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The Church Needs to Want This..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

So the LORD said to me, 5 “I, the LORD, the God of Israel, consider that the people who were taken away to Babylonia are like these good figs, and I will treat them with kindness. 6 I will watch over them and bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not pull them up. 7 I will give them the desire to know that I am the LORD. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:4-7 GNT

40  I want to obey your commands; give me new life, for you are righteous. Psalm 119:40 (TEV)

The parish of St Louis-St Blaise has been experiencing graces of charity which are drawn from Eucharistic adoration: links are forged or tightened, the parishioners are more attentive to each other, more supportive. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament overwhelms the heart of the parish and opens it gradually to the mission that we are trying to put in place.

In the title, it says “the Church”, and by that I do not mean any one congregation, or denomination. I don’t mean just the Lutherans, or the Romans Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Conservative or the Liberal/Progressive groups in the church.

I mean the One Church, the people set apart for God (Holy), Church that includes every time period, every culture, every demographic (catholic) and the Church that is on a mission from God (apostolic) whether she lies it or not.

What the Church needs is to have the desire the psalmist describes, a desire to treasure what God has called into being, what He has commanded. (Not just the do this/don’t do that – but every command God has uttered ) We need to hear the voice of God, and revel in the fact that He comes to us, and creates in us life.

We need the desire to know He is the Lord, to know that He is drawing us toward Him!

Please look at Jeremiah’s passage carefully, and see this. “Then they will be my people and I will be their God because they will return.” The words of God recognize His people, even when they are struggling in bondage, when they are in captivity, either to Babylon, or Egypt or sin! This is the God who hears the psalmists plea to give him (and us!) new life, and does so.

This is why parishes and congregations who dedicate time in the presence of God find themselves more attentive to each others’ needs, more supportive of those in their community that aren’t part of the church, yet! It is why churches that have dedicated times to adore Jesus, and/or spend time in prayer find themselves renewed and revived, responding to the needs of those around them.

it doesn’t come because we force it, it comes as a result of being drawn into intimacy with God. It is not a programmatic response, it is one from the depths of our souls, as the Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, and united to Him, we serve as He served.

This is our hope, this is who we are.

The people of God, who are being drawn back, who are returning to Him.

Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 208.



The Joy of Re..

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  “No longer will the sun be your light by day Or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; The light of my glory will shine on you. 20  Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the LORD, will be your eternal light, More lasting than the sun and moon. 21  Your people will all do what is right, And will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, To reveal my greatness to all.
Isaiah 60:19-21 (TEV)

It isn’t God who must change but the person. This is the obvious goal of prayer, and that is the reason why prayer is the privileged place of exile where the revelation is given, that is, the passage from what one thinks of God to what he truly is.
It is an exodus of purification where we are led by God through the dark night of the exile on the way to the contemplation of his face.
Then, we finally will be changed and transformed into the likeness of Him.

Often it will be an act of real humility and creaturely honesty to stop what we are doing, to acknowledge our limits, to take time to draw breath and rest—as the creature, man, is designed to do. I am not suggesting that sloth is a good thing, but I do want to suggest that we revise our catalogue of virtues, as it has developed in the Western world, where activity alone is regarded as valid and where the attitudes of beholding, wonder, recollection, and quiet are of no account, or at least are felt to need some justification.

Before we explain the Lord’s Prayer sequentially, we must first counsel and entice the people to prayer, just as Christ and the apostles did.2 First, we are obligated to pray because God has commanded it. Thus, we heard in the commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain,” that God’s holy name should be praised, called upon, or prayed to in every need. To call upon it is nothing other than praying

It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”

I am hoping you made it through the incredible quotes above, looking forward to finding out where this incredible joy is found. What the “Re” is… are you ready for it?

Repentance..

Yes, you read that right, there is an incredible joy when the Holy Spirit gifts us with repentance. It is freeing, it lifts burdens, it is that wonderful mysterious transformation that God works in us.

It is why Luther urges us to prayer, reminding that this commanded, not for God’s sake, but for ours. For it is in that transformation that we experience that mercy and love of God that causes the repentance to occur.

Repentance, this transformation, finds us with the ability to bhold, wonder and remember the presence of God leaves us stunned, and sometimes, unable to speak, because the grace of God is so wonderful, because it so sets our hearts at ease, our mind cannot proceed. Repentance leaves us in awe, for the work the Holy Spirit crafts turns causes us to reflect and resemble Jesus , something that is beyond our ability to conceive of..

That is why Pope Francis talks of this change in the way he does. As we go from our thoughts and our visions of what a god should be, and it is revealed to us, who God is. He is the One who loves His people, and repentance is that process where experiencing that love changes everything, for it changes us.

Lord, help us not fear this work of Yours that is repentance. Help us to embrace it, to revel in it, for it is an experience where Your love is so manifested in our lives. When we are struggling with sin, grant the desire ofr repentance. in Jesus name. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 258). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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. 255). 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. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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

The Kingdom of God is like The Ultimate Breakfast Club

A picture of the church?

A Pastor Parker Parable/Devotional Thought of the Day

6† The LORD said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved
.” Isaiah 49:6 GNT

12 At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God’s chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God’s promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God. 13 But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God. 17† So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all—to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. 18 It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.
19 So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God. 20 You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets,f the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. 21 He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22 In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit
Eph. 2:11-13,16-22 GNT

In the Year of our Lord 1985, a classic movie came out. It told the story of 5 high school kids, the janitor and their vice-principal. What was supposed to be a day of punishment ended up to one of the moments that would become life-changing, and something they, or those who watched the movie, would never forget.

The Breakfast Club, the Brain, the Jock, the Preppy/Glamour girl, the Bad Boy, and the nonconformist. Each in their own world, and yet each of them a goyim, an outsider. SOmeone viewed with as much disdain as we might view the refugee or illegal immigrant today.

Throughout the movie they would struggle with each other, they would argue, cry, laugh, and bond together. Despite the stereotypes, despite the angst, despite the suspicion, they would come to know each other, and what the Vice Principal meant for evil, God would use for good. You even have a great picture of the transformation God works in people, through people, as Ally Sheedy’s character is transformed. Not that the others weren’t transformed, given hope, and started on the journey of healing. But her transformation was more visible.

It could be a parable of the New and Old Testament Quotes above, a prophecy of the work and its fulfillment, as Christ links us to His suffering and death and we rise from that death, as one. No longer alien, no longer the outcast, all welcome in the presence of the Father.

This is something we need to continually learn in our lives. It is something we continually have to be aware of as we encounter people that seem different that us. THat in Christ, we are meant to be one people, and we can trust God more than give into the fears and stereotypes. We can welcome those looking for help, those in trouble, even those who sins were as blatant and evil as they can get. God can redeem them, God can transform them. That is why Christ came and died…to set us free, to transform us, not into rule following robots/clones, but into the people of God, as diverse as the parts of a body.

Lord, help us look past stereotypes, not just we have of others, but those we have of our own lives. Help us to know Your presence, and Your love for all whom You are calling to be Yours – even though they might not know it. AMEN!


This is the power of Christ at work in His people, even those who are on detention for their sins

Maybe the Church Should Try This….Maybe We Should

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” 4  But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” Luke 4:3-4 (NLT2)

In India following a big earthquake some years ago, relief teams came from all over the world. They asked that a few of our sisters be in each relief camp to organize the work. To their surprise the sisters insisted on beginning each day with prayer and Holy Mass and that there be times to withdraw for meals and prayers. Some did not agree but those who remained saw the wisdom of it. Because there was reliance on God, the teams could continue. Another proof that our strength comes from Him Who said it clearly: ‘Without Me you can do nothing’.
I speak in the name of our sisters everywhere and from my own personal experience: without the strength provided by the Eucharist, it would not be possible to live our vocation.

And now that they no longer have to chatter the troublesome [breviary’s] seven hours, it would be much better if morning, noon, and night they would replace it by reading a page or two of the catechism, prayer book,4 New Testament, or something else from the Bible and pray the Lord’s Prayer for themselves and their parishioners! In this way they would again show some gratitude and respect for the gospel, which has relieved them of so many burdens and difficulties, and they might feel a little shame that, like pigs and dogs, they do not get more out of the gospel than this lazy, harmful, scandalous, fleshly freedom. Sad to admit, the rabble has too low a regard for the gospel, and, even when we have tried as hard as we can, we do not make much of a difference. What can we expect if we want to be as idle and lazy as we were under the papacy?

The battle in my denomination is no different than the battle in so many others today. Ultimately, it doesn’t boil down to worship style, or missional strategy. It isn’t about being traditional, or seeker-sensitive (though there are new terms to describe such, they are still the same battles). It isn’t even about long divisions that are more about personalities and generations of disciples who held grudges. It is even, as I have long thought, about power and control.

Well – not about us controlling versus them controlling.

Simply put, it is about letting God be God, and sitting at His feet, as Mary did. It is about living a life in a deep and intimate relationship with God, realizing that He is as incarnate in our lives as in Mary’s, and that the sacramental life is one which makes all the difference in the world. For a life, spent in communion with God, in prayer and meditation is what makes the difference in us, in our personal lives, in the lives of our parish/congregations. and in the life of our Church.

The temptation is no different than when Jesus was tempted. “Go do this, use your power to provide for yourself, do what is right in your own eyes, in your estimation, according to your studies and theories based on studying what others have done” and assuming that what we see as success, actually is successful. And yet the “missional” types, and the “confessional” types do this, and even do it somewhat triumphantly.

And yet, the passage Jesus is quoting is so contrary to that kind of idea.

2  Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3  Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT2)

That is the life described in the quote from the Roman Catholic nun in the first article. One of the leaders from the order of Mother Theresa, whose work among the poor is legendary. They needed the mass, they needed the sacramental time with God in order to find the peace that would enable them to serve others. This is the life that Luther had hoped would develop as he preached the gospel. Yet, whether from laziness or temptation the freedom to actually pray in a non-mechanical way didn’t develop, and sermons that were more quotes of scholars that actually matching the word of God to the needs of people, revealing the grace and love of God that they needed to hear.

We must, as the people of God, spend time with Him. We have to spend time in silence, enough that the world drifts away, and we can hear the word of God. We need to struggle to understand what we receive in communion, to realize that this IS the Body and Blood of our Lord, given for us, given to us. Learning to desire this time, which is uncomfortable at first (see Isaiah 6 or Ex. 3:2 ) but grows on us, and becomes the most precious time we have.

And in that time, as we gaze on Christ, we do not realize the transformation that happens. We don’t notice our ability to show mercy grow, and to care for those around us. Yet it idoes…

This isn’t about a methodology about saving the church. It is about learning to let God provide as He has promised. It is about walking with Him, trusting and depending on Him. Hearing His voice.

My dear readers, I beg you, invest the time, push through the distractions, they will fade, and spend time, individually and in groups, learning to adore the Lord in whose presence you dwell. Listen to Him, through the word, through considering your baptism, the our communion together, through the words your pastors and priests share, declaring your are forgiven! And hearing Him guide you in your day….

The Lord is with you (all)!

Lord Jesus, help us to seek Your presence, even as Your Spirit dwells with us. For no other reason that to spend time with You, and to realize what You are doing in our lives. Help us to pray, and to meditate on Your word, and on Your love. AMEN!

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 179). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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.) (pp. 185–186). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

A National Pastime that Needs to Go!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

10† We must not complain, as some of them did—and they were destroyed by the Angel of Death.
11 All these things happened to them as examples for others, and they were written down as a warning for us. For we live at a time when the end is about to come.
1 Cor 10:10-11 GNT

The word of God—primarily the gospel of his kingdom and of the life and death of Jesus on our behalf—enters our mind and brings new life through faith. As we open our entire life to this new power and to those sent by God to minister the word to us, the word moves into every part of our personality, just like the water and soap move through the shirt’s fibers. God’s word pushes out and replaces all that is false and opposed to his purposes in creating us and putting us in our unique place on earth.

What would facebook look like if we were able to filter out all of the posts that were complaints? What would it sound like to sit down and talk to people if there were no complaints uttered?

We complain about politics.
We complain about referee and umpires calls in sports.
We complain about the traffic on the way to work, or to the store
We complain about our bosses, the people we work with, our parents, our spouses, our children.
We complain that we haven’t had time for our coffee, and then complain that people want us to function without our daily dose of “happiness.” (Are we complaining about their complaints about our complaining?)

The Apostle Paul wrote that we must not complain, and this command sits not to far from a discussion on idolatry, and along with a discussion on sexual promiscuity and putting God to the test – both forms of self idolatry.

So is complaining idolatry, not much more than an adult form of a child’s temper tantrum. Yes. Because it boils down to our not getting things arranged our way. It calls into question our will and our wisdom, for if we are complaining, doesn’t it mean we think we know what is best?

What complaining is, when it comes down to it, is questioning God, and His ability and action. A complaint rests on the assumption that God isn’t providing what we need, and that the life He has called us to live is not sufficiently abundant.

But complaining is a national pastime it seems, if not an international one. (even as I write this, someone asked how I was doing, and I started complaining!) It is an ingrained part of our nature.

So ingrained we can’t stop ourselves….

We need help, we need to be transformed, we need to see the Spirit doing this transformation, as the word of God is used by the Holy Spirit to clean us, even at our deepest most internal points. The places were the sins of stain are so dark we can’t stand to look at them, the places where our narcissism doesn’t even attempt to hide.

God is there, cleansing us, transforming us. THe word and sacraments doing for us what we cannot do ourselves. what God has promised to do in our lives.

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT2)

This is our hope, the presence of God, using His word to cleanse us, as He declares us to be His holy people.

A people who live in awe of His love, so in awe we forget to complain about life around us…

Lord, help us to see Your love for us, revealed in the cross of Christ. Fill us with Your peace and glory, the abundant life You have promised. AMEN!

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

Why is He Standing at the Door, Knocking?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT2)

117 Thus you see how God wants us to pray to him for everything that affects our bodily welfare and directs us to seek and expect help from no one but him.
118 But this petition he has put last, for if we are to be protected and delivered from all evil, his name must first be hallowed in us, his kingdom come among us, and his will be done. Then he will preserve us from sin and shame and from everything else that harms or injures us.

Our God is so eager to forgive that at the slightest sign of repentance he is ready with his mercy. He does not forget the covenant he made with our ancestors.

716    “I don’t know how to conquer myself!” you write me despondently. And I answer: But have you really tried to use the means?

As I read the passage from Luther’s Large Catechism (in blue above) this morning, I found words that explained a key to what we need to do as those who disciple others, or who act as spiritual directors. 

Luther nails it so well, as he explores the Lord’s prayer.  It is something we get so confused as we disciple people, as we serve as their spiritual directors and/or pastors.  In reality, we put the cart before the horse, asking people to believe in God’s mercy, in God providing for us, and in God’s forgiveness before God’s presence is established as a reality in their lives.   We want to help them know they are free from their past, and to be strong enough to overcome temptation.

St. Josemaria’s thoughts are similar, as he wonders about the person who can’t overcome the compulsion to sin and fail when confronted by temptation.  His question about the means of grace come to a similar conclusion as Luther’s.  If you haven’t been brought into the presence of God through hearing His word, and partaking in His sacraments, how can you ever be assured of His mercy and protection?  How can you know that He is guiding you and that all things work for good in your life, as you grow in loving Him?

Which brings me to the title of the blog post today, why is Jesus standing at the door and knocking?  Is it simply to call us to account for our sins, clean us up, forgive us our sins, strengthen us against temptation and then leave us to fight the good fight on our own?

Of course not!  

He comes to spend time with us, in fellowship, sharing in life.  TO feast with us, and for us to know we are there for Him.  It is all about the relationship, not just the things that He does that makes the relationship possible. That’s why Luther says we need to see His name made Holy, to see His kingdom established, to see His will be accomplished among us. All these things are based on God being present in our lives, walking with us, living with us.  This happens before we can know His provision, His protection, and really the power of what it means to be forgiven and free. 

You can’t know those things apart from the relationship described in Covenant, where God promises us that we are His and that He is ours.  That relationship is why He stands at the door and knocks.   He wants to be with us, it is sharing our lives as we share His.

For those who pastor, for those who disciple or direct the spiritual growth of people, (and if you are being served by such) this has to be the priority.  To explore the breadth and width the height and depth of God’s love as we experience it.  This is the end of the means, this is the purpose we exist for, and as we learn ot live in it, we find it easy to ask God and live in the assurance that He will answer our prayers for daily bread, for the ability to forgive as we are forgiven, to overcome temptation and not fall into evil.

Never forget this, the Lord is with you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 436). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 223). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1679-1680). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whistle While You Work… (or sing while you suffer!)

7 dwarvesDevotional THought of the Day:

16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy,  the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  T  Acts 16:1-3, HCSB

13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14  HCSB

524    “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.

I have a confession to give.  I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!

( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)

The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work”  Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding.  Don’t those characters know how serious work is?  Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!

Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.

First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul.  Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive?  Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment!  ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)

Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love.  The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people?  How do you whistle or sing during that?

Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured.  And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.

Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria.  “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!”  Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church.  Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering.  You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God.  That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.

And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God.  The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison.  SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.

So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time.  And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)

Amen

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection We see things differently! A sermon on Acts 4

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
Acts 4:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!

A Matter of Perspective

There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.

I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.

And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.

If we are talking about the gospel it does.  It bothers me tremendously.

The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does.  Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.

His love for us..

A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.

This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.

And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure.  We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.

As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.

What they saw… something to reject

As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment.  It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene.  They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back

And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should.  It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.

They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant.  They were looking for logic and reason.  They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.

That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”

As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening.  As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.

But humanity does that all the time.  We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.

Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans.  ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)

Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin,  or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal!  When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.

And we find ourselves there too often.

What we see – the basis of our hope

Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data.  They did, they just didn’t understand it.

This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.

The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.

it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.

There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though.    The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything.  Paul talked about it this way,

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.

And we need to!  We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord!  We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.

You, me, him, her, each person here.  Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.

This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love.  Let’s pray

 

 

The Effect of the Resurrection. Part III Losing our ignorance – a sermon on Acts 3

church at communion 2

The Effect of the Resurrection
Transformed Minds,
Part III:  Losing our Ignorance

Acts 3

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ circumcise your heart, cutting away all the ignorance, hatred and sin. Leaving you holy, transformed in heart, soul and mind.  Amen!

I need a break! 

Over and over this week, there is one phrase that I kept on wanting to explore.  It is one I think I understand, but there are times, where I wonder what it would be like to experience such a time.

The phrase is, “times of refreshment”

I mean if our weeks at all were similar, you don’t know what that means either.

I mean it sounds like those days when we were young and were playing baseball or in our case hockey, or whatever, and after sweating and running around I the hot sun, we all had a cold glass of Kool-aid, then dove in the lake, or a friend’s pool

That sounds refreshing!

In our reading from acts, it is not just a time of refreshment that is promised as God transforms us, as our sins are wiped away, buts times, seasons of it. Time upon time of living in that refreshment, that time when the soul is healthy!

But as to what such a time is today, I am not sure.  You might say I am ignorant of such a time, but it sure sounds nice!

How could they be that ignorant?
As Peter discussed all of those who were involved in crucifying Jesus, he doesn’t call the people and their leaders, evil.  He doesn’t say they are wicked, or bad.  Instead, He says that they were ignorant, that they didn’t know better.
Now I suppose it is better to be called ignorant rather than evil. Still being called ignorant is not really fun to hear. In this case, where they rejected and crucified the Messiah, despite Pilate’s protest, it seems impossible.  How could they not know Jesus was the Messiah?

I think before we go any farther, we need to understand what ignorance in the Bible is.

It is not about having the data about something.  It goes deeper than that, and in fact, that depth is the key to defining ignorance and overcoming it.

We talked about this term last week, when the two disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and they didn’t know it was him.  The word isn’t talking about simple recognition, it’s the term that indicates understanding someone the way you can when you live with them for year and decades.  When you can finish their sentences for them when you know how they are feeling and what is on their hearts.

It is what, for lack of a better term, I call having an intimate relationship.

Not that kind, though oddly enough, the same word in Greek and Hebrew describes that as well.
They crucified Jesus because they didn’t understand Him.  Despite all the scriptures telling them about the Son of God, they did it.  They sinned.

Much the same as we do when we choose to sin.

We forget Jesus, we don’t understand or really, deeply know God.  And so, being ignorant about Jesus, being ignorant of God, we ignore the way He planned for us to live, a life of love and peace.

And a God draws us to Himself, as He brings us to repentance as He brings us to this transformation where we allow Him to cut away the sin, and the guilt and the shame, the ignorance is removed as well

And what we find out when we enter this relationship is that God loves us, He cares so deeply for us.  He makes us whole and brings us a peace.

That is what the ignorance was hiding, that is what we couldn’t know when we didn’t understand God.  And it was that way until God started to work in our lives. Until He brought us to repentance, to that place where our souls find healing, much as this lame man found healing.

Everything changes when we realize how much God loves us, how unwilling He is to be separated from us.

One pastor, in explaining how a church service is organized, explained this love of God in this way.

This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.

This is why we do what we do, why we worship the way we do, and study the Bible and pray, and remind each other of the Lord’s presence, for the more we do, the more we know Him, in a way that is so full of peace and joy.

It is as we see this God, revealed to us, that the power of sin is broken, that it is wiped out of our lives that we are free, that we finally find the love that we so need, and the peace, and the refreshment until He comes and restores all things…as He has promised.

So let us pray…

Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection, part 2: One heart and mind

church at communion 2Transformed Minds….
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2  One Heart and Mind
Acts 4:32-35

 In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus transform your heart and mind so that you united to Jesus, and to all who are His!

God’s Mega Blessings

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we heard a description of Concordia, and I want you to hear it again.

God’s great blessing was upon them all.

This is us.

Blessed, overflowing with the grace of God, overwhelmed by the presence of God, and if we take a moment to take a breath and think about it, or better, to look around us, we shall see it.

For we see the work being done in each other.  We may be completely oblivious as to what is going on in our own lives, but we see what is going on around us, and the peace that is found here.

I can look around the room, and see the same thing Luke described in the early church, a place where people are united in one hear, one mind, the very transformation that comes from knowing that….

Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

and therefore, (we are risen Indeed!  ALLELUIA!)

This is a natural transformation, actually supernatural…

As we look at the description of how the church interacted in this passage, it seems either naïve, r some socialistic plot, at first.

Karl Marx who used a description gathered from these verses to describe his perfect society, describing it this way, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

And wherever that has been attempted by law or by forcing people to believe it, it has failed.  Not because the idea is wrong, but because the transformation has been forced, rather than allowed to happen naturally,  It is put upon the people that this is the way they will live, rather than allowing love to cause it naturally, to be driven by the spiritual desire to love those around us.

We do that to often, even in the church, when we try and change people’s behavior without seeing their hearts and souls transformed by God, resurrected and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit draws them into Jesus, into His death and resurrection.

This is a long habit, dating back to the Pharisees, and probably before.  When they didn’t want the tax collector or the prostitute in Church.  When they paid more attention to the outside appearance of the individual, and the broken and different were sent away.

We want people to live generously, we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to give up the sins that so damage their lives.  What we want for them is good, if we don’t guilt them into it, or promise them some special blessing from God, if they only act the way we think God wants them to think and act,

It happens more naturally than that, or it might be better to say, more supernaturally than that…. For God moves us, His love transforms us.

The testimony causes it…

That is what the rest of the verse had mentioned,

The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.

The blessing that was upon them was delivered through the testimony that Jesus was no longer dead, that Praise God, He is risen….

And as the apostles proclaimed this, the people realized all the promises of God were poured out on them, for they were forgiven, cleansed, made the holy people of God our Father. They had become brothers and sisters of Jesus, counted no longer as servants, but as friends.

The gospel is not just the testimony of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is the testimony of what this means.

We are His, we are free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, God present with us, who comforts us, empowers us, and transforms us.

To use our motto, that is why we, the people of Concordia, are the broken people, who are finding healing in Christ, help others to heal.

It is why Cyndee and Carol and Linda find such joy in gathering women together for special events, knowing that they will bring joy into their lives.  Or why Jim and Manny had a few guys over for the first men’s time yesterday.  It is why Hank and his team from both congregations raised the money, and why Hank was down here each day, checking on the work.  It is why we help people who’ve lost homes or send Bernie back to Sudan, or why you sent me to China a few years ago.  It is why we have Al constantly talking about benevolence, and he doesn’t just talk about it.  It’s why we have Nancy keeping her prayer book and encouraging others to pray. It’s why Missy sets her anxiety aside to guide our worship, and why these people smile over here, as they hear your voices sing louder than theirs… I could go on and on, but this is the evidence of God working  Just as they did in the early church, each person helping the rest… not thinking about themselves.

We want others to know the love we know, or as Peter describes in His epistle, to be people with a future and a hope.

The love that we find here at the altar, its why a 2-3-year old will cling to it, not understanding, but knowing this is a special place. For many of us older folk as well… for here, reminded of how deep God’s love for us is, the resurrection becomes more than history, it becomes our life!

It’s the love given to us in our baptism, and that becomes more real each and every day.  For Ezekiel promised that God would change us,

The gospel is that God loves us, and cleanses and transforms us, something seen as we grow in love for one another, in a naturally supernatural way…..

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)

A love that brings us together, one heart, one soul, for ours is His heart, His soul….a love that causes us to dwell in His peace… united to Him… AMEN!

Let us pray!

as an added bonus…. the notes from Bible Study  (let me know if I should continue to post these!

What is Concordia
A Look at the Body of Christ


Why should we study what the church is?

If we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, then can’t all this come about naturally (Jer 31:34)?

 

Is the church in the day’s of the Acts of the Apostles better or worse from the church today?

The Lutheran Confessions describe the Church this way:
1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.

2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.[1]

 

Does this resonate with what we heard today in the sermon?  What caused the transformation in the believers?

Is Concordia the Church, or just part of the Church?

 

What does it mean that all the believers ( those having faith) are of one heart (kardia) and mind (psyche)

is this passage talking just about sharing money, or is that just an example?

What do people “need” in this church?

 

 

Back to being a witness to the resurrection.  What does that mean?  How can we be that today?

How do the sacraments fit into that? (1 Cor 11:26 &  Titus 3:4-8)

So are the sacraments still being a witness to the resurrection?

How much of one kardia and psyche do we realize during the sacraments?

[1] Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

 

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