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How can we be in “Fellowship” with Those in Error? (or How can we not be?)

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

51 When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. 53 But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem.54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” 
55 But He turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.  Luke 9:51-56

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 4:2-6 (NLT)

15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter.14* For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour.15* They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities

But as the words of this decree show, the apostles did not want to impose an ordinance on the churches. For they say that no one should mind if his brethren do not correctly compute the time in celebrating Easter. The text of the decree is preserved in Epiphanius: “Do not calculate, but whenever your brethren of the circumcision do, celebrate it at the same time with them; even if they have made a mistake, do not let this bother you.”….  44 The apostles wisely admonished the reader neither to destroy evangelical liberty nor to impose a necessity upon consciences, since they tell him not to be bothered even if there has been a mistake in the calculations.

I have had to walk a few people through the same question in the last few weeks and to be honest, I have struggled with it as well.

If they are in error, do we separate ourselves from them (i.e. kick them out)?  Or who are we “in fellowship” with, and how much should that concern us.  For that matter, is fellowship something that is able to be constrained within a man-made,, man-defined organization?

And into that equation today is thrown a few more things to consider.  Two scripture passages, a quote from Vatican Council II’s Lumen Gentium, and a quote from the Lutheran Confessions.

All point to something we need to remember, fellowship is defined by God, as being united, first and foremost with God.  There is only one church, one body of Christ.  Paul is explicit in the quote from Ephesians, as he is in First Corinthians.  We are united to Christ, that is what defines us as the ecclesia, those called, those drawn into Jesus, and united to Him at the cross.

That’s why the Roman Catholic Council notes that there are many ways we are linked, including in our baptism, that we are honored by being called Christian. Even though we don’t agree with all they profess, and we don’t recognize the Pope as the successor of Peter.   That’s why the Lutheran Confessions clearly point out a time when the church chose unity over what had been declared doctrine, and praise and encourage loving our brothers enough to celebrate God’s grace, even if they are mistaken about the day and date.

Can we be comfortable with error?  Is there a point where the links are no more, where what binds us together is severed?  I suppose that if what bound someone to Jesus were severed, then the link between would be cut as well.  But the work of the church, even then, is to reconcile the one severed from Christ because of sin back to Christ.  There is still a link there, just as there was with the prodigal, though the prodigal didn’t know it.

And the Lutheran Confessions make it clear, there are some errors that seem extreme at the time, (i.e. food offered to idols, the dating and celebration of Easter, even the use of the spiritual gifts i  1 Cor. 14) that should not divide us, but that we can overlook those minor errors for the sake of the church, His church.

This means in the caring process, we may not commune together for a season, but it doesn’t stop us from praying for them and with them, it doesn’t stop us from talking, it doesn’t stop us from having the goal of being united in Christ Jesus.  Of making every effort to be united in the Spirit.  These times, where discipline is broken, where unity is hindered, the goal is still that unity, unity found in the grace and forgiveness and restoration that is the reason Jesus came in the first place.

So next time you look to win the argument, consider whether winning gives you the idea that you are the better or the more orthodox or Biblical believer…and consider whether your actions are conciliatory, or divisive…..

And then, do what builds up the body of Jesus….

 

 

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” 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 Scientific Method, Agnosticism, and Finding Hope in Misery

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,* 4 who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.c 5 For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ* does our encouragement also overflow. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement. 2 Cor. 1:3-7  NABRE

20 For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.l 21 *But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God;m 22 he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.1 Cor 1:20-21 NABRE

Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things.  (1) 

When the holy apostle St. Paul wanted to console his Corinthians he began by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may also comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” [II Cor. 1:3–4]. With these words he teaches us through his own example that the afflicted are to be comforted and that this comfort comes from God and not from men. St. Paul emphasizes this to avoid that false and pernicious comfort sought after and handed out by the world, the flesh, and also the devil. That [kind of comfort] slows down and stops all the benefits and the fruits that come to us from suffering and cross.

One of the cardiologists I had was a world class doctor.  Indeed, among his other patients were a former president and a king.  Though not a Christian, and perhaps only nominally religious, he used to tell me that God would keep him humble. God did this every time he accomplished something extraordinary by simply giving him a head cold. With such, he could not perform surgery, he wasn’t supposed to see patients in poor health and was rendered miserable physically, and because of his inability, miserable because he was useless.

I think the quote in blue helps us understand the problem.  The ability to observe suffering, to encounter that which makes one miserable is undisputed,  The ability of hat observation to do something about, something even as simple as providing comfort and relief is not always possible.

We can do so many things medically and scientifically, but not everything.  We count on our doctors, our pharmacies, science and sometimes the liquor store to provide the answers to every ailment, to every problem, to every struggle. They can’t, and what is worse if our hope has been placed solely in their provision, we’ve lost faith and trust in something higher.

We’ve become agnostic, and in doing so, we’ve lost the comfort and peace the Holy Spirit brings in those moments of horrid, miserable brokenness.

Luther points us back to scripture, to the fact that such comfort does come from God, that secure in HIs presence, we find the comfort when life seems to crush us.  I could have put 12 more quotes from 2 Corinthians, or tossed in Job and Ecclesiastes and Hosea, for that truth is throughout scripture.

Where man’s brilliance fails, God is there, providing comfort and peace. There is compassion, the mercy, the comfort, all that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead and works within us.  (it is tempting to wax theologicial here) But the Holy Spirit, whose presence was a gift to us in our baptism, who gives us life, real life, and heals our broken hearts and souls, there is our hope, there is the guarantee that eternity will not be life as we know it.

As one who has had a share of physical pain and suffering, illness and disease, I share this as well, in Christ Jesus, you will find hope. Reminded of my physical brokenness with the very ticks of my heart (two artificial heart valves) and struggling with back pain, and worst of all, these stupid, miserable, nose reddening, sinus pounding allergies, I know this.

The Lord is with you (and with me – as my beloved congregation reminds me very often!)

Hearing that, I find the answer to my quest for mercy; I find the comfort and peace that the Spirit reveals that gives me hope, and I find the strength to share that hope with you.

Scientific method, Agnosticism, and Atheism will not answer the cry for mercy.

But when we cry, “Lord have Mercy!” God answers, for He is our beloved Father.

AMEN!

(1) catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 43. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

 

Real Pastoral Care: Real People & Real Brokenness Being Guided to Jesus

Devotional Thought of the Day:

76 And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,r
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our Gods
by which the daybreak from on high* will visit us 
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1 76-79

Finally priests have been placed in the midst of the laity to lead them to the unity of charity, “loving one another with fraternal love, eager to give one another precedence” (Rom 12:10). It is their task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one need feel himself a stranger in the community of the faithful. They are defenders of the common good, with which they are charged in the name of the bishop. At the same time, they are strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine.56 They are united by a special solicitude with those who have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or perhaps even from the faith. Indeed, as good shepherds, they should not cease from going out to them.
Mindful of the prescripts on ecumenism,57 let them not forget their brothers who do not enjoy full ecclesiastical communion with us.
Finally, they have entrusted to them all those who do not recognize Christ as their Savior.  (1)

As Zechariah considers his son’s birth, as the Spirit fills him, as it will fill John, the words are worth considering, worth being struck with awe.

John prepares a people who are lost, blinded, in fear of death ready for a miracle.  He is to begin to reveal to them their salvation, to ready them for the day when the Glory of God, seen in Jesus, will shine into their darkness.  He would give them the knowledge fo the forgiveness of sin, which his cousin Jesus would actually bring us.

That God, Himself and no other, would come to guide us, to shepherd us into a place of great peace. To prepare the people of God for the arrival of the messiah, that was John’s role, as it is the role of everyone in ministry, especially pastors and priests. (though really, every Christian is in ministry)

Decades before the term “missional” became in vogue, Vatican II noted this when it describes the role of priests. I would include pastors in this, but I want to draw attention to these things,

the are to reconcile
They are to see no one feels themselves a stranger in the community
the are to defend the common good, and the assert the truth – that is to present Jesus and His mercy so clearly that people aren’t blown about by doctrine.

But get this as well

We who are in ministry are to unite with those who haven’t encountered Jesus in the sacrament, who haven’t been trusting and depending on Christ.  We can’t cease to try and guide them back to Jesus.

And if brothers are divided – knowing that Jesus would see us unified, we don’t just dismiss those whose theology is different than our own!

And finally, Vatican II says – those in ministry have entrusted to them ALL who do not recognize Jesus as their savior.

This was John’s ministry, it is ours.  Some will call it being missional, some will call it the apostolate.  I really don’t care which you use, as long as you actually are doing it.  A mom guiding her children, a pastor guiding Hs parish, a friend reminding another that God is indeed with them, and cares and loves them.

This is the ministry, this is our life as a church, led by priests and pastors, we guide people to Jesus, we reveal His love, and then we are overwhelmed again and again, as He works in their lives.

Revealing to us that they are the children of God, the ones He died to reclaim.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, help us lay aside our own brokenness, that we can help others see their salvation.  AMEN!

 
(1)  Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

 

The Ministry is Not About the Clergy!!!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

5  I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6  An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7  For an elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. 8  Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9  He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.
Titus 1:5-9 (NLT)

11 If ordination is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no obligation to calling ordination a sacrament. The ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom. 1:16), again, “My word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
12 If ordination is interpreted this way, we shall not object either to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament. The church has the command to appoint ministers; to this we must subscribe wholeheartedly, for we know that God approves this ministry and is present in it.  (1)

. Since only general laws can be made where there exists a wide variety of nations and regions, a special “program of priestly training” is to be undertaken by each country or rite. It must be set up by the episcopal conferences, revised from time to time and approved by the Apostolic See. In this way will the universal laws be adapted to the particular circumstances of the times and localities so that the priestly training will always be in tune with the pastoral needs of those regions in which the ministry is to be exercised.  (2)

This summer, there will be a lot of talk in my denomination about the ministry, and in specific the ministry of the diaconate, (Ministry in Greek is diakonos) .  Our problem is somewhat in semantics and somewhat an issue of ignorance. Ultimately, it is a misunderstanding of the ministry, and what it means to be divinely called to serve the church.

Without a doubt, those who serve the Church are a gift to the church.  Yes ,there is a divine call to not just pastors and priests, but to deacons and I believe any who teach in the church. The need to be trained and examined, and prayed over and for as they take up their roles, their vocations.

But the ministry isn’t about them.  The ministry is about serving the needs of those they are called to serve.  The people God would call to be His people, His children.

You see that clearly in the Ephesians passage, as we are called to minister, and even a point to which the job is complete.  (GULP)  But we see it as well, as the Titus passage describes our roles, again using the idea of building up, encouraging, being a Paraclete.

We see this in the idea early Lutherans (the quote in blue from the Apology of the Augsburg Confessions) as ordination is considered a sacrament if the ordination is setting them apart for this ministry of teaching God’s word.  (The first president of my Lutheran denomination included in this group all those the pastor delegated such work to as well!) This is why there was a time where ordained clergy not in dedicated full-time parish ministry was not considered “in the ministry”.  It’s about the care of souls, about urging them to cross, where they will find mercy and love and peace.

We see as well in the Catholic Church’s cry (the quote in Vatican II) to make seminary training about being in tune with meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the area they are to serve.  They clearly understand that what is important is what we do, and our personal identity is to be lost, so that we speak as stewards of the mysteries of Christ.  if our training is merely academic, merely the recitation and repetition of the experts who have gone before, and not tailored to give people what they need to know about Jesus, then the seminaries and universities have failed in their mission.  (as have pastors who train up Deacons and Sunday School Teachers, and all who have part of our ministry.)  What is true fo the clergy is as true for all those who will serve in the church?

It’s about the people being drawn into the presence of God. Our identity as ministers is that of the servant making sure his Master’s guests arrive.   The focus then has to be on the guests, their needs, being met by the church, being served by those who have been called and examined and placed there, because God wants them to be.

This is their ministry, God’s gift to them.

AMEN.

 

 

 
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Will You Let His People Come?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  After this, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘This is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says, “Let my people go, so that they can hold a feast in my honour in the desert.” ‘ Exodus 5:1 (NJB)

1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.
2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith. (1)

Hear, Lord, my prayer; let not my soul faint under Thy discipline, nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee all Thy mercies, whereby Thou hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that Thou mightest become a delight to me above all the allurements which I once pursued; that I may most entirely love Thee, and clasp Thy hand with all my affections, and Thou mayest yet rescue me from every temptation, even unto the end (2)

Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful34. For in the liturgy, God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer. (3)

All of the above readings are selections of my devotional reading, and they all have one thing in common.  The people of God were responding to His love, to His call, to be in His presence.

For as people come into His presence, as they are made aware of His love, as they begin to understand it, something wonderful happens.  Augustine describes this transition so clearly and begs God to help preserve it.   It is a state of being where we are completely freed from anxiety, from guilt and shame, and we find rest in God’s presence.

The Augsburg Confession describes how the sacraments help bring about this awareness, as do the writings of Vatican II.  That the liturgy brings this awareness out, as God’s love is revealed through the word, delivered in the sacraments.  It is in these events that our faith is surely strengthened, our love of God and each other grows.

So now to the Bible passage – the Pharoah, who will hear these words from God over and over.

“Let my people go!”  Put slightly differently, “Let my people come and feast with me.”  It’s not a request from God to Pharoah.  It’s not a suggestion.  Pharoah will pay for his obstinance, for his attempt to block the will of God.

I sometimes wonder if the church is acting more like the Pharoah than it is acting like Moses.

We hold people back from coming into God’s presence.  We won’t let them go, and feast with God.  Consider…

*  We don’t let them go when we put man-made systems and rules in place, which then deny them the desire God is putting in their hearts.

*  We don’t let them go when we think they aren’t interested, or won’t bother, and we leave them in the suffering slavery of sin.  ( Israel wanted nothing to do with Moses a couple of times in the process, remember?)

*  We don’t let them go when we think they aren’t the right kind of people. (Check out Ex. 12:38 it wasn’t only the Israeli’s that were counted among the people of God in the Exodus!)

*  What kept running through my mind during the devotion is that we don’t let them go, when we let our fears and anxieties stop us from letting them come among us, the people of God.  Those who are fleeing violence, or drugs or war.  When we tell them, hundreds of thousands of you in need aren’t worth the risk

In this last case, I am saddened by the number of church folk, people who claim to follow Jesus.  As He is being lifted up by missionaries “on the ground” working with those refugees and they are coming to know God’s love, we are sending them a different message with our posts that they aren’t welcome, by the political leaders comments that we share, men who say just shut the borders down completely, and offer no option to helping those in need.  We are showing those in dire need that we are more afraid of man than we can trust and obey in God.

We won’t let them come, because of fear.  We won’t let them come to a place where they will hear of Jesus and find out about his love.  We won’t let them come and feast with them.

Are we any different than Pharoah?

Read the blue, green and purple words again, and remember what Jesus said about if He is lifted up, he will draw all men to himself.

Reach out to all around you, and help them come to know Jesus.

One last thought, from last Sunday’s reading from the Old Testament

 And those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.   Daniel 12:3b (NLT)

It is time to shine, people of God, and find out there are far more os us, than we ever thought, as God draws people to Himself.  AMEN

 

 

 

 
(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 35–36). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

(3)  Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Another year, another step, an incredible look at God’s glory, and hopefully a greater dependance on Him.

Featured imageDevotional thought of the day:

9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, but his own people* did not accept him.12 iBut to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 *j who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh* and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory,the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. Jn 1:9–14 NABRE

I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.

This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.

As we can see in the lives of such individuals, faith is a kind of passion, or, more correctly, a love that seizes an individual and shows him the direction he must go, however fatiguing it may be—the spiritual equivalent, perhaps, of a mountain to climb, which to the ordinary Christian would seem foolish indeed but to one who has committed himself to the venture is clearly the only direction to take—a direction he would not exchange for any conceivably more comfortable one.

5 We should have preferred, and we besought and petitioned the Almighty, that our churches and schools might have been preserved in the teaching of God’s Word and in agreeable Christian concord and that they might have been well managed and carried on in a Christian fashion and in harmony with God’s Word, as they were while Dr. Luther was alive

I started a journey a year ago, and today I start a new one.

The journey began by adding to my devotional reading several things.  The Bible, using a translation I like called the New Living Translation, The Book of Concord, which I read twice,  The Documents of Vatican II, the Edicts of the Council of Trent, and as I went on I added a devotional called the Co-Workers of the Truth, a very pastor devotional book composed of the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

It was an interesting journey, one which unexpectantly opened up a new category for my devotional blog.  It is called Augsburg and Trent, but simply is where I see the Lutheran Church (once called the Evangelical catholic Church ) and the Roman Catholic Church (referred to recently as the Evangelical Catholic Church by George Wiegel and others) holding a pastoral application of doctrine together… or more together than I would have thought.

I will do a similar journey this year, dropping the writings of Trent, and adding two earlier sources, that of the writings of Augustin and Patrick.  Augustine’s because is writings were the basis of a lot of what Luther wanted to see the church reform to, at least according to Him.  Also, Calvin points to him often, and I’ve heard scholars describe his Christian faith as simple.  Patrick because I am curious about the dude.  A strong theologian by all accounts, and a noted missionary/apostle.  Both writers write from a time of the earlier church, and in times where God’s love was revealed to many.

The goal is simple – not much different than the quotes above.  To seek Christ as Augustine desires, and to call upon Him in faith.  As Vatican II urges,  to learn to given people a new energy and desire to examine the height and depth of God’s love which will impact their very lives.  As Cardinal Ratzinger writes, to create the passion and love for God in my own life and the life of His people.   Finally, as the Book of Concord writes, to have for the people a perspective that produces in believers a life like Christ’s, lived in harmony with scripture.

Such a journey is worth the time, (probably about 45-60 minutes a day)  if indeed I can help us realize the truth that the Apostle John notes, that Jesus dwells among us, and to help us see His glory, finding in it the mercy, the love and the peace we so desperately need.

And yes, I will continue to blog where I find ideas that strike me, that challenge me and cause me to grow in understanding of God’s love for us, and communicating that to others.  And I would love the comments and discussions that come from these thoughts.

Thanks for reading… and encouraging me to record my journey… Godspeed

Rev. Dustin T. (d.t.) Parker
Pastor, Concordia Lutheran Church

PS  – my prior pattern was a Bible Translation and a book called Celtic Prayer, and writings of a Catholic saint by the name of St. Josemaria Escriva.  The Bible reading and the writings of Escriva will continue.  🙂

 

Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.Catholic Church. (2011).

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 345). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

A Measure of Congregational and Christian Maturity: The Sacrifice of Preference

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. 7 And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.(Heb 7:6–7)  NLT

Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed, this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people.

I have an older member of my congregation; she is tone who loves a traditional liturgy with organ accompaniment going full throttle.  She said to me one day, “Pastor, I prefer the older liturgy, but I hear people singing the new liturgy, and I see where it is a blessing to others.  Keep doing it.”    I have another member, who learned the Lord’s prayer from a modern translation, without the hallow ‘d’s and Thy’s.  But hearing the passion in the voice of the older folk who say it, he wants to hear them say it, their way, and not steal their comfort by forcing them to become modern.

I hold them out to you, dear reader, as an example of Christian maturity.

Why?  Because they understand that being blessed by their preferences being satisfied is not as important as helping others know Christ Jesus, to experience His love and His mercy.

As the writer of Hebrews explains it, it is Christlike, it is the more mature that blesses, and what greater blessing is there that you can give someone, that to have the gospel communicate to them in a way they “get.”

That’s what I like about the statement from Vatican II.  It recognizes the purpose of the church to make sure that can grasp the gospel.   To express Christ’s message in a way that is different, not in core message, but in view of the context it is delivered to, knowing the age, the culture, the various ethnic and language idiosyncrasies.  Let me give you an example.  The French spoken in Quebec is different than the French of Belgium, is different from the French spoken in Vietnam.   Some is the same, but to communicate to the heart of the people, you phrase some things differently.  Likewise, I would preach a sermon on the same passage differently if I was preaching it at a Harvard Chapel, or at a rescue mission.  As Robert Schuller used to talk about, we have to study our milieu as much as the passage we preach.

A mature church adapts its message to the people.  This is not sugar coating it, but understanding it is an act of love to bless others with a message it can grasp. That means working hard, diligently preparing messages and music, and helping others see where they too can learn to sacrifice.

This is the church; this is growing in awareness of God’s desire. This is growing in our ability to depend on God, to love, to be transformed into the image of Christ.  It is proof of His work in us….

So think – and bless God fo the ability to communicate His love, even to those who are different!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The K.I.S.S-S Principle for Jesus’ followers on Mondays.

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Devotional thought for a Monday!

18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. 19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. .  1 Ti 1:18–20NLT

Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. 3 Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. 4 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.
6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.1 Ti 6:2–8NLT

92 We shall not, can not, and should not permit any clever human opinions, no matter what appearance or prestige they may have, to lead us away from the simple, explicit, and clear understanding of Christ’s word and testament to a strange meaning different from the way the letters read, but, as stated above, we shall understand and believe them in the simple sense.

The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life’s journey in that sacrament of faith where natural elements refined by man are gloriously changed into His Body and Blood, providing a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

I am too tired on Mondays to play games with semantics, to dive deeply into the great theological debates in history.

Some would look at the quote in blue, and fixate on the word “changed”, as opposed to simply saying is. The weight of the phrase is not on the how and why of the change, but on the blessing, as we are transformed by the feast into a solid brotherhood, a solid family.  What was simple bread and wine, has become a meal of miraculous intent and purpose.

That is what the quote in green argue’s for, not some fancy opinion of the change, or arguments about the how and why and for how long the change is effective.  But a simple understanding of the purpose of the Holy, Divine, Loving God, who gave Himself for us on a cross. Who gave His life, His body, and blood, that we could live.

That incredible blessing and promise we can be content knowing, rejoicing in, and adoring the God, who gave us Himself, to help us, to unite us, to restore us and reconcile us to himself.

That’s what Paul instruct Timothy to teach the very simple truths about Christ which we cling to with all we are, trusting He has us grasped in His hands, and He won’t let us go.

The K.I.S.S principle was explained to me once, Keep It Simple, Stupid.  While I won’t make any claim to great knowledge, I prefer to hear it this way,

“Keep it Simple, Sinner-saints”

Keep looking to Jesus, keep hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Keep thinking about the blessings He has given, and how He ties those blessings to simple things, the water of Baptism, the bread, body and wine/blood, the confession and prayers to those to whom we confess that assure us we are forgiven, and the very words of God that reveal this to us.

That reveal it simple,

That reveal it to assure us

The reveal it to us to cling to, and teach to others>

All Because He loves us.

Simple.  Trust and depend on the God, who gives us hope, and salvation.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 586). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The Conversion of Faith and The Transformation of Our Works

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day
18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” 19  Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe—and tremble with fear. 20  You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless? 21  How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his actions, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. 22  Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions. James 2:18-22 (TEV)

10 For, as Luther writes in his Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, “Faith is a divine work in us that transforms us and begets us anew from God, kills the Old Adam, makes us entirely different people in heart, spirit, mind, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Oh, faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good.
11 Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active.

This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God’s love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ. For, by the workings of divine grace, the new convert sets out on a spiritual journey, by means of which, already sharing through faith in the mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, he passes from the old man to the new one, perfected in Christ (cf. Col. 3:5–10; Eph. 4:20–24). This bringing with it a progressive change of outlook and morals, must become evident with its social consequences, and must be gradually developed during the time of the catechumenate

It is seen to be one of the most divisive arguments in the history of the church, and it has been since the days of the Apostles.

It was one of the core issues that resulted in the Reformation, and in the Counter-reformation.  It is more than semantics, yet there is a part of the argument that I am not sure is always necessary.

For what God has put together, we cannot divide.

The quote in Green above is from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.  A document that is part of the confessions of the Lutheran Church. The underlined verse is clear. One who has been given life by the Holy Spirit, converted from death to life, does work.  They are not optional, even as they are not always willed.  They occur in the nature of the one who depends, who trusts, who has faith in Christ. They occur just like breath in a mammal; they are life. This is not debatable, it is not an option.Faith cannot be separated from works.  So confident were the early Lutheran scholars that they followed that quote with this.

Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works.

That doesn’t quite sound like works are non-essential to the Christian life, but then scripture doesn’t claim that either.

This is the journey that the quote from Vatican II’s Ad Gentes (the mission of the church) discusses.  The works, affected, no transformed by the Holy Spirit, cause a change in how we view life and the world, and the moral system by which we live in that world.  Again, it notes that while works are not the cause of conversion, conversion results in the journey being taken, and Spiritual growth occurring as a matter of the life of the believer.

This is of course what James is talking about, and the pattern of Paul’s letters.  The need for conversion, God converting, quickening bring us to life as we are united to Jesus, and then the impact of that on our lives.  An impact the empowered, guided and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, as it works in the community of believers.  And good works become as undeniable as the breath we breath.

My we rejoice as God works in the lives of His people, as the Holy Spirit empowers us to do and will what brings joy to our heavenly Father!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 552–553). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Pastor and Priests are Shepherds…That is Our Life

Devotional Thought of the Day

34  Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like shFeatured imageeep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 35  Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36  Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.” 37  But Jesus said, “You feed them.”   Mark 6:34-37 (NLT)

14  “Return home, you wayward children,” says the LORD, “for I am your master. I will bring you back to the land of Israel one from this town and two from that family from wherever you are scattered. 15  And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NLT)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)

14 We lay hold of him when our heart embraces him and clings to him.
15 To cling to him with all our heart is nothing else than to entrust ourselves to him completely. He wishes to turn us away from everything else, and draw us to himself, because he is the one eternal good. It is as if he said: “What you formerly sought from the saints, or what you hoped to receive from mammon or anything else, turn to me for all this; look upon me as the one who wishes to help you and to lavish all good upon you richly.”
16 Behold, here you have the true honor and the true worship which please God and which he commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart should know no other consolation or confidence than that in him, nor let itself be torn from him, but for him should risk and disregard everything else on earth.  (1)

By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. But whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, He frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its maker, who overthrows the devil’s domain and wards off the manifold malice of vice. And so, whatever good is found to be sown in the hearts and minds of men, or in the rites and cultures peculiar to various peoples, not only is not lost, but is healed, uplifted, and perfected for the glory of God, the shame of the demon, and the bliss of men.24 Thus, missionary activity tends toward eschatological fullness.25 For by it the people of God is increased to that measure and time which the Father has fixed in His power (cf. Acts 1:7). To this people it was said in prophecy: “Enlarge the space for your tent, and spread out your tent cloths unsparingly” (Is. 54:2).26 By missionary activity, the mystical body grows to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13); and the spiritual temple, where God is adored in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23), grows and is built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme corner stone (Eph. 2:20).  (2)

This morning I had the greatest 15 minutes of my week since Sunday. I met and visited with a lady who was an incredible blessing to me.  Her words though few, and with a tired voice, encouraged me to be what I am, a pastor.  As I prayed with the lady who has lived in 10 different decades, I watched a beautiful smile, and her tired body relaxed, as she knew again the love of God.  It is the first time we’ve met, and I am already looking forward to seeing her again.

It is not why I do what I do; It is who I am.

That is being a pastor, a shepherd.  It what those called into ministry are called to be. I’ve included a lot of citations above, because they explain it far better than I can.

The reading from Ephesian starts it out by expressing that we aren’t born to be pastors/shepherds, but we are chosen to do it.  Chosen to shepherd (that is what pastor means) and to guide people as they mature in Christ, as they struggle with living out the promise of being someone united to Jesus, as they struggle as the Holy Spirit transforms them into His image. As they struggle with their growing pains. As we hear Jesus command us to feed them (and he had to tell Peter that THREE times according to St. John’s gospel!)

I love how Vatican II puts it, as we see the transformation, even the exorcises all evil from them ( Paul calls this circumcising the heart and Ezekiel speak of it as well)  Paul talks of us pleading with them to be reconciled to God, to being drawn to Him, to bring them to be embraced by a God who is both merciful and loving.

It is of the greatest of joys when this happens, as it did this morning as I sat next to my new friend, the new person I had the honor of reminding that Christ is indeed with her.  Something she indeed knew… but loved to hear again.  There are other times; it is not so easy.  When showing them what Luther wrote of in the catechism means bringing about healing. Treating that which hurts and is painful.

This is why Jesus said pray for the shepherds, that God would send them as promised.  It isn’t easy, it is heart-breaking and frustrating, it is ministering to people who might be angry at you, mad at you, that may think you are intentionally trying to hurt them.

A pastor stays with them, doesn’t discount them, and continues to point them to Jesus.  He keeps encouraging them to cling to Jesus. He keeps reminding them that Jesus is there.  Though it may be tempting, he doesn’t run from wolves or alligators or those who are crying in pain.  He doesn’t run when it hurts him, or even those he loves. He helps them cling to Jesus. To trust in Him rather than their idols.

He is who he is; it isn’t a job, is a vocation.

If you are a pastor or priest, spend lots of time being amazed at what God is doing through you, for it is still He who will provide the food, the word and the Lord’s Supper which nourishHis people with the knowledge and experience of His presence.

If you are served by one of us, pray for us, encourage us, be patient with us, knowing we have to draw you into God’s presence, sometimes even as you are kicking and screaming. As you can help us to – for there are more broken people that we can minister too at times…

At all times – may we cry out together, Lord Have Mercy!

And may we encourage each other by crying out, “the Lord is with you!” and hearing “and also, with you!”

(1)    Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 366). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2)    Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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