Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests. Zeph 1:7
Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.
I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.
They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus. These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them. But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them. Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.
And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.
The second one is more obvious than the first. While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan. It requires compromise in the nature of the mission. Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change. That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God. If you do that, you have changed the mission.
Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people. God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt. It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.
We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus. Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.
All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote. It brings us to the point of this devotion. And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.
Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.
God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus. For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.
ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.
This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.
And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible. AMEN
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. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.