sigh after thee, and I say to Him that made thee, let Him take possession of me also in thee, seeing He hath made me likewise. I have gone astray like a lost sheep: yet upon the shoulders of my Shepherd, thy builder, hope I to be brought back to thee. (1) 

As I come to Matthew 23 in my devotions, I feel the necessity to guard my heart.  It is all too easy as Jesus begins to challenge Pharisees and Sadducees to begin to name their modern counterparts.

I know them, as they sit on either end of the spectrum, trying to create a system out of the covenant relationship God calls us into being , as His children, His beloved.   As they create rules and rubrics, best practices and by-laws, assuring others that doing so is faithful and proper, missional and confessional.

I see them as either throwing out the baby with the baptismal water or drowning the baby in it, oblivious to the baby, for the sake of the holy water.

And this is exactly why I have to guard my heart, for Jesus words aren’t just calling them to repentance, but they are calling me to repentance.  For I can lock the door on these Pharisees and Sadducees as quickly as they do for those I find myself akin to, those who are broken, lost and trying desperately to hear His voice of hope. What is worse, my cynical and sarcastic response to the Pharisee or Sadducee sets a horrid example for those I am leading, those who I am discipling.  An example which doesn’t shepherd them into the presence of Christ who would heal them, but away from Him, into the desert where they will trust no one, eventually including me.

So where is my hope, how can I allow my inner Pharisee to be called to repentance, and see God deal with those who would drive people to a place outside the church?

I think Augustine in his simple brilliance showed me an answer this morning.

Focus on the presence of God!  Let him carry you broken back tot he Father.  We have to abandon yourself into His care, His guidance, join Him on the cross, and let Him heal us, including killing off our inner pharisee, or at preferably, purifying that devoted pharisee in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We need to let the Father remind us that we are in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, and call our mind back from the pigpens where our brothers were living large.

There is hope for Pharisees, and Sadduccees and so many others…

In the cross, in being carried back, physically or spiritually, into the presence of God’s glory, God’s mercy, God’s love.

And that is where we belong….   AMEN!

(1)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 

Do I Have Any Value? How Do I know?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) 

20  Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21  may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)

345         What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity.  (1)

There are days in our lives when we wonder if what we do has any meaning.  What we are questioning is our worth as individuals.  Do we mean anything to anyone?

I’ve been there, and I’ve been there when others are asking those questions.  Some of these people are older, people near 100 years old who live in retirement homes; some are a little younger, those trying to make the adjustment to retirement, as they have spent 40-60 years of defining themselves according to what they do.  Some asking the question are younger, the 11-15-year-old, or 20-25-year-old who is not sure what to make our of their lives.

Pastor’s aren’t immune either. Especially those of us who know that the church doesn’t depend on us for our brilliance, our steadfastness, even our gifts, and abilities.

The church existed before us; it will be long after we have gone.

I have to admit, I am tempted to measure my value as a pastor.  (For me that is measuring my value as a person as well)   It isn’t about numbers in church; it is more the comments and questions I get from the sermon, or in Bible class.  It is the way people call on me to remind them that God is with them.

My question – do people know, trust in and depend on Jesus more, because I am here.  This goes for this blog as well, though I admit that I look at the numbers of hits and comments here!  But the question remains, “will people call out to God for help, will they turn to Him and realize they dwell in Him.”

The question helps me keep focused in ministry.  And the few times I do get a response, it lifts me considerably.  I hate to admit it, but I need that encouragement.  As do elders, and all church staff, whether volunteer or professional, ordained, commissioned or lay person.  I don’t have to measure how effective, as much as doing what we are called and put in place to do.

So how do we know we have value?  How do we know if we truly have any meaning?

We can’t evaluate it. As with St. Josemaria’s donkey, I can’t say know what benefit I have given to this world, to my community, or even to my family.  It’s beyond my ability to measure.

That’s okay. It’s not my job to judge. Which is a good thing, because the person responsible for the quality, the worth of what I do, isn’t me.  My worth comes from the fact that He works on us, in us, through us.  That is why St. Josemaria can discuss the confidence about our effectiveness as we trust and have faith in the God who created us to be masterpieces.

That is ultimately our key, to stop trying to worry about our worth, knowing that is in the hands of the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Communion-Community of Christ

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

“544    The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.”    Escriva, Josemaria. The Way

As a pastor, one of the things I do is to bring the Lord’s Supper to those who cannot make it to church, to those too weak or sick, to those who were once quite active, but now are counted as shut-ins.  In doing so, the discussion always includes their asking about how things are going at church, it never fails to astound me, how concerned they are for their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Often they talk of their desire to get well, to gain strength, just so they can once again commune in the sanctuary, with their friends, the people they love, with whom they have walked through their lives, even if they only knew the people at church for a small while.

We are on their hearts and minds.. and in bringing communion to them, they are reminded that they are part of the community.  It is bittersweet, for they realize they are part of the community that Christ has established.

How I wish we were in the future, and we had transporter units like in Star Trek.  Then we could beam them into the sanctuary, and fulfill a desire that they would have.  (It would also be cool if upon “reassenbly” their ills and pains and weaknesses could be quarantined and separated from them!

St Escriva’s words hit home a lot today, as I consider one of the people I visit, who I can’t anymore.  I know how much visiting him meant to me, how in many ways it was like the transfusion spoke of in this quote.  Yet in bringing him communion, he two received a transfusion I am learning.  The very life of the church was shared, the life we share in every time we gather and we eat together and drink together.   For sharing in the Lord’s Table, kneeling at the Altar together is a community, thing, just as our life as Christ’s body is a community thing.

It is tragic that we don’t comprehend this blessing we have in sharing in the feast of Christ – that we would relegate it to less important than other things we do, that we place limits on its time, both the time we spend preparing for it, and the time we spend celebrating it.   That we reduce the precious words to a formula, a incantation, rather than savor them, listen intently, and hear and absorb them.  It is tragic that the gathering of God’s people is an afterthought in many lives.

As a pastor, I am partially responsible. If you know not why a priest, or a pastor, could describe the gathering of God’s people together around His sacrament as a spiritual transfusion, we haven’t done our job as those who proclaim the world well enough.  If we haven’t taught you to treasure this incredible time, we have, in large part failed. If we don’t keep you in prayer, and help your prepare for this incredible gift, then perhaps we need to reconsider what our job is, to preach the word in its fullness, and to administer the sacrament – that those who are broken can encounter His healing, His mercy His presence.

Keep us, all the pastors and priests – and the deacons and elders and worship leaders who stand alongisde us, ready to serve, to minister to you… in your prayers.  That we would feed you so richly that your heart would long for the next gathering the next time His people gather around His word, and His table.

“Lord Have Mercy!” we cry, and as we kneel and take and eat… and drink of the Blood shed that sins would be forgiven, we realize how much He has had the mercy we pray for!

 

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