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The Holy Sacraments: Not a Theological Construct, but an Encounter with God

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 After all the people had been baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened, 22† and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.” Luke 3:21-22 GNT

16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16 (TEV)

7  On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. Acts 20:7 (NLT2)

10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11 (NLT2)

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.

There are several communion services in my life that will always come to mind. One of those had its sixth anniversary this week, as I remember a dozen, maybe a dozen and a half missionaries gathering in Macao one afternoon.

Another was my first Sunday in my journey in becoming a Lutheran pastor. Despite having been the “officiant” at the celebration for years, there was something different that day. Something that went beyond theology, beyond knowledge.

It started with hearing the elder say these simple words to people. Bod said, “take and drink, the blood shed for the forgiveness of your sin.” He said it with such confidence, such faith that each word hammered into the hardness of our hearts. I don’t remember anything else, save for one thing, as these words of God were heard, not just by ears, but by weary hearts and broken souls.

The other thing I noticed was the body language of the people. People I knew from the community, people dealing with more brokenness (I would learn) than I could ever suspect. They approached the altar, hunched over, unable to look up, the burdens of the world, and their own sin so oppressing them. And then, as they received the body of Jesus on their tongues, as they drank from the chalice or the little cups, their bodies changed. They relaxed, the stern reverence was replaced with smiles that were filled with peace, and joy.

I know no other way to explain it, except to say they encountered Christ. They were overwhelmed by His presence, His mercy, His love. And when they sang the traditional Nunc Dimittis after communion, they like Simeon, knew God’s salvation. Not as theology, not as some fact, but something that resonated with every beat of their heart.

That joy allowed them to leave the brokenness behind, it allowed them to be free of what oppressed them. One of my professors would later describe this using the word “incarnational” not restricting the incarnation to an event in the Judean hills 2000 years ago but seeing it happen here. This is what the early Lutherans meant by the sacrament comforting their frightened consciences.

And each of the sacraments does this, baptism, the Eucharist, Confession and Absolution, as we participate, as we share in life with Jesus, who brought us to life in HIs resurrection.

This can’t be adequately explained, even by the best of theologians. The sacraments aren’t something that man has the power to research, to “objectively observe.” But they bring about a healing of our souls, as the promises of God become true for us, as the love of God, in all its measureless dimensions, is revealed, As we are transformed, and that is revealed as well, the glory of God reflecting from us, as it did from Moses face.

Come, let us adore Him, for the Lord is with us. AMEN!



Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession: The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

7


Theology that Truly Matters Meets Us….

Devotional THoguht fo the Day:
14  Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15  Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)

290      Joy, and supernatural and human optimism, can go hand in hand with physical tiredness, with sorrow, with tears (because we have a heart), and with difficulties in our interior life or our apostolic work. He who is perfectus Deus, perfectus Homo—perfect God and perfect Man—and who enjoyed every happiness in Heaven, chose to experience fatigue and tiredness, tears and suffering… so that we might understand that if we are to be supernatural we must also be very human.  (1)

Tomorrow in church we will use the Athanasian Creed, an incredible wonderful set of words that describe the nature of God who is so much more than we can understand or conceive.  It first describes Father Son and Holy Spirit (or for us older folk Holy Ghost).  Mindblowing in both its simplicity and complexity.  Very appropriate as we dedicate the day to thinking about the Trinity, this majestic and glorious God, who has revealed Himself to us.

The second aspect I want to deal with here, well sort of…

It describes, as best as one can, the divine and human nature of Christ.  That he is 100% man, 100% divine.  Theologians will talk about this ad nauseum, with fancy Latin phrases and epic tomes which make us sound far more brilliant than we are.  Where it matters is where the saint who wrote Hebrews mentions above.

Christ has sympathy for us.  Not just a sympathetic ear, but true sympathy for us.  Or perhaps more accurately, empathy.   He’s been here, done this, and instead of having a t-shirt to wear, He has stripes on His back, a gaping hole in His side, and in his wrists and feet.  As the scriptures tell us, he endured the temptations we face, (and then some extras!)  He experienced the fatigue and suffering, the tears and emotional exhaustion.  his sacrifice was on the cross, but it was also His very life.  A life that was an offering for us, and to us, to show us the depth of God’s love.

Which is why, broken and weary, tired and drained, even doubting and in despair, we can turn to Him.  Or more precisely drawn to Him.  We don’t have to avoid the pain, and the sorrow, the tears and the grief.  For there, in the midst of the brokenness, we find Jesus, who was broken for us. We find in our Humanity, the Lord and Savior, who loved us enough to become human, and there, at that moment, we find the joy of His making us holy, and supernatural, as we share in His glory.

So if you are preaching tomorrow, remember to link the Trinity to their beloved, remember to mention the Birde of Christ.  If you are hearing a sermon, worship with great joy, knowing that God is with you… that He has chosen to share your life, and at that moment, know the peace and joy that is beyond all understanding.  For Jesus the Christ is with you, guarding you heart and mind.  AMEN!




 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1181-1185). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Are We So Afraid of Repentance?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
7  In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Luke 15:7 (NLT)

18  When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Acts 11:18 (NLT)

994         If you really want to be a penitent soul—both penitent and cheerful—you must above all stick to your daily periods of prayer, which should be intimate, generous and not cut short. And you must make sure that those minutes of prayer are not done only when you feel the need, but at fixed times, whenever it is possible. Don’t neglect these details. If you subject yourself totally to this daily worship of God, I can assure you that you will always be happy.

Imagine for a second that you’ve been told on the other side of a chain link fence there is 4 million dollars.  That it is yours if you can get past the fence.  There are ways to get through it, over it, under it, but it can be done.  Those ways might include a little pain, but your mortgage is due, your card just died, and the kids are just a few years from needing money for college, and your tax due just wiped out your bank account.

You grit your teeth, determine which way will work, and get to it.  After all, the peace of being debt free for a while is worth the effort.

A change of scenario, the debt is not financial.  It is spiritual.  Do you set your mind on the end result and embrace what it takes to get to the peace you need?  Or do you stay where you are at, hounded by guilt and shame, crushed by the resentment and anxiety you feel?  Yet we avoid the very blessing that would free us from all that oppresses us, all that holds us bondage.

I can understand those who do not know God’s love for them avoiding repentance, but what about those of us who do?  What about those of us who teach about it, and call people to repentance?  Why are we so afraid of it?  Are we worried how people will react?  Or are we worried we will realize how much we need repentance as well?

I chose the three readings above, in hopes that they will show that there is way to get through the fence, to find the peace we need.  That even as we do, all heaven, and all those who know that peace will be rejoicing, that they will be rejoicing for us and with us. And as St. Josemaria indicates, a repentant life is one of happiness, a life of cheerfulness, a life that is abundant and worth living.

Because what is on the other side of the fence brings that joy.  It is the life that is intimate with God. That lets Him bear our burdens, that lets Him rid us of the anxiety, the resentment, the guilt, the doubt, the pain.  It allows us to cast off this sin which so hand us in its grasp, crushing us with its bondage.

No wonder heaven rejoices when one of us repents.  (and we all need to!)  It is no wonder that the early church rejoiced and praised God, singing of His glory.

Today we enter the season of lent.  It is not that we shouldn’t repent daily, but it is a time of learning why, of taking the time to seriously examine our lives, and not for a season, but for life make adjustments. either ridding ourselves of that which distracts us from God, or taking on something which will make us more aware of His presence.  I prefer the latter, as it helps our transformation  -not because of our efforts – but because we will find His peace life-changing.

Don’t fear repentance, it is time to embrace it, for the joy set before us… is amazing.

So amazing, all heaven rejoices, as will those who love and care about you.

Cry out with faith, “Lord, have mercy!” and then rejoice that He has!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4019-4023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God, please leave me alone!!! (and thank you Holy Spirit!)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5  Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” 6  It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. 7  They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8  Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Luke 5:4-8 (MSG)

574      You insist on trying to walk on your own, doing your own will, guided solely by your own judgement… And you can see for yourself that the fruit of this is fruitlessness. My child, if you don’t give up your own judgement, if you are proud, if you devote yourself to “your” apostolate, you will work all night—your whole life will be one long night—and at the end of it all the dawn will find you with your nets empty.  (1)

This morning I made it through my devotional time, without a thought that struck me hard.  I would think I was just going through the motions, but that is a poor excuse.  The reason I enjoy the time I spend in the scriptures, reading through the Book of Concord and Vatican II documents (my goal for this church year) and the writings of St Josemaria Escriva is because one of them reveals to me the presence and promises of God.

i do it so I don’t get into the practice of doing by just going through the motions.

I am in mourning this morning, and that has an effect on me, I am sure.  A very good friend from one of my previous congregations passed away, and it is hitting me all to hard. I haven’t seen him in a while, maybe two years…. and I miss him a lot.  This is on top of a very emotional week.  Two other friends in ICU, and pouring out in sermons on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday the miracle of Christ’s presence, and the desire of God to make us His holy children.

I feel a lot like Peter, as Jesus performs the miracle and fills his boat with abundance. Lord, I am tired, weary, not holy enough to be in your presence. Just leave me alone….. please…..

As I was finishing up with devotions, the very first point in The Forge, is the one quoted in brown above. I knew I had to write on it, and the event that inspired it, the scripture passage.

What I didn’t realize, even as I started writing, having copied and pasted both quotes, was how Peter’s request would affect me.  It is how I feel.

Lost
Full of remorse,
Tired
Hurting.bereaved

And yet, all around me, I see miracles, stuff God is doing, there is no other explanation for what is going on….

“Leave me alone, I can’t handle this holiness Lord!” This is Peter’s cry… but it is echoing over and over in my soul.

Even as I am writing this, another passage comes to mind….

26  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

I will hang on this this today, despite my wanting to find a cave like Elijah, or the spot David can’t find in Psalm 139, a place where God isn’t.  I need to know God doesn’t forsake or abandon us, He is there, a Father who keeps His promise, a Brother who gives His life for us, who bears our sorrows, and iniquities… (taking away our excuse to run because we aren’t holy) and the Holy Spirit, who brings comfort and peace, and takes our cries…and prays for what we really need……

The assurance of God’s presence, and love.

Lord Have Mercy….. and He does!  

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2137-2140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Two Cries of a Church That is Alive… (even though others think it is dying)

Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
When the LORD brought us back to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2  How we laughed, how we sang for joy! Then the other nations said about us, “The LORD did great things for them.” 3  Indeed he did great things for us; how happy we were! Psalm 126:1-3 (TEV)

Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. Romans 12:15 (Phillips NT)

 “if this is not a place where tears are understood, where can I go to cry?”  (1)

” I’m going where He goes, out into the world of lonely people:”

“Concordia is the the place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal!”

There has been a blog going around recently, about the last gasps dying churches.  It is quite popular, not with those who are in the dying churches, but those that observe them, and are waiting for them to die.   I’ve been in those churches, and I’ve seen them come back to life, miraculously in some people’s minds. There is a different view from inside than out, there is a different need perceived, there are different words said, different gasps and prayers. They aren’t as self-centered and waiting for the last one to die, so that they can turn the lights out, as is often alleged.

So what does this have to do with the quotes above?  Well, that is where I find the life in these churches.  The two essential cries of the church, the cries of joy, and the cries of sorrow.

If a church can rejoice in the news of a baptism, if a church can cry as a member or friend dies, then it is not dead, or dying.  Depressed perhaps, anxious or frightened, sincere and yet wrong in their, these places where tears of joy and sorrow run, they are alive.  They may need great care, they may need patient shepherding, but they are not dead…..

Here is where it starts, they need to know that they (actually we) aren’t the only ones who hear those cries.  That God Himself laughs, that God himself cries with them.  That there is a great picture of God in Isaiah rejoicing, where the word is actually dance!  And they need to see Jesus tears, as He weeps at Lazarus’ tomb, and as He weeps over Jerusalem.  They need to see God as one who brings comfort and peace, who celebrates who loves His people.

Whoever they are.

I’ve found that these churches that people assume are dying can minister to people who feel lost and overlooked in the mega-churches, in the churches where lament is a concept, but not an experience.  They can be the family of the single mom, they can accept those who struggle with sanity, they can care for the widow and orphan – not just provide them something.  They are great places for families that struggle – because as a congregation, they can rejoice, and they can weep with those who need more than a hour and 4 minutes of a church service. Bring in a missionary, they will minister to him or her extensively.

One of the churches I served once sponsored a pretty famous Christian/Blugrass musician to play at the town fair.  It was a risk – an incredible 5% of our annual budget (which wasn’t much! went to bring him in for a Saturday night concert, and the following morning to play at our church.  That Sunday, as he played to our 45 or so people – and 5-6 guests, the band asked if they were welcome at the potluck afterward.  Of course – come on down – feast.  It was something they never got to do – big venues mobbed them, and they had to hide. With us, they could be ministered to  they could be welcomed as family.  Though it didn’t have the impact we wanted on the community – this little church – that others told me not to come to -because it was dying… served others.

In my experience, these churches are alive, they need gentle shepherding, and they need to know that it is good to cry, good to laugh, good to cling to each other and slowly, as they look to Jesus, as the Holy Spirit ministers among them, they won’t be gasping, they will be crying…to God, with God, in God’s presence.

They will see people come home, as the Psalmist describes….and they will know the Lord is doing great things there…

 
(1)  Ken Medema; quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer:  Aidan Readings for 7/17

(2)  Ann Kiemel  same source

 

 

A Prayer for Souls Thought to Be Dry and Barren

Devotional and Discussion THought of the Day:

7  So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8  And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.    Ezekiel 37:7-10 (ESV) 

St. Aidan’s Prayer for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Lord, this bare island, make it a place of peace. Here be the peace of those who do Thy Will. Here be the peace of brother serving man. Here be the peace of holy monks (servants) obeying. Here be the peace of praise, by dark and day.Be this Island, Thy Holy Island   Lord, Thy servant make this prayer, be it Thy Care.  AMEN  (taken from the Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community) 

Yesterday I wrote a blog about the feeling we can sometimes get that leaves us feeling that we are spinning our wheels. Where we become so desperate that we question our holiness, and try to motivate change by heeding to old ways and traditions that would make us seem holier, or changing everything up to try and manipulate effectiveness.  There are times in ministry for those things – both of those things, but when we feel ineffective, when we feel like we are spinning our wheels isn’t the time.

It seems my devotions are stuck in this vein of thought, this what do we do when we feel dry and barren, when our work is not producing what we expect it too. The days when we feel like giving up. I”ve had those days, and sort of on the border of them now.  Some would just pick yourself up and spin a positive feeling and get moving.  It’s funny how many people on Facebook are posting things like that, not to anyone, but just as their status.  Makes me wonder how many are tryingto find the motivation to get up – to get moving themselves.

But a barren peice of land, and a barren heart have much in common.  Someone has to come along and bring life where there isn’t.  In Adian’s prayer, the One that can make this happen is God.  It is no less in our lives and in our ministry/spiritual life. It is God who comes along, God who takes the brokenness, the dryness, the lifeless and breathes His Spirit into us in our baptism, and calls that promise to mind – along with the promise He will never leave or forsake us.

in the Old Testament, they had these times as well – which is why they were called to hear and remember the entire covenant often – not just the law, but the covenant including the promises.  It is why Luther calls us to remember our baptism, not just the actual act of it, but the very work of God as He cleansed us, as the Holy SPirit was given to us, and therefore life breathed into us.   It is what when we take and eat His body and drink His blood He comes to mind, His presence, HIs love. It has been done.

It is in those remembrances that we realize He is present, even if the turmoil has distracted Him from our presence.

And then we realize that perhaps we’ve mistaken a time of God given rest, as a time of barrenness… Breathe in deeply, and with that breath, know His love, the Spirit’s presence, His work through you.

For the Lord is with you!

And rejoice!

He will bi

Will you let them see you….

Devotional after a long Day:

 15  Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. 16  Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. .  Romans 12:15-16 (NJB)

442         Diamonds are polished with diamonds…, and souls with souls. (1)

On Sunday, the people of my church will promise to a little baby, to be there when she is full of joy, to cry with her when her heart aches.  In all things, to pray for her, and to remind her that the Lord is with her, for He has claimed her and united her to Himself.  And as a baptized belever, she will grow in this as well, and as we struggle, she will be there for us, and as we know Christ’s peace, she will as well.

That’s the way Paul says we are supposed to be, as Jesus church, the people called together as His own, whom He calls His friends (yeah He does – look it up) But since you are His sibling and son or daughter of God, as am I, we are siiblings, we are united together in Christ.  As Paul says

25  This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27  All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. .1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NLT) 

But this is where we in the western world, seem to short circuit.  We don’t like people to know our “business”.  We don’t mind them knowing our successes, our joys, but dare we let them see us when we are crushed, bruised, hurting, anxious and scared?  When our health is failing, when someone is breaking our heart, when we are lost in sin, when we can’t escape its trap on our own, the causes of our pain and brokenness,

But will we dare to reveal ourselves, so that others can cry with us?  So that others can be there, and remind us Jesus is there.. Will we let them see us, let them minister to us, cr with us?  Will we we let their presence remind us of His presence, their love remind us of His love.

For the sake of the body… will we let it do what bodies are supposed to do?

I know it’s uncomfortable, I know its awkward, and we fear the embarassment….

O well, we are a family, let’s get used to being one…

For as that family, we have Christ, we have the Faher, and we have the Holy Spirit, the one who’s title is, the Comforter.

Will we cry out together, Lord have Mercy! and Maranatha! and Hallelujah?

If you want to see a church that does this… come join us at Concordia…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1964-1965). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

For the joy awaiting… take up and endure your cross.

Jesus Off the Cross

Jesus Off the Cross (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Devotion of the Day

24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.    Matthew 16:24 (TEV) 

 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.   Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)

The Cross marked his life. He took as his daily motto, “Nulla dies sine cruce: no day without the cross.” A touchstone whose truth had been proved by experience. But he brightened it up by adding two words in front: in laetitia, in joy, which denoted a disposition, a grace, for his way of living. His personal aspiration was thus “In joy, no day without the cross.” If ever a day passed without some note of adversity, Monsignor Escrivá would go to the tabernacle and ask, “What’s up between us, Lord? Don’t you love me anymore?” Not that he liked pain. But he was convinced that the cross was the royal seal of the works of God. “To me, a day without the cross is like a day without God,” he used to say;8 he did not want there to be a single day without it as a stamp of authenticity. (1)

The last two days were some of the hardest days I have encountered in my ministry.  7 top level tragedies and traumas, a 400 mile drive, a long day at work.  A facebook thread that made me wonder why some go into ministry….for the wrath and venom poured out was unlike any I have seen.

It was a day where I was drained by noon, as much emotionally as physically, but physically suffering from “drive-lag”.

Yet, as I look upon it this morning, I understand that there is no way those days can happen, unless God is with me.   To deal with broken hearts, very borken lives, some dealing with it, some running from it, some doing both at the same time.  (that is called running in circles )

At the end of the day, no, really before that, I was wiped out, finished, broken myself.   Too tired to think straight, to tired to enjoy life.

But when I went to sleep – I slept – knowing that God was present, not just in my life, but in the lives of everyone I know enduring trauma.  Somehow, despite my anxieties, and fears and all the crap that is going on in this world… God stripped me of it, took the burdens into His hands.  Otherwise? I would have been up half the night.

I suppose on of the reasons I love St Josemaria Escriva’s works, is because of such honesty.  Because he is an example of trusting in God, in knowing God’s presence, that taking up such a cross is doen without thinking, its done without complaint, its done – knowing that we are simply here to bear the burdens that others can know Christ’s peace, and love, and mercy.  But we can’t bear those burdens long – they will chew us up and spit us out, exhausted, overwhelmed, maybe even bitter and disgusted with life.

But we follow Him, to the cross, to His death, to that point where every sin was paid for, every point of brokenness removed… and then we find ourselves alive!

For we bear our cross to His cross.  For His cross takes it all…. and brings healing and joy – and rest – but we have to see ourselves there.. at the foot of the cross, seeing His brokeness, seeing His blood spilled on the ground, seeing His eyes… looking down upon his, with a joy that knows by that very pain He is enduring… that He is freeing us from our burdens, our pains, our crosses.  We can’t deal with our burdens, our brokeness, we can’t have faith and trust in Him, unless we recognize those things we bear… and realize they are to be nailed to Him, to His cross.

“In joy, no day without the cross“…. because our crosses require us to be with Him, to let Him ultimately bear them.  For joy is there, awaiting us, for He is there awaiting us.

Lord, have mercy!

Yesterday was a rough day,  One of those days you realize is a cross to bear. 

 

 

(1)   Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 1552-1559). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Anger or Sorrow…which will be drive your reaction?

 43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven   .Matthew 5:43-45 (NLT)

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest challenges as I try to walk in Christ, to walk as one cleansed of sin, is to live out the above.  I can usually deal with those who want to frustrate me, well most of the time, but when someone does something against my family, either my biological one or my family in Christ, or does something that stops the family of God from being out there, searching for and taking in those whom Christ died for, I want to go all “billy jack” or “chuck norris” on them.

The last thing I really want to do for them, is love them.   I want the right to be righteously indignant, I want to just take them on, and show them how their error – whether legalism that makes the church a fortress safe from invasion, or the extreme liberalism that basically turns the church over to the world and disregards God’s mercy, either way.. there are stumbling stones that… I must get rid of quickly.  Time to grap a sword, put on armor and start the next crusade!

At least that is my reaction in anger.  

Then the scripture comes alive… and I wonder, as a friend pointed out recently in a pastor’s gathering – should I be angry or grieving?  In anger, 

If I am angry I want retribution, I want to quickly eradicate the problem, even if the cost is great, or it simply inflames the situation.

If I can breath for a moment, I will realize that the anger hides my own pain, my own hurt, the brokenness caused, and the sorrow over what I hold dearest betrayed. If the people I blame  my struggle are indeed “enemies of the cross of Christ”, will my reaction be to admit the sorrow, the pain, the loss of a relationship, of the loss of possible relationships?  A

I can never love the enemies I am angry with… but I can love those whose actions cause sorrow.  Such was the actions of Christ, towards us. If we could love them, if our goal wasn’t wrath and our version of justice, could we instead aim for their being found righteous in Christ, and instead of frontier justice, we find reconciliation at the altar?  

This week’s sermon will go down this line further… but today, as people antagonize you, or others actions just infuriate you…before you react, think through the hurt and pain you feel – give it as well to God, then, even as you grieve…try to love them, knowing Christ’s love for the both of you.

Such is living in Christ…

In my devotions this morning – thinking through the sermon passage for this week, I came across this:

When you open the Holy Gospel, think that what is written there—the words and deeds of Christ—is something that you should not only know, but live. Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail by detail, for you to make it come alive in the individual circumstances of your life. God has called us believers ( original said “Catholics”) to follow him closely. In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life. You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, “Lord, what would you have me do?…” And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, “The Will of God!” Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done.”

The will of God – to love Him completely, to love your neighbor..

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2721-2729). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

In Trouble? Call Collect!

Call Collect!
Romans 10:8-13

IHS

May you realize the grace and peace given to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and may your life reveal it to our broken world!

 

If you get in trouble, call collect!

I still remember hearing the words, as I went out the door on February 13, 1981, my gosh, 32 years ago this week.  I had just gotten my license two days before, and as I left the house, to go pick up my buddy John Cartier and the two girls that were supposed to go skating with, I heard these words…
if you get into trouble, remember – you can call us collect!”

So I hopped in my first car, a very fast Pontiac Astra – and headed out, not thinking about the words much.

 

As I was writing this sermon, I was thinking how odd it is this sermon illustration has run its course – the people younger than 30 will never understand it!  The kids today can call on their cells, text, even drop pictures of the car with the flat tire.  Or skype their parents – even if they are on the other side of the world!   I mean – when was the last time you saw a pay-phone anyway?

Calling collect?  Wow – that was a big thing back then!  It cost so much money!  It was only for emergencies, or perhaps, to call a grandparent on a birthday.

That was the big thing about it – being given the assurance that my parents would help – or at least try to help if I found myself in trouble.  Even if it meant I was calling collect from whatever problem I would find myself.  They would be there.  Looking back – a very special promise.

If you need to be saved…

          Do you? That’s the walk of Lent!

          The irony of a 40 day temporary change!

 

Generally, there were only two reasons to call collect in the old days.  Incredibly joyous news, or oh boy, were you in trouble.  Cell phones and skype are used now – the incredible technology we only dream of in comic books back in the day.

But you can still call collect if you are in trouble, matter of fact at county jail that is the only way you can call someone, I hope you all never find out how very, very expensive it is.

As we look at Paul’s epistle today, there is a similar call that is encouraged. As Paul tells us, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved!”


It is logical- that if you call on someone to save you, that there is something serious going on, and it isn’t a good thing!  Especially for us guys – because we will take something that is a minor problem – and before we call someone else for help – we have turned it into a major crisis.

That is so often with the sin in our lives, as one sin leads to another sin, and rather than confess our sin, we end up creating a major war. Even so, one sin is enough to render us broken, one crisis caused by someone else’s sin enough to render us useless.

It is part of our walk during lent, to survey the damage that sin has caused, the problems and divisions, the anger and resentment and hurt, and to realize, just as my parents did – God encourages us to call out to Him –that we may be rescued!

It’s a pretty harsh thing – to look at the brokenness caused by generations of sin, but our generations aren’t innocent either – just the sins of the past months would be a harsh devastation to face for most of us.  Yet, looking at such isn’t about creating within us a level of guilt or shame, or disgrace.  For as Paul reminds us,

“As the scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced!”

That is the thing about knowing we have the ability to call collect – the assurance that though we are in trouble, we won’t be turned away – that there is almost an expectation that someday, we will be in a situation where our parents, or our close friends, may need to rescue us.

If our parents were so willing to care, how much more does God – who paid the price for our “collect call”, as Christ hung on the cross.

That is what church is about; a bunch of God’s kids reminding each other that God isn’t impossible to get to!  That God isn’t going to be upset at us, when we call out to him to rescue us, or to rescue someone else who we care about – to rescues those who’ve we hurt, and even those who have hurt us.

That is what is so incredible, that God knowing our lives, the temptations we would face, the struggles we would have, the sin we would commit, planned and paid for all of our collect calls.

Indeed, it is even our normal thing to call, it is something that God places in our hearts, in our lives,  It is the power of the Holy Spirit, working through God’s word, as it is communicated to others, that brings us to the point where we can call.  Where, tired of the burdens we bear, tired of the hurts, tired of the stress in our lives and in the lives of those we love… we are compelled to reach out to the hand that has been offered, as we realize the price has been paid for the call…already

Is it time to call?

          Generously He Gives

He answers all – Judean and Greek
None are disgraced!

There have been days where I thought that this passage was only about our call to faith, that it was a passage that a pastor or preacher would use at a revival, to assure us that our prayers to be saved would be heard, and having taken care of that, we could go about our lives, joyfully, complete.

We have a Lord who gives generously scripture tells us. A Lord who we can call on as we deal with all the struggles we have in this life, as He answers all of us, no matter our ethnicity, or our age, none who call on His Name – is disgraced.  For that is why we’ve been given it – to call upon in need. We can call on Him anytime, in any place, and know that He is there.  Ready to show mercy, ready to clean up the mess, ready to heal our brokenness, ready to heal and help us back on the road.

The sermon is short today, with a reason.  It’s time to call upon His name – to give us time to call on God’s name – to extend our prayer time out a little, to take Him at His word.

That relieved of all stress, of all burdens, of all the sin and unrighteousness we deal with, and which we think about at this time, that our hearts and voices, undisgraced, can rejoice that indeed, His message, His declaration of love, is indeed on our lips.. and in our hearts.

AMEN.

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