One New People!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that you are always a member of God’s family, and may it compel you to find and bring in all the members of His family!
In the bulletin today, there is an interesting article, written by Chris. (that article posted below) Unfortunately, he is working this morning. He’s been part of our church for a little more than a year, yet it is hard to remember what it was like without his voice booming in the choir, without the smiles that come to his face as he realizes how much more God loves him than he can realize.
He thought, for the longest time that he was an outsider, and now, he knows he is part of the family of God, part of this community that God put here, that God’s love would be revealed to us all.
And that is exactly what Paul is talking about to the church in Corinth, as Paul explained that our salvation is “ours”, that is it brings together everyone, from those whose faith was only a fleshly thing and didn’t affect their hearts, and those of us who are considered the outsiders.
For God is carefully joining us together, united to Him and Him and through Him.
And that is something to be excited about, that is something to be in awe of, as we become aware of it.
Used to be’s
As I was writing this sermon, I kept thinking about all the movies where the outsiders challenged the “in-crowd”. Whether the movies and television shows were about high school and college, or about the military, or life in the workplace, or retirement, the movies are unending.
And they picture a reality. There are the outsiders, people like Chris and I, who don’t feel like we fit in, who are normally on the fringes, looking in, and wondering what it would be like to be part.
Except that the people Paul spoke of were really outsiders.
He mentions that they lived apart, that they were separated from God. They didn’t even really know He existed, never mind that He cared. If they came, they were excluded, foreigners and aliens that would never be allowed to become citizens of Israel, that would never be allowed to be in a relationship with God, the relationship described in the covenant, with the incredible promises that were given to those who were God’s people.
Talk about being outsiders!
And here I was thinking I didn’t belong.
There are many of us that feel that way, who struggle in life because we don’t feel we belong, doubt we ever could because we see all the things that hold us back!
But Paul refers to another group of those who didn’t get the blessing.
The insiders who don’t get it. He describes them as the circumcision, but people who show all the outward appearances of being in the family of God. Yet, it hasn’t affected their heart.
They don’t belong either, and they know it. Their hearts and lives are empty, the promises that belong to the people of God they don’t hear as theirs, even though they are told the promises. They cannot hear them or believe the promises are theirs.
And so they are like empty tombs or cups that have been cleansed on the outside. They know they aren’t any closer God than the outsiders, but they play the game well.
Good thing God loves us all!
And God in Christ has brought peace to us all,
In all the movies, the outsiders overwhelm the insiders, and some of the insiders end up siding with the victorious. The outsiders accomplish the task, become the heroes, defeat the bullies, show those in charge.
I’ve always liked those movies because of that. They gave me hope that somehow I could win at some point in my life.
I never would have thought of what Paul talks of here. That the neglected outsiders and the empty insiders could be made one, as Paul describes,
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
There it is, there is where we find unity, there is we find we belong, there we find an answer for the broken emptiness that we who grew up on insider feel.
In the eyes of the Lord who looks down on us, even today and pleads, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing… even as he claims the penalty for our sin.
And as He draws us to Him, He unites us, both those who weren’t a people and those who are. Those who weren’t in a covenant relationship, and those who were, but constantly failed to live in that relationship.
The outsiders aren’t outsiders anymore, for Christ has not just given them access, He has drawn them into Himself. The same of those inside whose hearts were so hard they couldn’t see or access the blessing of being the people of God. Yet now, in Christ, united to Him through the blood spilled at the cross, we are all His, carefully joined together as His home.
All sin is forgiven, all unrighteousness erased, all hostility left behind as God does something wonderful to us, and in us through us. We are one, nothing dividing us anymore. And so we can reach out to others that they think are outsiders, and help them know they are not.
We see this unity, this coming together here, as we come together to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, as one family one people, united in Christ….and we see it as God amazes us, using us all to bring more people to His cross, where they find this peace.
for together we have been brought peace by Christ Himself, a peace that goes beyond anything we can imagine, for it is this Christ has saved us to, as we dwell in Him. AMEN!
The letter sent to our church from one of its newest members
dear Concordia, Chris sent me this, and I think you all need to see what he sees in us. Because sometimes… we are so used to experiencing it, we forget the treasure we have!
I have spent the last few weeks taking a good look around the church at all the people inside and I have begun to see some amazing things that I hope I can relate to you.
Everyone at church has commented to me about the change they have seen in the past few months. I do feel different inside as I have shared in past emails and conversations with members of Concordia. But the changes are not my own. I am one who doesn’t like change. I never did and probably never will. My heart has started to heal, my mind has become more clearer, although I have gained a few pounds, I am healthier than I probably have ever been. But that’s getting away from what I feel I need to share right now.
I looked around church and I see not a German, or an Asian, or Portuguese, or swede. I see people at PEACE!. I see a glow in the many faces of GODS PEOPLE. What is this GLOW? To answer this question, first turn out your light and turn on a small desk lamp or a nightlight. You see all the light that’s coming from that small bulb? That GLOW? That’s not even a 1/10 of what I have seen in the faces of you all.
I see this in everyone no matter the age, sex, or beliefs about life (apart from our faith) ! From the newborn that cries sometimes during the sermon to the woman that sits across from me that’s in her 80s. I see that radiance that says “I know he is with me and is taken care of me.” And “I am loved”. I sit and I think about the brokenness and sometimes despair that people have experienced as of late. And I look at our prayer list at church every week. I get sad as more and more names get added on to it. Then I look up and I see a sanctuary full of PEACEFUL people. I have drug out that dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word but yet I still cannot grasp it. But yet I can recognize it and I’m seeing it every Sunday and Wednesday at bible study.
I know that some of you do look around during church for various reasons and maybe whisper. But next time you do, look and you will see the GLOW on peoples faces as you say “THE PEACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS WITH YOU ALWAYS”
YOUR BROTHER IN CHRIST,
the devotional thought of the Day:
12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:12 (TEV)
1 To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else. 4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-4 (Phillips NT)
The circumstances of various regions being duly considered, students are to be brought to a fuller understanding of the churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Apostolic Roman See, so that they may be able to contribute to the work of re-establishing unity among all Christians according to the prescriptions of this holy synod.
Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions, so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions, in God’s providence, possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Even back to my childhood, I remember people telling me who the enemies of God are, and therefore who the Church’s and my enemies are. And often, far too often, we would rise up to figure out how to start a new Crusade to crush this new enemy.
Some of the enemies were external to the church. Atheists and Agnostics who were so burnt by the church that they felt they had to “save” people from it. Other religions that were out to convert us (before we converted them!) Some of our enemies were internal to Christianity, (ex the Catholics pointing to Luther, the Baptists pointing to the Catholics, the Pentecostals pointing to the less emotional Presbyterians and Methodists. And some of these enemies were even in our congregations, like those who went to war over worship styles, or those that supported t this change, or those that just wanted them to remain the way they always were.
But we treat our enemies as if we were on a holy crusade against the heretics and infidels of our times. The church too often focuses on witch-hunts rather than ministering to those who are in need. Especially the ministry of reconciliaiton, and the ministry of deliverance,salvation. Deliverance from sin, deliverance from idols, (see Ezekiel 36:25) deliverance from the broknness that plagues our lives and relationships. THat should be our focus, to the believer and unbeliever, to our brothers and sisters in Chirst, and towards our enemies and adversaries, who, we pray, will become our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As Paul says, we don’t battle against them, but aginst those that hold them in bondage! Vatican II and Luther note that they have some ideas of God, What they know isn’t enough, because while they understand that God must be just, that there has to be “karma”, a payment your have earned for the sin you have committed, they have no idea that God could be, that God desires to be merciful.
That is our message, that is why we need to understand their religions, not to defeat them in battle, but to realize what they do teach about God, however they have veiled Him, and reveal Him fullu, so that they can depend on Him fully. We need to tell them the good news about God’s mercy and love, so that the Holy Spirit will fulfill the promise of working through the word, to illuminate their hearts.
We can’t have that kind of focus if we remain in ignorance, nor can we see this as our mission, what we’ve been sent to do, if we think of the people as our enemies and adversaries. This is why scripture commands us to love our enemies, because, in the final analysis, they are not our enemies.
Get to know them, share wth them the reason that we broken sinners have found hope…. and look to God, who loves you so much, and has an eternity planned for you that is beyond comprehension.
The Lord is with you!
Question of the day: If we know God is with us, why would we fear those with different beliefs?
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Transformed Minds: The effect of the Resurrection
We Have a Life to Live, Together (with Him!)
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ surround us with peace, even as He guides our work together in Him!
A Test of Faith
Most of you know I wasn’t always a pastor, for a while I was in management, and my undergraduate degree is in Organizational Management.
This is probably most surprising to some, but for a while, I was pretty decent at managing things, from restaurants and bookstores to a divisional department at Pepperdine.
When I became a pastor, I found out that not everything in management theory is transferable to church, and it is taking me over 20 years to determine what things will work, and what things do not. One of those things is finance, personnel management quite fit either, and another is leadership development.
Look at today’s reading from Acts, I mean who would ever tell a CEO or COO to pick a replacement for the Board of Directors by flipping a coin or rolling a dice? I mean what if our nominations committee did that… they just gave us a list of names of all qualified people for each office, and we just rolled a die to see who the next president, vice president, secretary and treasurer were?
Anyone want to take a chance at that method? Let’s see, who would be qualified to be the next congregational president? Al? Jim? Bob? You guys meet the qualifications, so we add you to the list…and flip a coin and let’s see what happens. Okay? For vice president, all the names, and let’s roll some dice!
How much faith does it take, to hear God, and trust in an ancient way of asking His guidance that basically accepted that guidance based on a flip of a coin, or a roll of the dice? We’ll get to the faith in a moment.
Replacing Judas ( to do what?)
That’s what they did, they cast lots, like the Urim and Thummim to choose who would replace Judas among the Twelve.
We know why he had to be replaced. In his actions we see the damage sin can do played out completely. He didn’t trust Jesus, and so Judas betrayed Jesus, trying to force him to do what Judas thought was right.
That’s not only a sin we are all capable of, it is a sin that most of us are guilty of this week, and often enough to realize the guilt and shame that would drive Judas to death. For that is what the guilt and shame does, when we realize the damage we have done, not listening to God or obeying His word.
Without Jesus, what happened to Judas would happen to us all,
Obviously, replacing Judas was important. It is the first act of the church after the Ascension. But one of the questions to ask is for what reason was Judas replaced? Was it to be a leader or ruler of the church? Was it to be a VIP on the Board of Directors, or to be the new Chief Financial Officer?
I mean we must have structure in the church, and these twelve and their roles are pillars in the church. So what does scripture say the role he was chosen for was.
Hear scripture again,
21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
Witnesses of Jesus Resurrection. That is the role of the Twelve. In Greek, they were the twelve Martyrion, the me who would be witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus. I wonder if Matthias and Barsabbas were volunteered for this?
That is the critical role of the church, to bear witness to the fact that Alleluia, He is Risen!
All other roles, whether elected offices or hired positions work to make this one task, being a witness to Jesus possible. Which brings us back to choosing, and having faith in God in that choice.
How do we get that kind of faith?
So where should the faith come from, that leads us to trust God’s leading in choosing who will do this kind of work, or any work today? It doesn’t matter whether it is a vote, or a flip of a coin, or whatever method, it doesn’t matter.
We have to trust God for whom He calls into leadership through the church.
Verse 14 and verse 2 show the secret.
“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer” and “they all prayed”.
They were gathered in the presence of God and communicated together as one! It is where the church finds unity, it is there where our dependence on God is encouraged, nurtured, strengthened, where we encounter God’s mercy as others show it us as well,
As one pastor shared it, Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.
It is not because of our own strength that this happens, it takes God weaving us together, splicing the places where we have become frayed. It is in the peace that the church is the church, that it bears witness to God’s love.
It as we find our lives in Jesus that things become clearer, and we simply focus in on the mission, of bearing witness to His resurrection, and our resurrection in Him.
For a Paul quotes,
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)
That’s what the world needs to know, and you and I are sent to share that message, a message of great hope, incredible peace, all sustained by His mercy and love. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life o for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another. John 15:11-17 HCSB
It is the urgent wish of this Holy Council that the measures undertaken by the sons of the Catholic Church should develop in conjunction with those of our separated brethren so that no obstacle be put in the ways of divine Providence and no preconceived judgments impair the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.
During the early years of the Reformation Luther and others proposed again and again that a general council of the church be convened to discuss and arbitrate the questions of doctrine and practice that were in controversy…..
It is a hard thing tl o love people you do not know.
It is a harder thing to love those you think you know, and whom you think wish you ill, but whom you do not really know.
This doesn’t matter whether we are talking about large groups (i.e. the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Lutherans looking at each other) or whether we are talking about neighbors or “those” people.
if we are honest, each of us has people we think we understand, and whom we think we need to protect ourselves from, for we know they mean us evil.
Even so, we are called to love them, really love them. Even to the point of death…
Surely then, if that is the length we are to go, we could try to get rid of the preconceived judgments that Vatican II warns us of, trying to put no obstacle in the way of divine providence.
We know, as St. John’s gospel pointed out, the will, the desire of God to see us one. Surely indeed we could pray for that, and learn to love each other so that it would be possible? FOr is this not the fruit of Christ being at work in our lives?
In the title, I asked whether the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960’s meant these words in blue above. If we ask that question, it has to be without the preconceived assumption that they do not. (Luther’s idea of best construction) We have to rely on God to move in that way, for it is our faith in God that
I believe many of the leaders did, they saw the need for the future. It has taken a generation for that to trickle down to the parish level, for the people of the church to know this was even possibly a desire. And I think, from the priests I know, that it will become more and more a desire for the church. (The last three popes made it an issue, and I think Francis will continue that!)
Do they all? It will take time, and teaching, by both example and instruction. But I believe it will grow.
Now the question becomes, can we mean it? Can we, like Luther, seek our, not compromise but community?
And if I can ask that of these huge groups… can I ask it of me and that person?
The answer if found in the same place. In the love of God, in know His will, and the providence He supplies to His people. For as Vatican II noted,
The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit.
So let us pray to the Lord of mercy. Amen!!
Catholic Church. “Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2 One Heart and Mind
† 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.
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?
 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:
6 “This may seem impossible to those of the nation who are now left, but it’s not impossible for me. 7I will rescue my people from the lands where they have been taken, 8and will bring them back from east and west to live in Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, ruling over them faithfully and justly. Zechariah 8:6-8 TEV
96 Discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance, and then, from everything that happens, you will be able to draw more love for God and a greater desire to respond to him. He is always waiting for us, offering us the possibility to fulfil at all times that resolution we made: Serviam! I will serve you!
One of the books I am presently reading is Metaxas biography of Martin Luther. It is more than a bit distressing, as constantly Metaxas points out that what happened was out of control of everyone involved, especially Luther.
Why couldn’t the church simply reform? Why did the leaders not listen and discuss things like the Church did at the Jerusalem council? Why was the division and later shattering of God’s family so unavoidable?
As I read Metaxas account, it seems like the reformation was a huge tidal wave, that consumed all in its path.
So where was God in it all? Can we, as another Catholic Priest/Reformer of the Church advised, “discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance”?
Personally, I find this difficult, I get overwhelmed by what seemed impossible to stop, Much like the people of Israel in the time of Zechariah. It was impossible for them to even think of the restoration of the people (not the nation) Israel. The people of God who struggle with Him (that;s what Israel means), yet are His people, for He is their God. Yet the prophet assures them that for God this is not impossible, but it will happen.
God will restore His people, He will call them to His side,, He will call them home together. It is God’s plan, His desire, His will, that we shouldn’t perish, and that He will call all His people home, together.
So how to grow in faith, in confidence that what God has promised, God will deliver? Even when the darkness seems to overshadow life? How can I trust, as Joseph did, that God means all of this for good? From the reformation which shattered the Western Church to arguments which threaten my own denomination today, that God will use these storms to bless those who love Him?
I have to look to the cross, the place where God seems the most vulnerable, even more, vulnerable than when He was in utero in Mary. To look to the cross as Jesus, fully God and fully man, is murdered by those who found God’s inconvenient and bothersome. As He died for all of our sin. The sin of the Catholics, the Protestants, even the Orthodox. s He died to cover the sins for those who do not know Him yet, but will as we reveal Him to them. It is there- when even nature went dark and shook with fear, to realize even in the dark moment, God was at work. Using the greatest evil Satan could ever con man into doing, turned out to be the greatest of blessings.
As God proved He is Immanuel, God with us.
As I look at a broken and fractured church, on his the supposed anniversary of the Reformation, my hope is in God’s promise, that not one of those in Christ will be lost, that He will call all of us home, and that He will continue to make us a holy people.
Lord, have mercy on us! Help us to see You in everything we encounter, and in all of History!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 553-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
It was an amazing opportunity, a blessing that would have been unheard of at the 450th anniversary of the Reformation. A chance for a Lutheran pastor to explain where we have come from over the last 500 years, and using writings of a Pope, Martin Luther, Vatican II and a leading Lutheran Theology professors, give us hope and urge us on to seek reconciliation.
here is a rough draft recording of the talk…..okay a really rough draft.
May we pray that the Church would be one and that it would be seen as one by us. AMEN.
Devotional Thought for our days….
After the vision of these things I looked, and there was a great number of people, so many that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They were shouting in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9-10 NCV
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (NLT)
The goal of the early Augustine, “God and the soul—nothing else”, is not realizable; it is also not Christian. In the last analysis, religion consists, not in the solitary way of the mystic, but in the community of proclaiming and hearing. Our conversation with God and our conversation with one another require and condition one another.
Every once in a while someone will tell me they don’t go to church because they don’t need it. They can worship God in a park, at the beach, in the mountains, by a lake. I almost believe them. After all, they will claim, didn’t Jesus often go away from the disciples to pray?
No, I do believe them. Some of the most intense moments, where I have realized the grace of God, have been those solitary moments when I am still, when I must know that He is God, that He is with me. And it is usually dealing with people that drives me to seek such solitude!
And of course, I am not alone in this. Augustine’s thoughts about this, referenced by Pope Benedict, show a similar desire. Just me and God, just God and my soul, nothing else needed! Benedict XVI sounds similar, if less harsh, to the critiques of Luther in regards to monasticism. Our relationship with God and with each other is the same relationship, it is the same package. Both Paul and Peter describe this in scripture as we are one body, many different parts perhaps, but we are one, and Jesus is our head. The creeds talk about one Church, noted because it is holy ( dedicated and separated to God ) Catholic (universal, across all 4 dimensions), apostolic ( it has a mission, it is sent by God) church ( those drawn together in Christ)
This is the way it was the early church, so in awe of the resurrection of Christ and what it means for us, they couldn’t help but meet together often, to talk about it, to show the love they had for each other. It wasn’t programmed, it wasn’t the result of marketing, it was the joy of being in Christ. Were there problems? Sure, but they worked themselves out as people realized they were reconciled to God.
Ultimately, in heaven, in the presence of God, face to face with Him, we are standing shoulder to shoulder, we are singing loudly together. It is not you, walking in the garden alone with God, We are all His! He walks with all of us, He talked with all of us, and He tells us all, we are His own. That is the way it is.
What does this mean for the church today?
That’s a big question. In a world with tens of thousands of different bodies, each claiming to be the church, yet each a broken fractured part of the one Church. But we can’t ignore the rest! Just as an individual can’t separate themselves from the church, neither should a congregation or even a denomination. There still needs to be a desire, a strong sense of this division is wrong and prayer that God would lead us to wholeness, real wholeness. Found in reconciliation in Christ, not in man made compromise. Still- that we would be one, even as Jesus and the Father are One.
May this be part of what we cry out for, when we cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!” AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche* to come to a mutual understanding in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my true yokemate,* to help them, for they have struggled at my side in promoting the gospel, along with Clement and my other co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. NABRE Phil. 4:2-3
174 Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”
Yesterday I wrote about the church being urged to work for unity at every level. That scripture urged us to do so, even as we find ourselves in opposition to others. That unity is found int he presence of God, in a sacramental (some would say incarnational) presence of God.
In my devotional reading today, Paul is again urging unity, but this time we aren’t the one’s who are divided – we are urged, as the church, to help bring two people back together, to help them reconcile and know the unity that can only be found in Christ.
Paul urges us to help them, and while we probably don’t have these names in our congregations and parishes, we have people that stand apart, that divided over something. People that we might classify as good people, people that work hard in the church, that minister to those hurting, that feed those who are hungry, that care and teach people about God’s love.
Let’s face it, we all have stubborn streaks, we all can be more than a bit irritable and irritating. We can all struggle and in those struggles, get a bit defensive, and bit anxious, a bit territorial. We all struggle with sin, and sin can divide people, even as it separates us from God.
Our sin, and the unrighteousness of the sins committed against us need to drive us to the altar, to the cross where the blood of Jesus cleanses us. That is where the healing between two who find themselves divided and antagonistic can happen. For there, face to face with sin being forgiven, with mercy being extended, we see what happens.
It is in the presence of God that we find that mutual understanding in the Lord. It is where love overwhelms us and where healing begins, as God heals us, as God draws into unity together.
And sometimes – the two parties need the third to remind them of this – that there they are together, that there they are both cleansed, and whatever divided them fades as quickly as their own sin does.
There, at the altar, where we celebrate the New Covenant, there is where they are reconciled. There, they find peace, and the joy of community united in Jesus is restored! AMEN!.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.