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When Luther Bashed “Faith Alone”

christening the dew the priest

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT2)

28 Our know-it-alls, the new spirits,4 assert that faith alone saves and that works and external things contribute nothing to this end. We answer: It is true, nothing that is in us does it but faith, as we shall hear later on.
29 but these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe—something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be Baptism in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through the water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of his name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his Word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains?
30 Now, these people are so foolish as to separate faith from the object to which faith is attached and bound on the ground that the object is something external. Yes, it must be external so that it can be perceived and grasped by the senses and thus brought into the heart, just as the entire Gospel is an external, oral proclamation. In short, whatever God effects in us he does through such external ordinances. No matter where he speaks—indeed, no matter for what purpose or by what means he speaks—there faith must look and to it faith must hold.

760    Here is a thought that brings peace and that the Holy Spirit provides ready-made for those who seek the will of God: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit—“The Lord rules me, and I shall want nothing.” What can upset a soul who sincerely repeats these words?

One of the challenges that all public speakers and authors having is being understood.  People hear one thing you say, they read one thing you write and they latch onto one phrase and interpret it in a way that appeals to them.

I see this with Luther, and especially with His statement that gets dissected about the fact that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed in scripture alone (you can add through Christ alone and to the glory of God alone to the mix as well)

When I became a Lutheran some 17-18 years ago, (although my friend always thought I was, and that I didn’t know it) I misunderstood this phrase, breaking each Sola/Only phrase apart as if they were bullet points  First understand this one, then that one, then add the third.  They don’t see them as a continuous phrase, that radically changes its meaning f you divide them.

Yet Protestants do this all the time, especially with faith alone and scripture alone. And when you see Catholic criticism of Luther, it is offered by criticising what people think Luther said.

This isn’t new by the way,  Both Zwingli and the Anabaptists did this during Luther’s lifetime, and in the quote from the Large Catechism, we see Luther confronting the misrepresentation!  These “know-it-alls” in redefining “faith alone” separate from the rest create an anti-sacramental version of what Luther taught and personally depended upon.  When they separate faith alone, they dismiss any work that is done, saying no works matter, even Gd’s.

And this one is critical. For in taking Luther’s phrase out of context, they steal from believers the security God provides as He baptizes and seals us into His family.  It’s not about the water as Luther clarifies, but the word of God that infuses the water with His promise.

This is what faith grabs a hold of, it is what faith depends upon. Not something vague, not something that we do, but something God promises and does as He gives us a new birth and new life in Christ.  A specific action of His, mixed with a specific promise wherein God is the change-agent in our lives.

To have faith in Him means to depend on Him, to trust in His words as He makes good on them specifically in each of our lives.  As St. Josemaria says it is recognizing that the Lord rules, that his action He does so care for us, so changes us that we want for nothing,   This is something Zwingli and the Anabaptists don’t offer, an assurance based on God’s tangible work.  It is also something the Catholic Church didn’t catechize well in Luther’s time, as people just assumed baptism worked because they were told it worked because the water was holy.

It works because of God’s promise, because of God’s love poured out on us in action He ordained.  Knowing that brings comfort and peace, something to personally hold on to, a promise that guards our hearts and minds.

May we all hear Him, hear His promises

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1769-1771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Place is His Place!

 Our Place is His Place

And the World would know!

John 14:23-31

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 May we welcome the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, confident of the love and mercy with which He cleanses our lives, and sets them apart to live in Christ with the Father!

 Mi Casa et Su Casa:  Ruth

Pentecost is more than a Sunday we celebrate once a year.  It is more as well than the longest church season of the year – when that banner is up there, and when I wear a green stole to symbolize the growth of the church.

It is the start of something wonderful, something which defines every day every moment of our life.  Because of the Holy Spirit, the one we confess is the Lord and Giver of our life.

One of the best illustrations of that life is found in the story of Naomi and Ruth.  The promise that Jesus makes to us, comes more fully into focus when we hear the promise Ruth made to Naomi,

But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; 17  where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me GOD—not even death itself is going to come between us!” 18  When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. Ruth 1:16-18 (MSG) 16  

Of course, the Holy Spirit doesn’t say it quite like that – but the desire, the commitment, the very attitude of God is no less than Ruth’s, even unto death, God has made us a promise.  “and We (the Father and Jesus) will come to him, and make Our Home with Him.”

May we indeed be like Naomi, and realizing that God has His heart set on going with us, may we give in, and welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives.

May we rejoice in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, may we rejoice in His presence, here and now.

Judas’ lack of vision

I was given an article this week, a pastor’s comments on the ascension, that troubled me.  The basic concept was the reason the pastor thought Jesus ascended to heaven. He basically said the lesson of the Ascension was that God “trusts” us.  That He left us to finish His work and trusts us to do it. Here’s a quote:  “These were Jesus final marching orders:  ‘Go everywhere you can and be a witness for love.’ And then He left”

Some really bad theology there, for a number of reasons.  But I seem to recall the words a little differently

18  Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (TEV)

It’s that last line, the I will be with you always, that somehow I think the pastor missed.

And I think Judas’ question shows us why.

“Lord,” he says, “How is it that you will reveal your glory to us, but you will assure the world won’t be able to see it?”

I guess all the “light unto the gentiles stuff” and “that the world may know” that seems so much a part of the gospel readings slipped Judas’s mind for the moment.  Even as I think that the mission of making disciples slips our mind occasionally.

Along with some of the other things God would have us do, like loving our neighbor, or feeding the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and forgiving those who have sinned against us.

I pray that God doesn’t just “trust us, and then leave.”  I need, and I believe you need the constant presence of the Comforter, to heal us, to comfort us, to empower and commission us to use the very gifts that the Spirit has invested in us….as we depend on Him

The Miracle of the Holy Spirit’s Ministry

As these two widows, the young Ruth and older Naomi moved to Jerusalem, Ruth took on the role of the provider. She was the one who went out into the fields and worked, she cared for her mother-in-law, even as she promised.

In many ways, this too pictures the relationship of the Holy Spirit with us, nourishing us with the word of God, gathering us to the sacrament,  Jesus prophesies about this work in this way. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

This blessed work of the Holy Spirit, is something we so desperately need in our lives.  For the treasure of the teachings of God are so easily pushed aside as we deal with the challenges in this world.  We need to know God’s love, we know He is with us, we need to explore the depths of His love, and how that love changes us from people outcasts, to being His very children.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us adjust our priorities, to help us keep our focus on God.  We need to be reminded of our baptism – the very place where the Spirit was poured out on us, reviving us and renewing us.  We need the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, to help us treasure the incredible words of Jesus, the promises made to us by the Son of God.  We need to be reminded that God’s will is that no one should perish, that all would be transformed by God.

Here is how Paul described this work of the Holy Spirit,

27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (TEV)

In other words – our place, wherever we are, He chooses as His place as well.  And that is what the Holy Spirit teaches us, even as we teach others.

What is that message?

So what is it the Holy Spirit calls us to our minds, that which Christ had taught the disciples?  Jesus said it this way,

“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

And the Father sent His Son to save us, to make us His own people.. and such you are…

For he has done this – He has left us in His peace, He has given us His peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit has made known to us.

Assured of this – we have no need of troubled hearts, nor anxious minds..

For the Spirit reminds us, we dwell with God, we are in Christ, we are welcome here… in His peace.

AMEN.

Will we trust what God has revealed? Or must we explain (and know) more than that?

Devotional and Discussion thought off day…

 25  And I have been made a servant of the church by God, who gave me this task to perform for your good. It is the task of fully proclaiming his message, 26  which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all human beings but has now revealed to his people. 27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. Colossians 1:25-27 (TEV)

Let us not try to reduce the greatness of God to our own poor ideas and human explanations. Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men’s lives. As Saint John Chrysostom said: “We see that Jesus has come from us, from our human substance, and has been born of a virgin mother; but we don’t know how this wonder came about. Let us not waste our energies trying to understand it; rather, accept humbly what God has revealed to us. Don’t try to probe what God has kept hidden.”5 If we have this reverence, we will be able to understand and to love. The mystery will be a splendid lesson for us, much more convincing than any human reasoning. (1)

Thirty years ago this fall I started studying Theology seriously, well as much as an 18year old dual major in Bible (exegetical theology) and Homiletics can be “serious”.  During that time I have seen a lot labelled theology which is at best that which is called, “speculation”.  The speculators are sincere, have great intentions, and are often brilliant.  Their brains work like super computers, and they can store and analyze so much, that to be honest, I often find myself in awe when I am in their presence.   Until they move from knowledge that is scriptural into the realms of speculation.  Some of those who speculate (and which of us haven’t) aren’t so bright, and indeed, we make some of the most challenging errors.

Examples abound these days, and indeed throughout history.  The movement known as Higher Criticism, which combines historical and linguistic knowledge of scripture and its environs, but then turns to specualtion when it makes the data subservient to the observations and logic of the scholars examining it.   Another example is those who will wax eloquent on the relationship of justification and santification, or those who debate on the nature of the Eucharist – with such speculation as to when it becomes, to the radii at which the Words of Institution are effective.  These all take that which God hasn’t revealed – and make it not only necessarily to meditate on such things – but to come up with the categories and prove their “logic.  Another mystery is the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ.  And the list grows and grows, including eschatology, pneumatology, baconatology (why can good things happen to bad people) etc.

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why can’t we leave what God left hidden, or left a mystery, hidden and a mystery?  Why can’t we simply accept that we will not be omniscient in this life – and continue to explore the height and depth, width and breadth of the love of God, revealed to us in Christ Jesus?

Ultimately, why can’t we trust God?

We have more than enough to work with – as Colossians informs us – we have the very glory of God, into which we are drawn, to examine.  We have the relationship – not of the divine and human attributes of Chirst, but the relationship between us and Christ to meditate upon.  Christ in us, the very gift of our baptism, the very thing we celebrate in the Lord’s supper, the assurance of our absolution leading to our being welcome in the presence of a Holy and Righteous God.  How is that someone that can be laid aside, in order to determine who was more accurate in their speculation about sanctification?

If we leave what God left as mystery, if instead we dwell on the incredible things He has revealed – will that not lead to a great appreciation of His role in our lives?   Will it not lead to wonder when we see a baptism and know the promises are for us?  Will it not lead to a reverent but absolutely joyous celebration of the Lord’s Supper?  Will it not lead to….worship and a desire to spend more time in communion with God?

Or do we grasp all that God has revealed all ready and full applied it within our lives?

I haven’t…

So let us rejoice we have a God who is so big -that we cannot understand all that He has created and planned, but we can rely on His faithfulness and His revelation…

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 667-674). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V)

Devotional thought of the day:

So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? 8  I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” Luke 18:7-8 (MSG) 

We are three days into celebrating the fact that the tomb is empty, that the Lord Jesus Christ is Risen, and that because of that – we can know the Lord is with you!

We love Easter, the celebration, the enthusiasm, the overwhelming joy of coming face to face with God’s love, shown on the cross – where we find ourselves drawn into Christ’s death, and the miraculously, our spirits, freed from sin, soar incredibly without the weight of injustice, and sin and guilt and shame.  But soon we crash down into this false reality of life, for reality is that peace, we forget the life we have in Christ.  ( thank God we are reminded by Paul  “ 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!” Colossians 3:2-4 (TEV)   For we are assured that is our reality.

Back to today’s question!  In the passage at the very top, we are asked will Jesus find faith on the earth when He returns.  If He returned on Easter, as our churches are full, as people are singing and hearing and responding about His being risen from the dead, that day, the answer seems obvious.   Yet what about 3 days from now – just a week after Good Friday?  What about in August, when the heat is getting to us, and our patience is thin.  What about after the next major trauma – whether global in scope or personal?  We Christ find faith then?

Two Answers,

The first comes from the book Evangelical Catholic that inspired this post  – and it deals with faith from the perspective of doctrine, the Biblical teachings that are handed down to us through our churches.  The author, George Wiegel.  He makes a very solid point about the impediment of our own adaptation of the faith.

Deep Catholic reform in the United States is impeded by bishops, priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, intellectuals, and laity who are in a diminished state of communion with the Church— existentially if not canonically— because they deny to be true what the Catholic Church “believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God,” as the profession of faith for those being received into full communion with the Church puts it. How many Catholics in the United States— again, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, intellectuals, and laity— can say, without mental reservation, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”? To the degree that the answer to that question is negative, or ambiguous, then to precisely that degree is the deep reform of the Church envisioned by Vatican II being imperiled. (1)

Though I would need to adapt this a little, the idea that people who deny what is believed (faith placed in) and taught and proclaim that is revealed by God, is the key here.  We don’t get to redefine what the “faith” is.  It simply is what God has revealed it to be.  And the more we deviate with that, the more we slowly at first depart from the faith.   The more mental reservations we have, the more we say I believe what God has revealed in scripture, except XXX, the more we make ourselves the judge and jury over God, and the less we walk the life of faith, and to be honest, the more doubts we entertain.

I am not saying we shouldn’t challenge what we believe – exactly opposite.  But what we test what we believe against is not what is logical, when can always be easily perceived.  What is the standard is scripture.  What is standard is how God reveals His love, His mercy, His presence to us, even as He fulfills His promise of bringing healing and life to our sin-bruised, battered and broken lives.  The more we deviate from the God who is self-revealed in scripture, the more we struggle with placing our logic above God’s, the less we see His work in our lives.

Which brings us to the second point about faith,

Faith isn’t just a noun, it isn’t just getting to know what the scriptures reveal.  It is getting to know, to intimately know, the God who reveals Himself through those writings. That is why I titled the above – will Jesus find us trusting Him.  Faith is after all – the description of what we trust in God for, the expectation that He will be who He reveals Himself to be – for us, to us, with us.  That is also the context of the first reading – where the judge grants the widow’s request because she places her life in his hands.  (and even though an evil judge with be faithful and just, how much more will God be?)  So the context of the quote about finding faith is nothing less than will Jesus find us trusting in Him, living based in trusting Him to fulfill His promises, and giving to Him everything that burdens us, that causes anxiety, the things we don’t have an answer for yet?

Will we trust Jesus?  Will we realize what that cross and empty grave mean, and will we live life with Him, trusting completely in His promises?

That is what causes renewal in us, renewal in our parishes, renewal in our denominations and in the church universal (i.e. small c catholic)

BTW – He is the only one completely trustworthy.

Godspeed!

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 52). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Abandoned…into Grace

1Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 What, then, will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can anyone offer in exchange for his life?   Matthew 16:24-26 (NJB) 

cross, “Today once again I prayed full of confidence. This was my petition: “Lord, may neither our past wretchedness which has been forgiven us, nor the possibility of future wretchedness cause us any disquiet. May we abandon ourselves into your merciful hands. May we bring before you our desires for sanctity and apostolate (mission), which are hidden like embers under the ashes of an apparent coldness…” ”Lord, I know you are listening to us.” You should say this to him too.”  (1)

It was one of those exercises on leadership retreats that caused me the greatest concern.  Standing on a ladder, with ten people below me, the retreat facilitator ask me the cross my arms, close my eyes… and fall backwards – trusting the ten people (including a couple of petite ladies) to catch me.

My thoughts went to my own wretched condition, significantly overweight, tall and awkward, the idea that they would catch me?  Really?  I looked back, thinking about my peers, and their…err…reliability.  I heard the coach’s assurance – everything will be fine…..

Yeah, sure….

Eventually, the frustration overcomes the fear and I fell into the arms of my friends.. who didn’t let me crash on the ground, they were able to bear the weight.

Trusting God is a lot like that – for part of trusting Him is found in trusting that He can deal with our past struggles, and our future failures.  That He can overcome the hindrances in our lives, that He will sustain us, heal us, bring us to completion.  We have to abandon ourselves, let God strip us of the pride that leads us to self-preservation.

It isn’t easy….

It takes a lot of time with the cross – seeing that Jesus did that same thing …. He abandoned His life, His Spirit,  into the hands of the Father.

Now it is our turn – with a difference…. The Spirit’s presence, coaching, encouraging, bringing us life….

Father, help us to abandon ourselves into your Hands…. Help us to trust…

AMEN

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1637-1641). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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