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We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT

To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)

The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.

For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.

There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!

But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”

It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.

The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.

It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.

For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.

Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.

This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.

And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….

Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Why I Am Thankful for Non-Theologian Believers

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT

The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.

But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.

To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”

In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.

And I know I am not alone.

We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.

you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.

That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.

It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.

And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.

They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.

This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.

Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. 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.) (p. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Challenge of the Cost of Revival

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you rule in heaven over all the nations of the world. You are powerful and mighty, and no one can oppose you. 7† You are our God. When your people Israel moved into this land, you drove out the people who were living here and gave the land to the descendants of Abraham, your friend, to be theirs forever. 8 They have lived here and have built a temple to honor you, knowing 9 that if any disaster struck them to punish them—a war,d an epidemic, or a famine—then they could come and stand in front of this Temple where you are worshiped. They could pray to you in their trouble, and you would hear them and rescue them. 2 Chron. 20:6-9

If I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first.
Between a rugged Church coming out to the streets and a Church sick of self-referential narcissism, without doubt, I prefer the first.
When the Church does not walk, she falls apart like a sandcastle
.

The Lord requires us to go to the end of our misery, our poverty, our sin when we are before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Being poor, this is our title of nobility.

Perfect Churches don’t need revival, so they do not see it happen. The same goes for people who have it all together, whose lives are not crushed by sin, who have no worry about death, who never had to deal with temptation, or struggle with demonic activity.

Of course, the only churches and eople that are that good are those who are already in the God’s presence.

The rest of our churches are wounded and broken. Their people are not prim and proper, but are worn down, and look and smell like they’ve just finished a 10 hike in the mountains and desperately need a bath, a showed, and manybe another bath.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a church that is about to undergo revival, a person who about to experience God’s ability to transform them must be in the mdist of their misery, they must address their spiritual poverty. For there, they can cry out to God, in the place where He has set aside to remind them He is with them, they He is patient and desires to transform us.

For as we cry out, we begin to see the reality of His rescue, we being to see the salvation that He has promised is not far off, but that we are in the midst of it.

He will hear us.

For it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to call upon Him, to reach out, only to find He’s been there all the time.

And in awe at His work, His patience, His love, we find the life He has created us to live. A life that is not static, a life that findss meaning in revealing His love to others.

A life that llives for the moment when another person, or another community realizes that God is with them.

Lord, help us learn to stop hiding from our brokenness, but tather let you heal and restore us. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 185). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 123). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

A Question of Primary Importance to Your Life!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31  “So don’t worry and don’t keep saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:31 (Phillips NT)

Therefore, I maintain there is no one who can know everything that the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they had to proclaim or teach something from this psalm, they would not know where to begin. In order to shame these evil people and to honor the word of God, I have decided to interpret this psalm myself. I would like people to see both how clear and common it is and how it is nonetheless unfathomable. Even if it seems obvious (which it is not), nonetheless in virtue and power it is unfathomable, and it always renews and creates a clean heart and refreshes, washes, comforts, and strengthens us without end. I see and learn daily how the beloved prophets studied the Ten Commandments from where their sermons and prophecies had their sources and springs. Let us now divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and admonition.

Benedict XVI told the young prisoners n the prison of Casal del Marmo in Rome on the 18th of March, 2007, We have recalled that God loves us: this is the source of true joy. One can having everything one wants and still be sometimes unhappy. On the contrary, one could be deprived of everything, even freedom or health and still be in peace and joy, if God is in our heart. So therein lies the secret: that God is always in the first place in our life.”
Before him, St Augustine said, ‘Sometimes the doctor makes a mistake in promising the patient health of the body. God gives you a sure and free healing, that is salvation’. This is the first point: this confusion between health and salvation. Make no mistake, let us look for salvation and many things will follow.

“How is your spiritual health?”

More important than your financial health, your physical health, even more important than your financial health is the question of your spiritual health.

You many think differently, and could point to reasons why mental health or physical health is more important. You could claim that poor financial health could affect the rest.

I know a lot of people in poor health, and they know joy. I’ve been on the mission field and seen the smiles of children and adults, and know they have something the richest people in the word do not. I’ve worked with people challenged by illnesses of the mind, who even through their challenges, find peace and comfort at the altar, where they receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Yet we often get confused about what it means to be truly “healthy.” And the thing we omit the most is our spiritual condition. We refuse to ask ourselves

– are we struggling with a particular temptation or sin
– are we repressing anger and resentment
– are there people we’ve offended that we need to seek forgiveness from
– do we realize we are in the presence of God, God who loves us.
– are we taking the time to adore God, and to realize the work He is doing in us, renrewing us as the Spirit cleansses us, and empowers our will and our deeds?
– Do we depend on God more than we distrust the world’s leaders, (or trust and depend on them? )
– Do we trust and depend on God to make all things work in our lives for good. All things, including the crap we don’t like.

I think most of us are afraid to ask this question.

We feel like the negative answers would result in massive amounts of guilt, the pain of judging ourselves, the feeling of failure and condemantion. The shame of falling short.

But unless we ask ourslves, we will never resolve to apply the easiest healing remedy that exists for anything. For it is simply being in the presence of God, hearing His promsies, receiving His blessing that renews and refreshes us. This is the salvation that Augustine spoke of, a deliverance from spiritual death to an abundant life, now and forever,

This is why Luther said Psalm 118 was so deep, for this is what it reveals, and celebrates and drives into our soul at levels beyond our comprehension.

We need this, for it transforms our life, it actually helps us really live life

It is when this is taken care of by God, as we realize His work, that life changes… it really changes.


Heavenly Father, help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and those we care about and are responsible for guiding in the faith. Help us to desire to see Your work in our lives, that our shame and guilt are left behind, as we seek You, and Your influence in our lives. We ask this, knowing Your love for us, revealed in Jesus Chrsist. 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. 130). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 111). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Value of Quietness…and how it leads to a joyful dance!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.
Genesis 6:9 (NLT2)

All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of timeis being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mysteryof time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same inthe area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do;where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoidfacing the true mystery of inner growth toward God[1]

You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself. Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you.
It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.
We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive.

John O’Donohue

Our primary goal, then, is not just to hear the voice of God but to be mature people in a loving relationship with God. This will result in our living a certain kind of life—one ofloving fellowship with God and those who love him. Only with this in mind willwe hear God rightly.[2]

As a child, my favorite times were when I was alone. Alone to read, along to wander the woods behind our home, alone especially in a church, an hour or two before mass.

Something happened as I was growing up, somehow, I turned into an extrovert, which is kind of awkward, because socially, I am pretty awkward. I can’t find contentment, or satisfaction, or peace easily when I am alone anymore.  Which is pretty good considering my vocation as a pastor, but not okay really, because spiritually, there is a huge need to be alone.

Well, not really alone, for in Christ, we never area.

The quote from O’Donohue above (from the Northumbrian community daily devotions at https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/) struck me first this morning.  How often our desperate hunger to be loved forces us into awkward and even harmful situations,  How often are we blind to the purest and greatest love, that is right at the edge of our soul?  And yet to recognize it, we have to set aside our restlessness, we have to realize that being still, being quiet, being able to rest is not a waste of time.

For as Pope Benedict notes, there is a mystery that occurs as we are still, we grow and become, we find our reality, we relate to God.

Willard reinforces this as well, as he notes we aren’t just made to listen toGod, to hear His voice, to praise Him in unison with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  We are madeto grow up into this loving relationship with God, to be in this amazing lifewhere we dance with God, where we share His joys, where He helps us with peacein the midst of sorrow.

Which means we have to find the quiet times, not to be disciplined, but to restin His presence, to remember He is our God, that He cares for us. To walk inclose fellowship with God as Noah did, and yet find the strength to know Him,to be at peace in His glory, in His presence.

So set the time aside, learn to love the moments of peace that finally set in…learn to leave all the distractions behind.

Meditate on the fact that He love you, until that meditation becomes aconversation, and then a dance.

Lord, may all those who read this, findthe time, and the patience, to realize they dwell in Your presence, and you intheirs… AMEN!


[1] 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. 386–387). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

You need to be a saint…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15  Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16  The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)

250    I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.

In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.

His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.

If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him.  Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.

Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.

Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description,  It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.

Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do.  In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.

It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help.  It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression.  A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.

But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect.  It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy  Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.

We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.

Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.      Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.    Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.

King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer.  St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! )  We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression.  We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.

That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.

St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better.  I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.

Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?

Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.

The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin.  It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.

Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us.  Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.

This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful.  As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.

May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.

For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Comfortable In Your Faith? Some Thoughts as We Approach Lent.

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25  But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

938    Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.

As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have.  From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.

Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you.  Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics.  Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.

And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.

What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change?  What if the sacrifices became our way fo life?  What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?

Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God?  Is this even a desire in our lives?  Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God?  Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth?  Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?

This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Context and Measure of Holiness

Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 *“You have heard that it was said,x ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 yBut I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile,* go with him for two miles.z 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.a
Love of Enemies.* 43 b“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’c 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect. NABRE – Matt 5:38-48

24. Yet man must respond to God Who calls, and that in such a way, that without taking counsel with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16), he devotes himself wholly to the work of the Gospel. This response, however can only be given when the Holy Spirit gives His inspiration and His power. For he who is sent enters upon the life and mission of Him Who “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Therefore, he must be ready to stay at his vocation for an entire lifetime, and to renounce himself and all those whom he thus far considered as his own, and instead to “make himself all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22)

This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He earnestly desires that all men should come to him and let themselves be helped  (2)

I have heard many people define holiness over the years.  Some confuse it with purity, a lack of sinlessness and being completely remote from the world.  But those who promote this view do not know how to deal with Jesus eating with whores and tax collectors, filthy sinners and fisherman.

Others would discuss holiness in view of martyrdom, the peaceful testimony of Christ in the presence of persecution and death. But most of us will only be inconvenienced because of our faith; if that is the real reason for people taking a dislike to us.

Others will look upon great acts, the work of those who are steadfast in the faith, who have this or that gift, who spend hours locked away in prayer, or tending to the poor and needy.  As if holiness is some kind of heroic virtue, instead of a life we are called to live.

The last group treats holiness with little concern at all, saying in reaction to those above, that holiness is a virtual impossibility, that no one can attain holiness, that it is impossible by our own strength or power, and that God doesn’t really care, as long as we depend on Him to forgive our lack of holiness.

This last view is the most dangerous.  It steals from us our hope in this life, and it convinces us that how we live, what salvation is about, isn’t living dependent upon God. It denies, faith, hope, and love. And it justifies our self-centeredness, our Machiavellian-inspired theology and practice, and our apathy towards evangelism and service.

In one of the greatest calls to holiness – in the Gospel reading above, Jesus tells us we need to be perfect, (other translations use “holy” here ) even as God is perfect and holy.

It is not an impossibility.  If so, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded it, nor would the Father hold us to that standard.

The context provides the measurement of such holiness as well, the love   The love of our enemies, and the love of those who you aren’t connected to, recognizing the fact that in Christ Jesus you are connected.

Those who would do evil to you, those who would demand more than is their “right” of you, those who you would say are your enemies.

Holiness is loving them.

Holiness is caring for them.

Vatican II notes this with the call to work in the vocation of the gospel – without thought or cost – even if it means a lifetime of service. It means living this way at the cost of renouncing yourself, or the people who are “yours”, serving instead “all men”, yes, including those aren’t “ours”

That they aren’t our religion, our countrymen, out ethnicity, our race, our culture, our family, or our friends; even so, we are to love them as if they are!  We are to love them because they are.

This is having the attitude of Jesus, the attitude Philippians 2 tells us to have – as described in the great hymn that we love in verses 5-10.  The preceding verses tell us we are to have this mind, this attitude, this same servant’s heart, and love those who are different from us.

NO option.  This is what the people of God are to do.

By now – you are tempted to stop reading this – to write me off as naive, or pelagian, or some kind of fanatic.  A blogger who obviously is so heavenly minded he can’t be of benefit.

We think we aren’t capable of that kind of holiness.  We cannot possibly love like that, can we?  Can we actually care more about our enemies and adversaries as much as those like us?  Can God expect us to love our enemies and lay down our lives for them?   WOuld any many?

Well, any man not nailed to a cross and who rose again three days later?

If we say we cannot,  we miss the work of God.  For He calls us, inspires us, and empowers us.  This si the refreshment and help that the Lutheran Confessions describe as well, ad walking with God that is daily and practical, and incredibly effective.  I

Holiness isn’t walking alone, it is walking with God, moving with Him.  Loving as He loves, serving as He serves, bringing healing and trust as He brings it to us.  Such is our calling, and such is our life

AMEN.

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Real Controversy​ in the Book of Jonah

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?” Jonah answered, “I have a right to be angry—angry enough to die.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You are concerned* over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. 11 And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot know their right hand from their left, not to mention all the animals?” NABRE Jonah 4:9-11

Missionary activity is nothing else and nothing less than an epiphany, or a manifesting of God’s decree, and its fulfillment in the world and in world history, in the course of which God, by means of mission, manifestly works out the history of salvation. By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation.  (1)

“I have learnt with sadness of the killing this morning at the Church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray. The three victims: the priest, Father Jacques Hamel, 84, and the authors of the assassination. Three other people were injured, one very seriously. I cry out to God with all men of good will. I would invite non-believers to join in the cry! “ (2)

A lot of people focus on the fish (some call it a whale) in the story of the prophet Jonah.  To be honest, the controversy there is silly, a game played to avoid what is truly controversial. The sin that is challenged there, and not met with repentance, the sin of Jonah.

Imagine today if an evangelical leader was called to go to Iraq or Syria, to preach repentance to the cadres of ISIL, or to AAfghanistanand preach to ISIL’s history enemy, Al Quaeda. Would they look for the nearest beach, rather than taking a ship to the location of their new ministry?  Would they and their friends get mad if they saw their enemies repent, throwing a tantrum as Jonah did?

There is the controversy, there is the place where ministry could occur, and those who know the grace of God are tempted to turn their back on not only the people God would have heard their gospel, but on the mission of God, and really on the heart of God.

God calling you on not loving your enemies?  God calling you on loving a “thing” ( in his case a plant, of for us, our way of living ) more than you love the people.  That’s controversial.  There is a conversation that will hurt, that may drive us from the room, or perhaps to our knees in repentance.

Look at the quote of the ArchBishop of the priest who became a martyr.  He prays for the two assassins – and calls them victims!  That is controversial!  Even more controversial than Pope Francis reminding the cChurch that Christians can be very violent as well.

We are all sinners, we are all victims of unrighteousness as well.  The unrighteousness of sins committed against us, the unrighteousness that springs from our being led into sin by those who should be carrying us to the cross. From those who should help us see our epiphany, who should help us see Jesus revealed as the one who cleanse all people of all sin, and all unrighteousness. Who desires that so much, that he is even patient with us as He waits for us to get our act together, to live as Christ lived, to love our enemies even as Christ loved us.

Jonah was pissed at God, for he couldn’t see why God would let a plant die.  Yet Jonah was willing to write off a city, and was ticked at their repentance.  God called him on that…

And perhaps now, or perhaps as we head forward to communion this weekend, we need to examine ourselves, confess our sins, our time of acting like Jonah.  To get past the little miracle to the big issue of Jonah.

God loves our enemies as much as He loves us.

It’s time to rejoice over that fact… and realize those who like us, were enemies of God, are our brothers and sisters.  Whether they are Muslim, or Sikh, Jewish by faith, or simply genetically, atheist or agnostic, Lutheran or Catholic.   God is calling them, and calling us to deliver that message.

Lord have mercy on us ALL!

AMEN

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2)  Archbishop LeBrun http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/general/press-release-of-the-archbishop-of-rouen-following-hostage-situation-at-church-of-saint-etienne-du-rouvray

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