Devotional Thought of the day:
5 For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father r in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful t son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Cor. 4:15-17 HCSB
How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus, how much tenderness is in there!
Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!
But what is it to pray that his name may become holy? Is it not already holy? Answer: Yes, in itself it is holy, but not our use of it. God’s name was given to us when we became Christians at Baptism, and so we are called children of God and enjoy the sacraments, through which he so incorporates us with himself that all that is God’s must serve for our use.
As I was working through my readings this morning, the first, the reading from Paul’s letter to a church he loved (and struggled to love) kept coming back to mind. And then as I read Pope Francis, and Pastor Martin Luther’s words, I saw great examples of what Paul was teaching.
Anyone can deliver a lesson, a sermon that is exegetical and explains the Bible passage more completely than someone can see at first glance. To be honest, you don’t even need a good preacher to do so, for we have 2,000 years of commentators like John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Lenski, Matthew Henry and William Barclay who will do that for you.
Someone whose primary goal is preaching can do the studies, or borrow them from someone else, and lecture you, mailing you on what you did wrong, showing you how you must behave, and reminding you of who God is, helping you explore the incredible knowledge we have in scripture. They are instructors, and we need that kind of information.
But a sermon, a real sermon, is something a pastor crafts and delivers. It is a pastor, someone who acts as a spiritual father. Someone who has learned from their errors, and cares enough to help you when you are in error, guiding you back to the way that is “in Christ”.
The pastor brings you to see God in all His glory, the glory that comes from our love and our mercy. He wants you to experience the healing that happens when seeing Christ, you respond to His love being poured out upon you. When you realize as Luther said, that God through His word and sacraments, just doesn’t teach you, but see you incorporated into Christ that our thoughts turn to Him, depending on Him to care for us.
A pastor shepherds you to the place where you realize what a treasure it is to know God as your Father, when you realize the difference that makes in your daily life, no matter how challenged, no matter how boring, no matter how broken.
you see this in the words of Pope Francis, and Fr. Martin Luther. You see them not just wanting to impart knowledge of God, but helping people experience the love.
Imagine a boy learning to teach. The instructor tells him all about the bait, all about the rods and reels, all about the way to study the river or the lake. The pastor father takes the young man fishing, watching him learn, urging him to be patient, applauding him when he catches something, consoling him when the big one gets away. This is the father-pastor at work, and that care needs to occur in the midst of the sermon, in the midst of the worship service. Helping people “catch” God, who is never far away….reading to be caught, ready to be devoured, ready to be incorporated i our lives, as we are incorporated in His.
This is a pastor’s calling… to help people experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great ot understand fully (see Ephesians 3:19) while being made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 216). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 425). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press
Discussion Thought of the Day:
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture—oracle of the LORD. 2 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.b 3 I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.c 4 I will raise up shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing—oracle of the LORD. NABRE _ Jeremiah 3:1-4
“If there be no bad shepherds,” says Saint Augustine speaking about the good shepherd, “he would not have described the hireling, who sees the wolf and flees. He seeks his own glory, not Christ’s glory. He does not dare to rebuke sinners with freedom of spirit. The wolf catches a sheep by the neck, the devil induces a man to commit adultery. And you are silent and do not rebuke. Then you are a hireling because you have seen the wolf and have fled. Perhaps you might say: ‘No, I’m here, I haven’t fled.’ I answer: ‘You have fled because you have been silent, and you have been silent because you were afraid.’”
16 The holiness of Christ’s Spouse has always been shown—as it can be seen today—by the abundance of good shepherds. But our Christian faith, which teaches us to be simple, does not bid us be simple-minded. There are hirelings who keep silent, and there are hirelings who speak with words which are not those of Christ. That is why, if the Lord allows us to be left in the dark even in little things, if we feel that our faith is not firm, we should go to the good shepherd. He enters by the door as of right. He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy. If your conscience tells you that you have committed a fault—even though it does not appear to be serious or if you are in doubt—go to the sacrament of Penance. Go to the priest who looks after you, who knows how to demand of you a steady faith, refinement of soul, and true Christian fortitude. The Church allows the greatest freedom for confessing to any priest, provided he has the proper faculties; but a conscientious Christian will go—with complete freedom—to the priest he knows is a good shepherd, who can help him to look up again and see once more, on high, the Lord’s star. (1)
It seems a lot of my devotional reading has been about the interior life and caused me to focus on my internal life. My readings this morning are also calling for some self-examination, and the prayers for forgiveness and strength, and prayers for those who like me, shepherd the people of God.
I admit, I wonder how to live up to the words of Jeremiah, whether the people I minister to have been able to overcome the fears or anxieties. I fear the sheep that are being driven away from the church – not just my congregation, and not even the body of congregations mine is part of, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. We spend to much time focusing on division, or drawing lines in the sand, and not enough time in humble prayer. We spend too much time plotting and setting visions, and not enough in selfless service, in building the relationships where people trust us. They need to trust us enough that we can direct them to depend on God, that they drop the barriers and allow God to refine their souls, and that they can run to God’s presence, where the find that He is their rock, their fortress, their sanctuary.
Like every pastor and priest I know, we start out wanting people to have the freedom, the confidence in God that they come to us, so that we can point them to Christ. So often the burdens of ministry stop us from ministering to them. This is our call, the reason we are given the responsibility of preaching the gospel, of teaching people to trust in Christ, and the reason we are the stewards of the mysteries of God.
For those of us, who take the time and begin to examine our ministry, and the life devoted to Christ from which our originates, I would point out some simple words in the middle of St Josemaria’s words. “He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.” Yes, this is us, we want to be a soul in love. and we gave our lives for others. Yet even as we do, St. Josemaria notes we may be sinners (may be is quite generous) who trusts in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.
We can shepherd because we know His mercy, we must depend upon it. The gospel we preach, we preach because it means something personally to us. We can guide people to Him, because we’ve been in the valley and overwhelmed by darkness, and yet have seen Him lifted up so that He might draw us to Him.
This is the walk of the shepherd, one who has been shepherded. Pray for us, pray for your priest and your pastor, Ensure they have time to know God’s peace, that they know His love. Encourage them in ways they know theya ren’t just employees, not just servants, but those who care for your soul. AMEN.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1163-1178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.