Passover wasn’t celebrated in the first month,l which was the usual time, because many of the priests were still unclean and unacceptable to serve, and because not everyone in Judah had come to Jerusalem for the festival. So Hezekiah, his officials, and the people agreed to celebrate Passover in the second month.
Most of the people that came from Ephraim, West Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not made themselves clean, but they ignored God’s Law and ate the Passover lambs anyway. Hezekiah found out what they had done and prayed, “LORD God, these people are unclean according to the laws of holiness. But they are worshiping you, just as their ancestors did. So, please be kind and forgive them.” 20 The LORD answered Hezekiah’s prayer and did not punish them.2 Ch 30:1–4, 18-20 CEV
Before all else, the teacher of peace and master of unity desires that we should not make our prayer individually and alone, as whoever prays by himself prays only for himself.
In Cyprian’s words about the Lord’s Prayer, we find described a call to pray together. Not just physically together, but really together. To pray with one heart and one mind.
It was the reason for Passover being delayed that year so that all could pray together. That those who were unclean, those damaged by sin could deal with it, according to God’s provision. According to how God laid out one could become cleansed of sin.
They, as a people, needed to pray together, they needed to worship together, they needed to realize that they lived in the presence of God, who so desperately wanted to care for them.
But they needed to do it together.
I will repeat myself, not just together physically, but together spiritually, emotionally, cognitively.
We need this today as well. Isolation is oppressive, we grow more and more distant apart. We become more protective of what belongs to me and less aware of each other, and each other’s needs. Cyprian describes that well, as he talks about only praying for oneself.
That needs to stop.
We need to be praying for everyone. Everyone in our church, everyone in our community, everyone we don’t feel like praying for.
So as we come together, let us pray that the Lord unite His church and the communities in which it dwells. May the church help the community to learn, not only how to find reconciliation, but how to love.
Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 69.
His Mysterious Plan
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father help you see your role in the church, as God displays His wisdom, found in the mystery of His eternal plan carried out through Jesus Christ our Lord!
A mysterious plan
As this sermon will be translated
The Cambridge-English dictionary suggested clarifying what is meant in our usage of the word mystery. What comes closest to my understanding of the Greek word is this option: †
“something strange or not known, that has not yet been explained, or understood” Another way to phrase it would be an enigma, and in this case, a divine enigma.
Oddly enough, the word google translate suggest is Chinese is 谜, † pronounced “Me” ( Mi)
So “Me” is a mystery and an enigma.
Makes sense in English!
But we are talking about God’s mystery today, this plan that has been in existence since before time began. A secret which Paul would reveal, which is still challenging for us to comprehend, and it is still a challenge for us to use in our lives.
Not revealed? Kept secret?
Twice in this passage, Paul mentions that his mystery, this plan of God that is not yet completely known or understood was kept secret. In verse 5 he says, †
God did not reveal it to previous generations,
And then in verse 9, †
9 I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
There is a challenge here, that we need to deal with, this idea that God hides His mystery, that God doesn’t lay out His entire plan for us to deal with, for us to accept, for us to know.
That doesn’t just
sound right, after all, shouldn’t God just be completely honest with us? Why wasn’t He completely transparent with His
people? Why where His plans such a
There is tendency in mankind to want to know, to understand, but along with that we want to be able to raise questions, to criticize, to help adjust the plans. We want to be advisors to God, and we see that throughout history.
Peter did this, when Jesus talked about the cross, and Jesus called Peter Satan, and told him to get lost.
We do it now, when we choose to give in to temptation, when we decide to sin, when we choose to ignore God’s commands, especially the two great commands,
To Love God with all our heart, soul and mind
To love our neighbor as ourselves.
Every time we do something that Is not loving, every time we sin, we tell God that we don’t trust Him. How much more would we have done this, if we knew everything from the beginning?
The plan – all united in Christ
So God didn’t share the plan, but now He has. And it is about that very thing, loving God and loving those people God brings into our lives.,
To bring us all into this incredible relationship where God is our Father, where we all become one body in Christ.
Where we all share in the riches that we
For we dwell in Christ, united to each other, even as we are united to Him, at the cross.
That is why the cross is the center of the plan, for Paul will tell the church in Rome and the church in Colossae that we were united to Christ at His death on the
And as we are all united to Him, we find ourselves united
We are all one in Christ, that was the mystery that Paul revealed, the plan we needed. For we needed to see what the cross would make possible. That cleansed of all sin, restored and reconciled in our relationship with God
The fulfillment of the plan – we come boldly
Every plan has a final goal, a final measurement when
you know the work is done.
Even those plans that seem vague, have that moment when everything becomes known, when everything becomes clear.
In this case, the plan’s goal, is stated clearly in verse 12. †
12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
So now you see God’s ultimate goal, the reason for everything He has planned.
That we would be able to confidently dwell in the presence of God.
Just simply dwelling with Him, find comfort and rest in His presence, depending on Him to guide us, and take care of us.
For that is what it means to have faith, to depend on God completely, no longer hidng behind illusions, but to trust God with everything…
For He is our God
And we, we are all His people! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“•I assure you: The one who believes in Me l will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14 HCSB
21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. John 17:21
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.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
There are times when I question why prayers aren’t answered. For example, why my son has to have the genetic disorder I have, or why friends battling cancer aren’t simply healed. We pray, earnestly, reverently, continuously for miracles of this nature. Yet the answers to these prayers are too far in between for my liking.
After all, Jesus said, if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
Even more than, I wonder why one of Jesus’ prayers go unanswered.
Why can’t the church be one, as the Father and Jesus are one?
Why can’t that prayer be heard, and answered?
Why can’t the church be one?
We have one mission, to reveal the love of God, seen so clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the acts that give us hope and forgiveness, and prove His love. That’s what we have to do! It’s not rocket science!
Our worship is supposed to do that, to teach people what they need to know about Jesus, to reveal that God doesn’t want to stay alone, that He sought a response to the love He would show us in everything, our creation, our redemption, our being made His people. People that have a God that wants to love and be loved.
If the greatest Catholic theologian of the last century and the Lutheran forefathers can agree on this fundamental role of our gathers as believers, can’t we start there? Can’t we start in prayer, and in meditating on God’s word together? Can’t we find unity as we consider the sacrifice of Jesus and the love that comes to us at the altar?
Is that asking too much?
To hear His prayer, and to find the answer to that prayer, not in the halls of academia, but in the church together, on our knees in prayer, lifting up our voices in praise, considering the gifts given in His Body and Blood?
Let’s ask this together in His name…
Lord, Have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Question to think about:
Should working toward unity, the unity found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus be a more important issue in the Church today?
If you are a nonChristian, or even on the border, would the leaders of local churches trying to work out their differences make a difference in the way you view the church as a whole?
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
18 Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, My beloved in whom My soul delights; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not argue or shout, and no one will hear His voice in the streets. 20 He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick, until He has led justice to victory. 21 The nations will put their hope in His name.
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.
194 Nam, et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis, non timebo mala—though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no evil will I fear. Neither my wretchedness nor the temptations of the enemy will worry me, quoniam tu mecum es—for you Lord are with me.
Our Lord prayed that His church would be one, as united as God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are one. Historic churches usually use either the Apostles or Nicene Creed each week, in which they state they believe and depend upon the Holy Spirit to work through the church, which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
And most of us desire the church to be unified, if by unified we mean that those who disagree with us come to our position, imitate our practice, and bow to our superior, more Christ-like version of the one true faith.
But do we ask why we need to be one?
Do we seek the underlying reason to put our own preferences aside, to work diligently through the different understandings, why we need to humbly listen and work with each other?
It is seen in my devotional readings this morning.
This world is broken without hope. It is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and it does fear evil, the anxiety seems to be growing at a palpable rate.
Our only hope is in the Lord, who will deal with us with both His incredible power and HIs incredible care. He will nurse us back to heal, like someone tending a bruised plant, the Holy Spirit’s gentle comfort us will take us and kindle in us a roaring fire.
Our unity directly affects that witness, the ability to give that hope. That doesn’t mean we compromise on things critical to having trust in God, but rather, we work all the harder at making it happen. We acknowledge our broken fractured church and pray together, then work to see it become one, for it is one in Christ Jesus.
Lord, give us the desire to see You heal our brokenness, our divisions. Help us to seek you together in prayer, and to work diligently together to give this world the hope it can only find in You. Lord, have mercy on us all, for we are sinners in need of your healing. AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 873-876). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Kingdom of God is Like Nuclear Physics…
It’s all about Fission and Fusion
† In Jesus Name †
May you be encouraged by the grace of God, which powerfully is at work in your life, separating you from your sin in His death, and uniting you to Christ, and the glory of His resurrection to life!
The Power of a Word…
A Pastor Parker Parable.
Remember these locations. Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Nagasaki, Hiroshima.
The fear and anxiety associated with them is still felt, and their identity will forever be united with the release of incredible power. Nuclear Power.
There is a great power at work in our lives, and the way in which it work can be illustrated by the basic concepts of nuclear power. For there are two actions that take place when the power of God is unleashed.
The first is like nuclear fission, the power released when that which isn’t supposed to be separated is. The second is like fusion, where separate elements are bonded together by incredible power so completely, you cannot tell one from the other.
And so, on this day when we celebrate Christ’s baptism, and our own, we are going to take a glance at Romans 6, and the description of God’s glorious power, at work in our lives.
Like nuclear power, the power of God’s glory at work is amazing, a power so incredible that we are left in awe of it, as we consider it’s work.
And so we shall…
When we consider fission, the basic concept is the core, the central part splits at the atomic level. The destructive force release is incredible as that which was supposed to be one is forced apart by the introduction of another force.
The element is forever changed by the release of such force. Enough so that a small pellet of uranium, about the size of a pencil eraser, is equal to three 55 gallon barrels of oil. No wonder the uncontrolled release of that energy causes death.
And that power is incomparable to the power that brought into the world, that separates us from our sin.
Hear it again from the words of Paul to the church in Rome.
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
As Christ entered into this world, so did the power it takes to separate from us a nature that is sinful. For each of us has sinned, and that sin we can see the damage, the destruction it does. The lives that are broken, the relationships shattered; the force that wreaks havoc in this world, a force we call evil. It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it is idolatry, dishonoring God’s name, or those He places in positions of great responsibility, like parents, lawmakers, rulers. It doesn’t matter if the sin is murder, adultery, theft, gossip or simply being un-content with our lives, and desiring that of others.
Sin is that force that was at work in each of us, a force that still tries to wield its power over us.
Christ’s entrance into the world, and his death on the cross releases the power that severs the power of sin that binds us, and we are free as the neutrons freed in the reaction. Such is the power of Christ’s death, which captures the radical sin which so easily ensnared us.
The power of sin is shattered, as a greater power overwhelms it….
If you think the power that would remove from you all sins in thought, word and deed is awe-inspiring, the power at work does something more incredible than that.
For while the power of sin leads to death, the power of God at work brings life, as it works like nuclear fusion, binding us to Christ Jesus.
8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.
What takes more energy that division is melding something, repairing it.
If you break a window – it takes a lot of force, but how can you replace that which is shattered?
It is a lot easier to spend money, that it is to reconcile the checkbook.
It is easy to damage a relationship, but it is very difficult to restore one.
Yet the power of Christ’s death and resurrection does that, it unites us to Him, it fuses us into Him,
It is the power of God that David’s psalm testifies to, His voice that powerfully resonates like thunder, majestic and able to make the mountains quake, as it rules over us. Look at the power of His voice, look at the fission it creates, and yet at the end, almost an after statement, these is what takes the greatest power.
Look especially at the last verse, verse 11,
11 The Lord gives his people strength! The Lord blesses them with peace!
That is the power, the glorious incredible power that joins us to Jesus in death, and yet in the resurrection, in the quickening, in the very life given to us, the voice of God speaks.
That is the glorious message that is the gospel. That God raises us in Christ, unleashing that power to separate us from sin, and binding us to Himself. That is His word, His promise.
Hear it again from other places
Php 3:10-11 — I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Col 2:12 — For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Col 3:1 — Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
This God at work, in you. It is all of His mighty power at work.
A power that goes beyond nuclear, it is the power of life itself.
Which is why Paul encourages us to stop living in sin, its power has broken over us.
And so I leave you with the last of his words. Know them, and the power of God at work in you. And rejoice as His power is unleashed. He are the words…
11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Live life my friends, for it is your gift in Christ Jesus.
Y’all Come Back Now, You Hear?
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ assure you of the peace that is found as the world comes back, reconciled to Him!
Another Pastor Parker Parable….but one that needs a bit of a set up…
They were gathered, at the end, around a pool that reminded you of a Roman Villa.
As the credits rolled past, the cast of the sitcom would, with a hospitality that seems somewhat unknown today, invite us to watch next week with the words,
Y’all come back now, you hear?
You might call this pastor Parker parable, “The Kingdom of God is like the Beverly Hillbillies!”
Another way to put it is that if we made a television show about our church, it could be called the Concordia Hillbillies!
We certainly are a diverse group of characters, and there is no one that would walk in our doors, that wouldn’t be welcome.
If you are unfamiliar with the show, here is the basic plot, a poor family of people from somewhere in the Appalachia strikes it rich with oil on their property. They load up their truck and move to the Beverly Hills, the place of dreams and where rich people belong.
Of course, there are some things they had to get used to, As the slide says, Ma, somethings just ain’t going to be the way they used to be! Things like indoor plumbing, a pool in the backward instead of a creek and a pond, and the manners of the rich and infamous they would need o learn to deal with, and quickly. It was a study of cultural anthropology, and conflict resolution between peoples of different cultures and backgrounds done with great humor.
As we hear the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus, we see similar cultural issues, and we see a community being formed, as the people become one. There were things that the Gentiles and the Jews would need to learn, as they were brought together in Christ.
This is our goal for today. That we would begin to desire that all people would come and hear our plea, “be reconciled to God!” No matter their place of birth, their native language, their gender or economic status, that they would come, and that they would all come back to God, you hear?
Did We Worry About Fitting In? Or Did we Look Down on the newbies
The first plea to be reconciled goes to those who are new to the community. Those who were, and you have to here the “were” aliens. They weren’t part of the community, they weren’t governed by the law of the covenant, they were considered outsiders.
Some of us have experienced that feeling once or twice in our lives. We were born in a different place, some even on a different continent, like South America, or Asia. Some have come from Africa or Europe Some of us came from really strange places, like the lakes region of New Hampshire. We may have had people mock us, and California natives tell us we weren’t welcome or we felt like we would never fit in. Hear Paul’s words again, and see if the feeling sounds familiar,
- “11 Don’t forget that you – used to be outsiders.
- You were called “heathens” by the others
- In those days you were living apart.
- You were excluded from bein part of the community
- You did not know the rules and benefits of bein a part
- Therefore, you lived in this world without God and without hope”
For the Gentiles, it was just a matter of being held without the hope of fitting in,
I love Paul’s concern for these new believers that they will fit into the community of God. But part of that is helping them understand that they aren’t unbelievers anymore. These things were true – but they aren’t anymore.
It is as if he said, “Clampetts – you used to go to the bathroom out back, but Jethro, you don’t need to anymore.” Paul says, “Gentiles – remember you were like that before, but now you have hope, now you are part of the covenant, now you are in the community, no longer separated, no longer aliens!” They were now saints.. and that means something.
But they weren’t the only one’s who needed to learn!
Does anyone remember the name of Miss Hathaway’s boss? You know the rich banker who used to try and acquire the Clampett’s money? Was it Clydesdale?
Whatever his name, I think they modeled him after the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. He had trouble, serious trouble, adjusting to the fact that someone whom he didn’t think was worthy ended up with more blessings than he did. The Jews had the same struggle. Their pride in their circumcision and the other traditions they counted on caused them to lose contact with God’s vision.
It’s a problem we all struggle with at times, as our faith isn’t focused on Christ, but on something of us. I love how this translation puts it, “even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.”
Do we let our religious lives get like that at times, where they affect our body, but not our souls? Do we get to the point where we go through the motions and say the words, but don’t rejoice over the incredible mercy and love God shows us? The point when our traditions, or our preferences become more important than others coming to know God’s love?
What will it take for the new folk and the old folk, for the Jew and the Gentile, for all the cultures, all languages, all life to be at home together?
What Makes it Home
It happens when the same way it did in the Clampett household. It happens as we feast together.
It happens when we remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ includes us. We come home as we are joined together with Christ’s death and resurrection.
That’s how we know when we are home… home together. Hear Paul’s words again,
17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
to His home together
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
We belong together, we have been made one people, one holy people as we are God’s family. He is making His home out of us. People from every background imaginable, people who’ve committed every sin and been forgiven, people who are broken, who’ve come to be healed. God will work with people who’ve even come, like the apostle Paul did, to fight God, He can heal those who come to persecute God’s people, and like Paul was filled with awe, God can reach them! We can welcome, and even love them, and shown glimpses of the glory of God which we shall share in, together.
That is the power of God, seen as He makes us one….in Christ…
And y’all come back now, to His table for there will be a feast, celebrating His death and resurrection, the power of which is at work in us.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21 I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. John 17:20-21 (TEV)
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 (TEV)
2 Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? 3 For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. 4 By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. Romans 6:2-4 (TEV)
I spent much of last night in turmoil, not fully asleep, but hounded by grief.
Grief caused by the brokenness of the church. A Church that is not just divided, but shattered, and continually reacts to the brokenness with fear instead of faith, loathing each other, rather than loving each other, harassing each other, rather than praying for healing. I see other Christians, including pastors and priests, leading people away from trusting in God, to rail at politicians instead of respecting them and praying for them. I see the self-righteousness that brings all this division, the condescension of Christians claiming to be holier than the world, and groups of Christians holier than another. (and catch myself at it too… none are immune to this sin)
I wonder what happened to the church described in the Creeds Where is the church that is one, that is holy (set apart to God), catholic (united in our trust of God) and apostolic (sent, even as Christ was sent)
I grieve over what I saw yesterday, and today. I wonder what those who are being martyred in other parts of the world would think, if they see what divides us. I long to see the church be one, and yet, am so driven away by pathos, the outpouring of negative emotion, that I desire to no longer be a part of it.
It is black saturday. The day without the Lord, the day He found rest in the tomb.
The day we should find our unity.
Not because we are without Him, by no mean, we weren’t on the day after he was betrayed, beaten, mocked, abandoned, crucified.
We aren’t without Him on Black Satruday, when He lies entombed, crushed by sin.
We are there with Him, drawn into Him during His crucifixion, drawn into Him by the love poured out like a flood, united to His death in our Baptism – as Paul says.
Drawn into Him, called, gathered, united to Him in His death.
That is where we find unity, that is where we become one church, where we find the one faith, where God is our God, working through all who have been granted repentance, who have come to trust in Him, who know His mercy and love. You can’t be divided from Him, and as we die to ourselves as we are united with Him, our pride, our anger, our angst, our hurt dies as well.
If we are to be a resurrected people, a transformed people, a converted people, a delivered people, we each have to realise we are there with and that others are as well.
Unity as a church, no THE CHURCH, starts in the tomb.
Does that mean we will all get along, that sin won’t creep into the church, that we will all agree on every article of our faith? No, we won’t. That’s not what is promised, yet. But the healing that will be found will overwhelm that sin, the sin already paid for, and allow our hearts to embrace those whom Christ has embraced.
There is hope, even when we are in the grave, a hope we will realize tomorrow, as we exclaim, He is risen!
We are united in that as well, for if we die with Him, if we are united to Him in His death, we will be united to Him as we are raised to a new life with Him.
I am depressed today, mourning for a broken church. Yet, in the grace with Christ, I know there is Hope for tomorrow. I know there is hope for His Church.
For we will be one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. His death, burial and resurrection guarantee it.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT)
932 God is right there in the centre of your soul, and mine, and in the soul of everyone who is in a state of grace. He is there for a purpose: so that our salt may increase, that we may acquire more light and that each one of us from his place may know how to distribute those gifts of God. And how can we share out these gifts from God? With humility and piety, and by being very united to our Mother the Church. Do you not recall the vine and the branches? How fruitful is each branch when united to the vine! What large bunches of grapes! And how sterile the broken-off branch that dries up and becomes lifeless! (1)
As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about. All men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.(2)
When I was first installed as a Lutheran pastor, part of the service was my assent to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. i gave assurance that i believed in what the word of God teaches, and that i found the explanation of that found in the documents of the book of Concord to be a clear explanation of them.
I did then, and I do now so believe.
Yet, I struggle with the dissonance between those documents and what is commonly held to today.
One of those struggles is found in the words from the Nicene Creed, “and I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” (3) I hold to those words, and find great comfort in them. I believe there is only one church, yet I see the fragmentation of it, and worse, I see pastors and people who rejoice over that fragmentation.
Yet that fragmentation is not something praised in scripture. The Ephesians passage above makes this clear. We can add to the passage the 12-14th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians 12-14. We could also mention Philippians 2, not just the well known 5-10, but the verses that are the reason Paul includes 5-10; the call to unity, the call to serving other. Add 1 John – the entire letter, but especially chapter 4.
And yet we deny the church is one.
And in doing so, we deny the desire of Christ Jesus. We deny the unity we find in Christ Jesus, who draws us all to Himself, and who unites us to Himself, as we are united together in His death, and in His resurrection. It is the unity we see, as we kneel and commune together, a family feast with not just the congregation we gather with, but the whole church, including all the company of heaven.
I am not saying that we should compromise on our doctrine! However, the Una Sancta (that there is one group of holy people – those who trust in Christ Jesus) is part of that doctrine; what we discern because it has been revealed to us in scripture. To deny this does what St. Josemaria states, it causes us to wither and die,
I love what Vatican 2 describes, the very nature of the Lord’s Supper brings about and reveals that unity. Luther does an excellent job, although with many more words, in the Large Catechism’s explanation of the Creed.
The challenge i see is that we continue to think unity comes about by studying doctrine, debating over who is correct. Yet the church has often claimed what we pray determines what we believe. Why is that not true here? Unity is found at the altar, at the baptismal font, as we together have the grace and peace of God abundantly poured out upon us. Unity comes from the Spirit, given to each of us in baptism – gathers us together into one family of God.
Yes, there will be arguments, but those need to boil down to being discussions, with the end result acknowledging the presence of Christ. Yes there will be those who wander away, but we are called to work to reconcile and restore them, rather than vilifying and condemning them. Yes, we have to identify false teaching, but we need to do it with the idea of reconciliation, and with the attitude of love that Christ demonstrated, dying for us.
Unity in a church of unperfected saints isn’t easy, but it isn’t optional. We are one, holy catholic and apostolic church!
Maybe it’s time that was more clearly revealed in our lives, and how we treat each other. Maybe it’s time to meet in prayer, and ask God to make His reality, ours.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3287-3293). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(3) The original translations of the Creed use the word Catholic, which means universal. However, Lutheran churches often substitute the word Christian in instead. I have been told that there was no word for catholic in german at the time the Creed was translated into german. While I cannot confirm that, I still prefer to use in my writings Catholic and explain its meaning, rather than change the creed.
Devotional THought of the Day:
20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21 I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23 I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me. John 17:20-23 (TEV)
9 The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:9 (TEV)
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)
19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:19-21 (TEV)
546 Pause to consider the holy wrath of the Master, when he sees that the things of his Father are badly treated in the Temple at Jerusalem. What a lesson for you! You should never be indifferent, or play the coward, when the things of God are treated without respect.
Dustin, as a Lutheran pastor you know very well the theological gulf that exists between Rome and the BoC. Why do you continue to flog this very dead horse?
A few days ago, I was asked the question in green above, on a facebook forum. In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a man, a pastor who I admire, even as I note we don’t agree on a few important things.
And the four quotes have been swimming through my head since I was asked the question.
The four quotes from scripture are why I must “continue to flog this very dead horse”, The quote from St. Josemaria is the reason I will do so with a lot of energy, put into prayer, into study, yes and into writing blogs and having conversations with friends across denominational lines.
A comment about each of the passages, might help.
John 17: I don’t think we can read this prayer without seeing the desire of Christ and the Father. Read it carefully, our unity ( real unity) is sourced, not in compromise, but in the love of the Father. Even by praying for it publicly, Jseus is noting that it is going to require supernatural influence. (deistic cessationists might have a problem with this…) Yet it is in the very deep, personal, relationship we have with Christ, that we find ourselves in a relationship with each other.
2 Peter 3:9 Last I checked, God wanting all to come to repentance (to have the mind of Christ) is also a supernatural manifestation of His presence. All means all, it doesn’t mean “us, but not them”. This isn’t something you can try once, grab a t-shirt and give up on. This call to repentance is not something we can dismiss by saying, “they aren’t of our brand” or “we are an immigrant church and can’t reach out to other ethnicities.”
If God wants all to come to repentance, if this is His desire, then we will begin to desire that, the more time we spend in His presence.
On further thought. It doesn’t say God is patient with them…but us. Think about that. (Go – do it!
(no, I mean it – take 2 minutes to think that through)
(that was 10 seconds – go do it some more!)
2 Cor. 5: We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (that’s what “Churchese translations” do for this passage) Simply put, God desires greatly to reconcile with mankind, to restore a relationship with Him, a friendship, a deep, permanent, relationship where love and mercy are the norm.
Mathematically, if a=b and b=c, the c=a. Or, if you are reconciled to God, and “they” are reconciled to God, the you and they are reconciled. That can’t be denied. If they aren’t reconciled, your work, done in faith, is bringing this message of reconciliation to them, to give them this hope and celebrate it with them. Either way you are stuck, you are reconciled with them, or your vocation is reconcile them to God. This isn’t law, this is the work of God’s gospel in you.
Unless, of course, you need to be reconciled to God yourself….. in that case… let me let you know, God will remove every sin and all injustice that separates you from Him, and He desires to be in a relationship with you, and has made it possible. Enjoy it!
1 John 4: If this doesn’t provide the icing on the cake, I don’t know what does. We must continue to work that people would be reconciled to God, and the goal of any unity discussion or work starts and ends there. At the altar of God, in His presence, God and His people.
Working for unity between the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran Synods and churches is as much included in this as working to reconcile with that obnoxious person in the pew behind you, or the neighbor next door. If we don’t work for such, if we don’t care whether they are reconciled with God, how can we claim to love them? If we don’t love the, can we really claim to love the God who loves us?
Some may read this, and say I am a dreamer, that the RCC and Lutherans are both so stubborn that they will never change. If so, that is sad. As I am reading through the Book of Concord and the works from Trent and Vatican II, I see a lot of areas we can find enough common ground, to strive together toward unity in Christ.
Even if our leaders are afraid to breach these conversations, it is the vocation of pastors and priests, those who pastor the people of God and the people themselves to bring this message of reconciliation to God to the world. That will produce unity, even as we struggle with how that can be expressed, (and we should struggle with that, not just dismiss the differences)
And by the very word, and the promises given to us in the sacraments, this should become more and more part of our spiritual DNA. It should be part of our vocation, part of our prayers, striving to bring this message of reconciliation, which will reconcile us, even as it’s heard…..
LORD HAVE MERCY!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2055-2057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT)
19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21 We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:19-25 (TEV)
409 “I was a guerrilla fighter,” he wrote, “and I moved around the hills, shooting whenever I wanted. But I thought I had better become a soldier, because I realised that wars are won more easily by organised armies and well-disciplined armies. A poor guerrilla fighter on his own cannot take whole cities, or conquer the world. I hung up my old musket—it was so out of date!—and now I am better armed. At the same time, I know that I can no longer lie down in the hills, under the shade of a tree, and dream about winning the war all on my own.” Blessed be the discipline and blessed be the unity of our Holy Mother the Church! (1)
I was asked this week, how do I respond to people who think that they can worship God all by themselves. It’s not the first time, people have asked that question of me. Apparently someone asked Pope Francis that earlier this week as well, as one of his tweets responded to such a question. He admitted that it was difficult, because people are sinners, and we can frustrate anger and even cause each other great anxiety. But it was, nevertheless necessary.
We know God because others who are part of the body of Christ have shared His love with us. No one comes to know Jesus, unless He is revealed to us by another. It could be parents, uncles or aunts, a friend, even someone we were interested in dating. But someone revealed to us the depth of God’s love for us.
The writer of Hebrews knows this all too well, as he begins to some up his letter, he address those who want to have some kind of individual relationship with God – where it is just God and them, at the beach, in the forest, on their motorcycle, playing their music, where ever. The argument is that the relationship could be purer, less restricted, less affected by hypocrisy, or their own inability to be patient and deal with others. But that presumes that the kind of relationship God has designed for each of us is one on one with Him. That we don’t need the encouragement of others, that those times where we stress, where we worry, where we hurt, are going to take away from our relationship with God, rather than intensify it, as we realize our need for God, to need to know His presence, His comfort, His peace. It
I love the quote from St. Josemaria, because it nails me to the cross. For years growing up, desiring to be a pastor, I thought about my winning the world for God, the great things I could do. I was the idyllic “guerrilla”, solider of the cross. There was a lot of encouragement for this, a naivete about the need for true fellowship – as working as one body in Christ. Of realizing what affects one believer affects us all, without regard to denomination or theology, or personal journey. It’s not about what I’ve chosen to believe, or you think in right.
Paul explains it well in his letter to the church in Ephesus,
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
Our unity is not found in our diversity, but in Christ, in His revelation, in His Love. In what binds us together in His un-explainable peace.
That’s why we need to no abandon each other, finding reasons to walk alone.
It can’t be done. For God has designed us to be His people – together, and He comes to us to be our (together) God.
The strength we find in this, the peace, the encouragement, even in times of stress, of anxiety, of dealing with brokenness, of dealing with sin…
It’s why church and Bible study are important. Not to prove our holiness, but to encourage each other to remember we are holy, separated together for a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That’s the Church, simply put, His people….
Come and join us, as we walk with Christ, together.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1835-1841). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.