“So when you offer your gift to God at the altar, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar. Go and make peace with that person, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 NCV
The boldness of Luther in the hour of danger has been sadly misrepresented by his enemies. It has been attributed to arrogance, self-confidence, and as many other evil qualities as would have constituted a thousand demons. But when we withdraw the veil of his private life, and get an acquaintance with his thoughts in solitude, we get a different view of him. When we follow him to his retirement, and hear nothing but that solitary, penitential cry, “My sins, my sins,” we do not find much self-reliance. It was not in himself that Luther found confidence: it was in the arm of Omnipotence.
2. That a man pray in every time of trial and need; for, the greater our need the stronger is our prayer. Therefore also God, in the 50th Psalm, says: “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” (Always and everywhere there is sufficient provocation to prayer if one will but realize it).
In a lot of churches, November is a month of budget preparation for the next year, and for those churches, Stewardship drives and Stewardship Sundays and fundraising takes a lot of time. At least that is the way many of us were trained, and based on emails and programs sent to me, it still is a major endeavor for some.
I have yet to see a program started in the words of Jesus, found in Matthew’s gospel, and quoted above. For one good reason, the fiscal impact of this heard in our churches would cause the offering plate to have a different weight, for most would hear this as a required first step, and decide it wasn’t worth the effort! They might say, “So if I can’t give unless I reconcile, I guess – I don’t have to give!”
And the most time we don’t want to reconcile, it is because we see “those” much as some Catholic leaders of his day saw Luther! (and undoubtedly as he saw them!) Courts declare such relationship divied, based on irreconcilable differences, whether the relationship is a business or marriage. And in some cases, for the moment, so they are.
But look at Hunt’s words about Luther – everything would change if they could have witnessed how he was haunted by sin, terrified by a God he thought could not love him–then he realized scripture revealed Jesus far differently. some tried to steal that comfort, that peace that knowing our sin was completely forgiven! No wonder he was a little perturbed at Eck and Tetzel, then at the pope that defended their work!
But how do we get through the hardship of trying to do the impossible and reconcile with people we can’t stand? Well, I can tell you that the only way is through and during prayer – while we plead with God for such. Our faith and trust in God deepens as the Spirit empowers us to reconcile. For there is no other way to approach it, except trusting in God to break hearts and restore souls and in doing so, bring about the desire of God. To bring about what Christ’s directive states…
This is far more pleasing to God that throwing $20, $50, or $10,000 in the offering plate….
So be good stewards – first of relationships, then of other treasure, talents and time. And know, God will supply whatever you need, for you dwell in Jesus! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Hunt, The Spiritual Songs of Martin Luther: From the German, trans. Thomas Clark (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1853), vi–vii.
William Lœhe, Seed-Grains of Prayer: A Manual for Evangelical Christians, trans. H. A. Weller (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1914), 1.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13 God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15 Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16 as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Philippians 2:12-16 (CEV)
That false humility is laziness. Such a “humbleness” leads you to give up rights that really are duties.
I could come up with 1000 parables about this, the Marine Recruit who doesn’t think he can climb the wall, the student who doesn’t think they can handle algebra, the new employee who is convinced they can’t do the job on their own, the pastor who…
O wait, I can’t make this too personal.
I can’t direct it towards me, after all, I am nobody.
( I say this, despite reading Exodus for the last couple of weeks… )
St. Josemaria’s words cut me deeply, as I think of all the things I claim I can’t do. After all, I have a load of ready-made excuses. Genetic ones, you know, the kind I don’t want pity for, but heck, I will take a lesser burden if you want to help a poor guy out. And then there is this lack and that lack. And then there is the fact that I am a sinner. I obviously cannot do this. A man has got to know his limitations, at least what the theologian Clint Eastwood said. And I know mine, and I am not capable. I know this.
In fact, I don’t know that.
But is my focus on my inability a sign of laziness? If not, what if I am just afraid of what God might require?
Either is a possibility if I am honest.
For what I forget when I do my self-evaluation is the work God is doing in my life, and in yours. God has saved us, and we need to realize that means we are changing. That we can listen to God and hear His vision, what He wants us to do, whom to forgive, whom to love, who to reach out to, in sharing that love.
He gives us even, the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him, what He has created us to do, what He has called us to do, what the Holy Spirit has equipped us to do.
Maybe it is time to stop procrastinating, stop finding excuses, and simply let God lead us, as He builds His Church.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, remind us that You are the potter, that even as Jesus obeyed and went to the cross we can bear our crosses with the joy You have set before us, knowing that You will be with us all the way! Thank you Lord for not giving up, but calling us and working in us, giving us the desire and ability to be Your faithful children. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)
The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.
From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.
A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)
Those were the priorities of the early church –
A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?
Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.
The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?
How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.
Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!
Be a good steward of his life… and time.
The blessing will be yours!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought for our day:
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15-17 (NLT)
612 Wherever you may happen to be, remember that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Be sure that anyone who wants to follow him cannot attempt to act in any other way.
I suppose, like many good ideas, the selling of animals for sacrifice and the money-changers in the temple area started for the right reasons. Pilgrims came from all over the world, and they didn’t have the temple coin, and bringing livestock and pigeons would have made the journey e
ven more difficult.
Perhaps the inhabitants of Jerusalem entered into these services in order to be hospitable to help out those who had come from longs ways away. But over time it became a commercial venture, a way to make money, and the ministry to others faded in into the background, as profit and costs took over the ministry.
We see this in the church today, as ministries that once developed to serve people now are affected by significant costs. From the tuition of Christian preschools, schools, and universities, to music and books, industries have been formed, including those which support the other industries that directly “serve” our members. Oftentimes, membership becomes confused with the idea of clientele, where the ministry exists to serve them, rather than to equip them to serve others.
And in the meantime, prayer and worship, the adoration of God and giving as freely as we are given disappear, because prayer doesn’t have to line that can be analyzed in black and red terms. These things are the results of people having access to God, and giving them that access is what ministry has to be about. It is why we are called to serve.
We have to find the balance between stewardship and true ministry. We have to run things well, so that prayer and worship aren’t interrupted, that those needed encouragement and discipleship are provided it. Part of that discipleship is helping people learn to serve others, to care for others, to put others needs before their own.
This too is challenging, because many will hear it as a requirement of being a Christian. As the law which they must fulfill or face God’s wrath. It isn’t, for to do something as impossible as being a servant who leads requires only one thing. It requires us to know the Lord is with you! Knowing His presence, knowing His grace and mercy, dwelling in His love, this doesn’t just enable us to serve, it causes us to, as the Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness.
This is our call, this is who we are, leading people into the presence of Christ, and enabling them to know He will hear their prayers
May we serve well, diligently keeping what should be first, first. Lord, Have Mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2268-2270). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (NLT) 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
“At times, fifty per cent of the work is lost because of in-fighting stemming from a lack of charity, and from tales and back biting among brothers. Furthermore, yet another twenty-five per cent of the work is lost by constructing buildings which are unnecessary for the apostolate. Gossip should never be allowed and we shouldn’t waste our time building so many houses. People will then be apostles, one hundred per cent.” (1)
I did a study a few years back, as our church was asked if we could provide space and time for another church – what would be the third congregation that would use our facility. How much would it cost, what wre the implications. At the time, we still had our elementary school, which was struggling, a chinese afterschool program, our preschool, and two congregations. When we added the third congregation, and their midweek services, it ended up that we were using our facility over 70 percent of the time available between 8am and 10 pm. That was amazing. It made me think- what percentage of the classrooms, sanctuaries and offices are used in our churches and chapels and cathedrals around the country? How much empty time is there?
The epistle reading above, focuses our ministry, our message. And I do question – will we plead with others, on God’s behalf, begging them to be reconciled to God. is that the focus of our ministries, is it the reason for our buildings? Is the message of Christ reconciling us to the Father, no longer counting our sins against, so incredible – we pity those who havent’ heard, and break into tears for those who do?
Or are we so busy fighting among ourselves and building kingdoms, that we cannot focus enough on the apostolate – on the mission, the task given us by God? What would it look like, if only we could be focused on the gospel with our lives, our ministries, our facilities – both physical and mental, both human and buildings?
If we could deal with gossip – and use the resources we already have… focusing ministry where they exist – making the sacrifices necessary… would our church look different? Can we, with Paul, realize the precious gospel
Lord have mercy on us.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3396-3399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.