Devotional Thought of the Day:
34† When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw this large crowd, and his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34 GNT
404 The good shepherd does not need to fill the sheep with fear. Such
Over the years I have worked with a few churches looking for a new pastor, and I still do. I’ve also worked with pastors and those studying for the ministry, enough that these two passages resonate with me. They help explain this wonderful world of pastor and people.
They also describe the needed component, that changes a preacher/lecturer in “their pastor”. It is seen as Jesus gets out of the boat, as He looks at the crowd, and His heart aches for them. I believe it aches because these people are so hungry for help, they are so in need, so desperate for hope, so directionless.
They need a shepherd, and they find one in Jesus, and they find the promise seen in the twelve, that God will provide that Spiritiual guide, even as God is developing them, in their midst.
But the reason they need shepherds is because they don’t have them! Those entrusted with the task were experts in the law, in making sure Israel didn’t do the things that they thought would lead to God’s wrath. They wanted to protect their people by instilling in them a sense of judgment, a sense of fear.
The shepherd doesn’t instell a sense of fear in his people, rather, he fears for them, for what will happen if they don’t experience the love of God, if they don’t have the knowledge of God’s love and mercy, if they don’t understand the relationship God wants with them is based on His love for them, not their fear of Him.
Jesus sits the people down, He teaches them, He feeds them, He makes God’s love for them real and tangible. He meets the needs of their souls.
For pastors, this is your calling, it is why you were given the responsibility of word and sacrament ministry. It is why you are entrusted with the means of grace. It is why you are given a heart that resounds with Christ’s love for His people, as you are given a portion to care for.
For people, let your pastors in, allow them to minister to your soul. Allow them to see your hunger, your needs, your brokenness, and trust them to bring healing there, Christ’s healing. Make their job worth the sacrifices and suffering your brokenness demands of them.
You are in this together, the compassionate shepherds, and the people that need them. For you dwell together, in the mercy of Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1821-1823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Task of Ministering to Others ( For pastors, priests, deacons, elders, and all who serve in the church)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2 to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3 Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
The Good Shepherd does not demand that shepherds lay down their lives for a real flock of sheep. But every spiritual shepherd must endure the loss of his bodily life for the salvation of the flock, since the spiritual good of the flock is more important that the bodily life of the shepherd, when danger threatens the salvation of the flock. This is why the Lord says: The good shepherd lays down his life, that is, his physical life, for his sheep; this he does because of his authority and love. Both, in fact, are required: that they should be ruled by him, and that he should love them. The first without the second is not enough.
Christ stands out for us as the example of this teaching: If Christ laid down his life for us, so we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
From an exposition on John by Saint Thomas Aquinas, pastor (Cap. 10, lect 3)
I received the quote from Thomas Aquinas from a friend who I have never met, yet we feel towards each other like brothers. He is an older priest in Sicily, just about to turn 80, who still serves a parish. With the help of google translate, we communicate as we can.
Maybe he sent this to me because of my sermon yesterday, on the passage from Romans above. Maybe it was his reading this morning at Mass, or in his private prayer and devotional time. I don’t know. But on Monday, it is a good, no a very good reading for all of us who serve parishes, whether we are volunteers or paid, ordained ministers or lay ministers. As we call our group of pastors, deacons, elders at our parish – the diakonos, simply meaning the servants.
We are called to live sacrificially, yet, eventually we find it is not so sacrificial. We give of our time, our talents, and our treasure (or give up the opportunity to obtain these things for our own use) to those whom we serve, those who become our children in the faith. My friend, Fr. Giuseppe, has spent his life as a celibate priest, and yet the pictures of his parish show him with his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in the faith. Those pictures show a love and care for my friend that is incredible.
But still we are called to sacrifice, our all, our lives, our hearts, Paul would even have sacrificed his own soul ( if he could have) , in order that these people know Christ. In order that this is not just book knowledge, but deep intimate knowledge of His love. The kind of knowledge that in awe leads to worship, that leads to adoration.
It’s a challenge and blessing because in sacrificing these things, we have to also give up our pride, our vanity. We have to remember that they and we are broken people, needing Christ’s healing. We have to be slow to anger, quick to forgive. Quick to apologize and make things right, long-suffering and patient to guide them toward the repentance they so need. This is the laying down our lives that Aquinas talks about – perhaps not being physically nailed to the cross, but spiritually, and emotionally, and often figuratively, as we work until we are exhausted and more.
It is an impossible task, this being examples to our flocks. Impossible save one thing. We have a God who answers our cry for mercy, who is our example, who doesn’t lord it over us, but serves us in love. That is why the task is all gospel, not law, because we encounter and need Christ in every moment, in every sacrifice.
May we follow the examples of those who have served before, who followed the examples of Christ.
Devotional Thought On ANOTHER MONDAY……
22 They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. Acts 14:22 (TEV)
77 Sometimes you feel that you are beginning to lose heart and that everything is getting on top of you. This kills your good desires, and you can hardly manage to overcome this feeling even by making acts of hope…Never mind: this is a good time to ask God for more grace. Then, go on! Renew your joy for the struggle, even though you might lose the odd skirmish. (2)
Have I mentioned before that I hate Mondays?
Probably, once or twice.
I get to my office, knowing that my office manager is out sick, A little frustration there, anxiety more ( I pray no little preschoolers get sick…) and I get to answer phones. Sigh
Go to turn on my computer – blue screens of death – call to help desk – their jammed – seems the new windows 8.1 update has some bugs? Sigh…
Finally get to my devotions… a time of peace, of calm.. (interruptions begin)
How the heck on a day like this, am I supposed to be holy, set apart to God, and example for those whom I pastor and shepherd towards His grace?
How can I trust that God’s will, will be accomplished, that He will be in charge, (that He will reign in MY life) Or will I be tempted to cuss and rant and basically act like I don’t believe He is here?
Grace – we have to keep remember the gifts, the promised and fulfilled gifts of God. We have to know He is here. That beyond our ability, beyond even our ability to conceptualize, He is working within us, through us. We don’t set ourselves apart to Him! He has already done this – in the very cross of Christ (read Rom 6:1-8) In His death, which is why we proclaim it as we commune with God.
That is how the Apostles strengthened the church, appointing pastors to care for them, encouraging them by pointing them to Jesus, helping them realize what happens in baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, What happens when we are assured that nothing separates us from God. For they taught we are His children, adopted, cleansed from the filth of the world, forgiven, loved.
We don’t have to do anything to earn this, but oh, how easily this knowledge can fade from our minds, can escape our lips, can be hidden in the depths our our heart… forgotten for the moment. We too easily let the comfort of knowing His presence fade as the challenges of the day overwhelm us…..seemingly crush us, distract and disillusion us.
Perhaps it would help if once an hour – I prayer the Lord’s prayer? Not that it is a holy act, but that I would remember that His kingdom has come, He is in charge here, that His will is being done here, among us, as Luther taught – among us. We need that. That God will provide, that He will show mercy and strengthen us against temptation and save us from evil. Again – this isn’t my act of piety, but my need to be reminded of the work God is doing here….the work we rejoiced in yesterday, as God makes a masterpiece, and reveals to us that we walk in Christ.
Prayer, especially this wonderful prayer that Christ taught us… the anti-dote for Mondays….
Lord, help us to realize you mercy… even…no, especially on Mondays!
(1) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 543-546). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him!
† IHS †
May you hear the voice of Christ, calling you to walk with Him into the Father’s presence…and being assured by His love and mercy as you begin to dwell in His peace.
Hear, Know, Follow
I love the scene described in Revelation, and what I really love even more is that we see a little of it here, this morning. Consider verse 9, “9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,
And though we don’t have a great multitude here, we do have people from so many places. Little Chloe, our newest sister in the faith, here family is from Nigeria, and Helli, who read that passage so beautifully, is from Germany, We have people from the Philippines, Denmark, Switzerland, Indonesia, India, China, Guyana, from Boston and even that really foreign place… Los Angeles! Five continents, gathered here by God to this place today, to share in His love, a foretaste of the gathering that there will be in heaven!
But there is another part of that reading – that just saw the preliminary fulfillment of today, as this little one was claimed by God, and united to Christ’s death, and His resurrection,
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
That’s our little sister, Chloe, and it is us, those who have been gathered by our Shepherd, those who are the sheep He protects and who are given to Him by the Father. And it is us that Jesus described in verse 27 of our gospel
27, “. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Remember these words, Hear. Know. Follow.
Hear – passive…yet empowering…
I don’t know if this happens to you ever, but it seems to happen to me more and more as I get older. Kay is in the kitchen, and she’s about to come into the living room, so I ask her to get me a diet coke on her way. She says, “okay”, and I go back to reading. About ten minutes later, I realize I am still thirsty, and remember asking about the soda, but never “getting” it. So I get up, go and grab another one, and as I go to put it down on the table next to where I sit, I see the one Kay brought for me.
If it was a snake… I’d be bit a thousand times.
Sometimes we can be pretty “oblivious” to that which is going on around us, and I bet I am not the only guy who is occasionally oblivious to the things his wife does for him. Hopefully the occasionally aren’t more than 2-3 times a …
That is how the people of God were, as they surrounded Him and asked Him to tell them “plainly” if he were the Christ. I mean – didn’t the healings, the freeing people from demonic possession and oppression, the teaching that was so unlike that others because it spoke with God the Father’s authority – wasn’t that enough “evidence” of the fact that Jesus was the Christ?
It is like the story found in the gospel’s about Jesus healing the man not just blinded – but born blind. When the Pharisees question him about the healing and Jesus,
30 The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! 31 It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. 32 That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. 33 If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.” 34 They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street. 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?” 38 “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.
John 9:30-38 (MSG)
Hear, and specifically hear God when He calls to you, when He invites you to be part of His life, with the understanding that it means that He gets to be part of yours. No, not just part – but He becomes your life – and the focus of it. But like those people – we need to heard when Jesus tells us He is our Lord, and our life And we need to believe, we need to trust Him,
Which brings us to the second word….
Know… He’s the one to Know
The first was “hear,” the second is “know”.
Some people have said it isn’t what you know, but who. In this case it is neither, it is Who knows you.
Hear, Know, Follow.
It is this middle one, this know, that is the key. We have to learn, to experience that Jesus knows us. We have to hear His voice – calling us to let Him cleanse us, even as He cleansed Chloe this morning of all sin.
The cross wasn’t just an event in history, it is the call of Christ, like the bugler calling reveille, and like the last trump will be, when He calls us all to come home.
The summons to gather is also because He knows us, He calls us, not to be perfect, not to get our acts straight and be holy and clean all the mud and sin off of our lives. He calls each one of us, knowing the work to be done, to make us clean and pure and holy. That is why He calls us to the cross, the place of cleansing, the place where He invites us, knowing exactly who we are, what we’ve done, good and sinful..
He knows us, and He still chooses to be our Shepherd, to call us to His side…
Follow – you really have little choice!
Hear, Know, Follow……
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
It is evident in the first two words, that we are passive – we are the recipients of incredible blessings. In order for us to hear – He has had give voice to His love, to call us to be His. We could do nothing. Neither could we do anything for Him to come to know us, to do the work to cleanse us, to take care of us, to wrap us in His mercy and love. We are passive in both, recipients, not the gives and one who act,
I am not sure we get the same idea about the word follow. It sounds like a choice, an action that we have to be continually in, focusing upon it as if our eternal destinies depend on it.
We hear follow – and we think of people on the trail – with Jesus setting the pace, with His deciding which path to take, when there is a branch. That He is some kind of spiritual trailblazer, giving us the narrow road to follow.
Yet there is another way to hear “follow”, one that seems more akin to the word in Greek. It is the word as it is used in dancing, where the lady is to “follow” the movement of the gentleman, where the moves are synchronized and yet so fluid, where the man’s gentle guidance turns and leads the woman, as combined He leads her in such a way, that following is not only natural, but incredibly beautiful. So it is when we hear Christ’s call, and when we realize He does really know us, and invites us to follow Him.
We then find ourselves moving, “following” His lead, feeling His guidance, knowing His presence, for it closer even than any couple has ever danced.
He has made us His own, marked and sealed us in Baptism – united us to Him in such a way that nothing could ever snatch us from Him, that nothing could ever separate us from His love. For He has joined us to Himself in Baptism, He has untied us to Himself, and therefore following Him becomes truly, how we live. We simply hear, and respond, all the time focused on our Shepherd…
Hear…. Know… Follow…
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Where, in His company, they live in an incredible peace, for He calls and keeps their hearts and minds in that peace, the peace of the Father that goes beyond any explanation. Even as Chloe has now entered that relationship – may we all remember and hear, and realize we are known, and follow our shepherd’s lead. AMEN?
(the original intro was…)
When one is trained to preach, there are some simple communication tools given to a pastor. Some of them, like the KISS principle, we “borrow” from other places where people are trained or taught. For example – the KISS principle comes from the military and is an acronym for “Keep it Simple… “.
There are other tools – like using repetition and sequence. That is what we’ve been doing for the past several weeks. Let’s see if you remember them. The first is, “The Tomb is….”, therefore we Praise God for He is Risen! (pause) which brings us to the truth that “The Lord is….” And the last one- anyone remember… If the Son sets you ….
Today I am going to go with the KISS principle, for a number of reasons. Three simple words that I want you to remember, that if you do, will open up your memory and help you recall the gospel reading, and more importantly, the way it reveals Jesus and His love and care for each of us, from young Chloe to Oliver.
If you can do that, I will give all of the praise to God – for it is His heart, His love, that is revealed.
So the three words from our gospel reading to remember today are….
Hear! Know! Follow!
We find those three verbs describing Jesus’ people in verse 27. )