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do your job….. people of God!

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It was the mantra of my favorite football team two seasons ago.  Each person, from the owner and head coach to the Cheerleaders, field goal kicker and waterboys had a job to do, and they did it.

I think we need that in the church today, for each person to focus on their vocation, and do it and live as God wants, and please Him.

Too often we get distracted.  Sometimes it is by sin and temptation, and sometimes it is more subtle, by comfort and preference, which leads us to abandon our vocation, our call. Sometimes it is even by the illusion we are doing ministry when all we are ministering too is our own ego.

But it is critically important to realize that the wisdom, the understanding, and knowledge of God’s will comes from, along with the ability and strength to do this work, enduring in it, and finding joy in it.

That only comes from the relationship we have with God.  For none of us is greater than the apostles, yet in many ways, we look at them in a far more common role. Fisherman, tax collectors, rebels without a cause, highly competitive brothers.

They learned to do their job at the side of Jesus, with His coaching, yet they still needed the upper room, where Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and Pentecost, where the Spirit testified to their ministry, with signs and wonders, with tongues of fire, which resulted in people hearing God’s love revealed through them.

We need the Spirit to fall upon us in the same way, helping us to see the mission, the apostolate, the role God has given us.  Simply put, the will of God that none should perish, but all enter into a relationship with Him that transcends time.

But to do that, we need to depend on Him, growing in the confidence that comes from realizing God is with us. We need to know His presence and peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit brings, even in the midst of the greatest storms.

FOr we don’t do the work without Him active in our lives.

It all comes back to that relationship, which really is our first vocation, our first job. That comes first, and then, the ministry to the world flows from there.

May we be blessed as we spend all our time in His presence!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Limit of a Pastor’s (or Priest’s) Authority…

 

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29  for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)

14  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15  the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)

Confession has two parts:
First, a person admits his sin
Second, a person receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as if from God Himself, without doubting it, but believing firmly that his sins are forgiven by God in Heaven through it.

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

The other day a lady from our community called me and asked if we helped people other than Christians. I replied that we do, and then she proceeded to describe needs that couldn’t be met by a church 50 times larger than the one I pastor.  But she demanded that I demand my people to meet the need she had. 

She said I had the authority to do so… and was disappointed and angry that I couldn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the church and the authority it invests in those that it calls pastors, or ministers, or priests. 

I think the perfect portrayal of a pastor is found, not in theology books, but in the priest/bishop described in blue above.  The quote is from Les Miserables, and the Bishop is the one who forgives the sins of Jean Valjean, giving him the silver he stole.  He talked directly, and with authority, the authority that is proper for one in ministry, the authority to be merciful, the authority to reconcile, the authority that is persuasive, because the pastor is convinced himself.

Not of his authority, for that is simply delegated.  

We are (or we should be) convinced of God’s mercy toward us.  We need to be convinced that though we can never fully understand His love, we can experience it, and lead people to experience His love. The authority is seen most clearly when we realize that we are the ones who have been forgiven, we are the ones who God has saved from the brokenness we chose. 

It is that conviction that leads us to wield the authority we are delegated, the authority to pour out the grace of God upon broken people, assuring them of the healing of God found as He cleanses them of their sin.   We can speak for God about this, in fact, we must speak for God in this way.  For He commands it.  

This is our vocation, this is our call.  Somewhere along the line, we picked up other hats, other roles, especially administrative ones, but our only God-given role is that we are overseers and caretakers of souls.  Mercy is what we’ve been authorized to distribute.  Love as well, for in reality, they are the same thing.  Or to use the word that combines them, charity.   The more we can delegate the other stuff, the more time we spend doing what we are called to do, the more the church will come alive, as is it freed from the sin which so ensnares us.

If you are a pastor/priest, find ways to preach and teach God’s word, revealing to people God’s love, and administer the sacraments as often and faithfully as you can.   If you are not, turn to your pastor/priest for such care often, and do what you can to free him up to use this special gift to bless others.

And at all times, praise God for providing this minsitry of reconciliaiton ot us all! 

 


Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

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

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language) (Kindle Locations 438-439). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Your Primary Calling in Life… have you neglected it?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for our days

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to you who have been made holy in Christ Jesus. You were called to be God’s holy people with all people everywhere who pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 1:2-3  NCV

 

This illustration is applicable in every detail to participation in God. The ancient fathers write that baptism is likened to a marriage. Marriage includes a renunciation, a turning away from the single life, a ritual of union, a united vision, a transformation of life as two lives are made one. Marriage implies living together. It is not an experience that, when ritualized between two people, makes no difference in their lives. When two people, united in marriage, return to their old lives, the marriage will at worst die and at best lack any kind of growing relationship according to the I-Thou dynamic.

We talk often about our faith, about the doctrines of our faith, about defending our faith, about the keeping the faith of our fathers pure and undefiled.  We define our Christian faith, and then those who aren’t quite up to speed with our doctrine or practices.

But how often do we talk of our faithfulness, or encourage each other to be faithful to God?

It is time.

We have to talk of our calling, our vocation, not primarily in regards to how we worship corporately, or how often we share our faith in this broken world, or how much we give to missionaries or to care for those who have less.

Those acts of faith are good, but they are meaningless if we are not faithful to God, if we don’t realize our primary calling is to be His people, His children, the bride of Jesus Christ. 

Our first calling is not to be pastors, evangelists, elders, worship leaders, defenders of the faith.  Our primary vocation is not to be parents, employees, however, we define our lives. 

Our primary vocation is our deep, abiding, intimate relationship with God. To dwell with Him, as He loves us in ways that only can be described as glorious, praise-worthy, mind-blowing.  (Even when we struggle!_  

Paul describes that calling as being part of God’s holy people who pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Hebrews 4:16 he describes us being able to confidently approach God’s throne, for there we will receive His mercy and grace, for we belong there.

It is as Dr. Webber talks of, where a married couple lives together, lives as one.  That is our relationship with God ( see Eph. 5:21 and following)  This relationship we have with God is the most precious thing we have in this life, and without it, nothing we have is worth anything, in fact, if we cling to them, they are liabilities, serious liabilities.

You and I need our time with God, our time where we are reminded of His glory, his value, and the power He exerts in our lives, the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. (Eph.120 )  Just as a couple needs quiet intimate time together (I am not just talking about sex) so we need that time with God, deep, powerful, intimate time where God floods us with His peace, and causes us to rest, free from the crap of this world.  

Our time with Him restores us, even reconciles us back to Him when we need to know His mercy and forgiveness.  

This is the power behind sacramental times, like communion, where we break from our lives and kneel before Him, not just humbly, but expectantly, to receive the blessing of Christ’s body and blood.  Or in the sacramental time where we hear that we can go, our sin is forgiven, or in the sacramental time of prayer, when we live in the promise of our baptism. 

We need this rest, this time of Sabbath peace, this moment where we know we know we are loved… and we learn to love back.

Lord Jesus, help us to cry out to you, in need, or in joy.  Help us to treasure our time where we confidently enter Your presence and share in Your glorious love and peace.  Lord, reconcile us and restore, and help us to seek You first, and always.  AMEN!

 

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Parts aren’t just Parts, They are the Church

Devotional Thought of The Day:

18 But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22 Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, 23 and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, 24 whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. 26 If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.  NABRE – 1 Cor 12:18-26

Our faith is not for ourselves alone; it is also for others. Faith wants to be shared. Consequently, it always involves a going out to others, going with the steps of a heart enlightened by the name of Jesus.  (1)

I can’t help but think of the the old catch-phrase. “parts is parts” when I come across this section of the 1 Corinthians.  So I looked it up, and it comes from an old fast food commercial, mocking another food chains description of their chicken product.  The basic idea that the 2nd chain’s employees tossed every part of the bird into the grinders – saying the description is “parts” and therefore any part meets the description.

We’ve come to the point in the church where I think we take the same attitude.  Toss anyone into any role, it doesn’t matter what their vocation, or their training.  After all – we are all believers; we are all priests and children of the king.  So we are like legos – and we can fit in anywhere.  Just plug them in, and keep building.  Don’t worry if they do or don’t fit there, don’t be concerned whether they burn out. Don’t treat them as an individual.  Cause parts are parts

The result of such is a generation of people who don’t value the church, because the church didn’t value them. The church didn’t take the time, invest in them, provided what they need, to be the part of the God designed them to be.

The problem with this attitude is that it doesn’t value the person, or the work God is doing through them.  It assigns to each person a generic value, and may even put them and others in spiritual danger. Sometimes, this is simply because the frustration leads them to give up on being “part” and they walk away.  Other times, their inaction leads a part of the body to get overlooked, and sometimes they drive others away because they don’t function well where we put them.

Each “part” has its place. A vocation where that person can share the grace and mercy, the peace and love that God has blessed them with.  Sometimes that is very surprising, both to them and to us. For all the interests and surveys ever written cannot adequately understand the plans of God.  As they find their  “part,” they do what they are called to do, and it is natural as they flourish, as all benefit of their talents, their gifts, and the knowledge and wisdom God gives them.

This takes faith, a trust in God that calls for discernment, as those who care and serve the church watch the “parts” come together, and shepherd them into places.  It takes patience, and understanding that we can only do what we have parts to do, and yet that work in and of itself is beautiful. )too often we force people into parts that aren’t their vocation and calling because we “have” to have that ministry, or offer this or that)

Each person has their place; each person has their vocation, their part.  When we allow them, and guide them to finding it, what we see is amazing.  It is nothing less than the Body of Jesus Christ.

(1)  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.

 

It’s Monday, Are You Ready for a Good Cleansing?

Devotional thought of a Monday

 And this is what he (John the baptist/cleanser) proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8  I have cleansed you with water; he will cleanse you with the holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:7-8 – my paraphrase

Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in your professional work done for God. The incidents, the problems, the friendships which your work brings with it will give you food for prayer. The effort to improve your own daily occupation will give you the chance to experience the cross which is essential for a Christian. When you feel your weakness, the failures which arise even in human undertakings, you will gain in objectivity, in humility, and in understanding for others. Successes and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realize that you do not live for yourself, but for the service of others and of God.  (1)

It’s Monday, and many of us on Monday’s are suffering from the toxicity of life.

Maybe it is because we overdid it on the weekends. Some have a tendency to enjoy some things a little too much, and what is good in moderation affects us when we move past the line of moderation into levels of excess.  It can become toxic.

Others aren’t enjoying their weekends, the dynamics of what might be called their “home life” is the source of the toxicity.  Broken families, broken relationships, broken lives.  Or maybe those we love, are suffering from this, and we spend our free time anxious on their behalf.  Our inability to do anything we consider tangible leads to a toxicity that is paralyzing.

Or maybe the toxicity is what we spend our weekends dreading, the return of Monday and the toxicity of our workplaces.  Maybe our work situation forces us to be too competitive, to unethical, or to take on burdens and scars we are tired of facing.

I have a bunch of people who are into various cleansing diets.  They purge the bad stuff from their system with shakes or drinks that basically cleanse their digestive tracts, and maybe their bloodstream as well.

I think we see our baptism as such – a spiritual cleansing – a purging of all the sin and unrighteousness that oppresses us.  Confession and Communion, as sacraments, have a similar effect.

Oddly enough, my devotional reading this morning lead me to believe a similar blessing is found in that dreadful thing known as Monday.  For in the suffering, in the toxicity, we find the cross, we find a reason for prayer, we find the need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s presence.  For the Holy Spirit, often through the oddest people, brings comfort and cleansing to the toxicity.  The Spirit enables us to know peace, unexplainable peace, that comes from being assured of the presence of God, and His cleansing, the power of His blood poured out for us in death, and his body, in which we are raised to life. Abundant life.

This is the work of the Spirit in our various vocations, the roles we take on, often just for physical survival, yet which the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, uses to bless us, and those around us.  For in exercising our faith our trust in God, we come to hope, to expect, that His love sustains us, even on Monday.

For if in the midst of all the toxicity that surrounds such a day, we can know peace, then we realize His presence is with us, not just in church on Sunday, but in the moments of every day.

So rejoice, it is Monday!  God is with you!  The Holy Spirit is drawing yo into the glory of God, intoHolinesss, into that moment of peace!

And remember – when you are given food for prayer because of the incidents and problems, when the suffering helps you be aware of the cross, and the need for Christ’s love, cry out Lord Have Mercy on Us!

Know He will!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1477-1481). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Revival and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
5  Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.    Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.   2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT)

Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the Gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine

.126      You asked me to suggest a way for winning through in your daily struggles, and I replied: When you lay your soul open, say first of all what you wouldn’t like to be known. In this way the devil will always end up defeated. Lay your soul wide open, clearly and simply, so that the rays of God’s Love may reach and illuminate the last corner of it!

We used to refer to it as “Private Confession” in the Lutheran Church.  Theologically we refer to it as COnfessiona and Absolution, with the emphasis on the Absolution part.  The quote in green is from our confessions, where it is numbered among our sacraments, and in the minds of our forefathers, too great a treasure to forgo.

My brothers in the Roman Catholic church call this the Ministry of Reconciliation, and I have to admit I like that name as well.  It reminds us what forgiveness does, it makes things right, it applies the blood of Christ to our brokenness, it brings healing, much-needed healing to souls damaged by guilt, shame and resentment which comes along with our sin and rebellion,  It is the duty of the church, it is at the heart of its very mission, to  pronounce this news of God’s mercy, of His care.

It is what brings life back, this far too overlooked sacrament, this anxious moment where we trust God enough to lay our soul wide open.  It is then, as the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit circumcises our heart with the power of God’s love, that all which hinders our life.

This is a ministry we all need, for we need the freedom that we find as Christ delivers us from sin and death, as He liberates us from the oppression that can so dominate our lives.

Luther makes it clear, that part of this ministry is too timid consciences, those that are unsure of God’s grace, those that are bruised and battered by their own lives, by their pasts, by the fear that they won’t be accepted by God, or by His people.  That is no different today, as people will  gradually talk to a pastor or priest, as if trying to see if the water is scalding or frigid, only to warm up and get to the heart of what troubles them.

They need our ministry, our time, out ears to hear their confessions, our mouths to say what they long to hear, our eyes and hearts to assure them that the forgiveness we speak, is not ours, but we speak it for Him.

Because this life-giving ministry was given to us.

To stand by their side, to encourage them to cry out to God, to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”

And to know that He has had mercy… and will walk by their side in life.

 

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 312). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 644-647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sharing the Hope You have in Christ Jesus: Doing God’s work

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

27  “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:27-30 (NLT)

658    If things go well, let’s rejoice, blessing God, who makes them prosper. And if they go wrong? Let’s rejoice, blessing God, who allows us to share the sweetness of his cross.

We are too much like the laborers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1–16). Once they discovered that they could have earned their day’s pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labor the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we—like the workers of the first hour—want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others’ lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian.Escriva,

A recent response to a blog indicated that I was doing something wrong, by trying to show that sharing one’s faith, doing the work revealing the love and mercy of Christ, was wrong.  The writer thought I was unjustly burdening people, by using the law to motivate people.

Except that in a relationship with God, sharing the good news of His mercy, the love He wants everyone to know, isn’t hard, or burdensome. It is if we condemn people for not doing it, but it isn’t if we free them to be able to share the greatest gift they have ever been given.

Like Herod talking to John the Baptist, I like and dislike hearing the words of Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict).  They ring very true – why are we jealous of those who find a relationship with God at the last minute?  Are we upset that we had to work harder alongside our master?

I’ve often explained it this way.  Imagine some billionaire is down at the local bank, handing out million dollar checks to whoever shakes his hand.  You get yours, deposit it.  What do you do?  Do you simply go home, or go to the local BMW dealer?  Or do you get out your cell phone and call a few friends?  Do you consider it work, do you consider it burdensome to do so?  No, you do it because you know people who could use some cash, and you care about them.

It’s the same thing with the good news that God loves you.  Yeah – you.  He loves you so much to carefully strip away everything that hinders you, all the sin, all the resentment from being sinned against, all the crap in your life. Is that worth more than a million dollars?  If we realize it is, then shouldn’t we joyfully share it with those who are hindered and broken by sin?

That is what being yoked to Christ is about in this life.  It’s about doing the Father’s will, helping fulfill His desire that all would come to the transformation that is true repentance.  Serving others, ministering to their needs, helping them find Jesus, and the hope He gives them in life.  Some have the vocation of doing this as shepherds of God’s people.  But if they are doing it while they are shepherding, so the church is doing it alongside them.  Which is why the burden is easy.  We aren’t alone.  We bear this with all the church, and with the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers us.

It is bearing our crosses, it is abiding in Christ.  When we see people come to know Him, to receive His mercy, His forgiveness, His love, it is an incredibly joy filled experience.  When the road gets a little rough, when thins don’t work as we  planned, when we are rejected or when we are oppressed, we still are sharing His cross, His yoke, and dwelling in His presence, the joy remains.

It is the only work, the only vocation I know of, where we beg people to join with us, as we rest in peace.  His peace.

Enjoy it!

Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1538-1539). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 217–218). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Careers: A Sermon by Vicar Mark Jennings

JANUARY 25th, 2015

Mark 1: 14-20

 

YAHWEH’s most perfect grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ who calls and chooses you and keeps you forever.

Alleluia, amen!

 

One of the things I have noticed that is changing or has changed in this great country we live in is careers.

What I mean by this is that it seems that people change careers these day faster than you can shake a stick at.

I remember back in the day that people seemed to find a career or job and they stuck with it, it seemed for their whole careers until they retired, even if they didn’t like it! My grandfather was a gardener for 45 years and my father in law was a teacher his whole career.

You got a job and stayed with it.

But now? That doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore. With corporations downsizing and the economy so fluid, these days you may have to choose another career whether you want to or not. It may be out of your control as outside influences seek to change what you think you want to do.

I speak from experience. If you would have said that I was going to be the pastor at OSLC to me 25 or 15 or 5 years ago I would have looked at you like a bull at a new gate! I didn’t want to work Sundays!

I was trying to climb the ladder as a professional artist and designer with the goal of my name up on the screen with a credit on the next Star Wars or Star Trek movie!

But God had other ideas and it’s just not me. There are guys in the SMP program who came from other backgrounds and careers also. One guy worked in the fashion industry and another owned his own beverage company. Another was a children’s book editor while another ran a very lucrative upholstery business.

My brother was a teacher before a pastor.

All these men giving up their careers to start a second career serving God in a new and unique capacity.

An outside influence affected these men just as an outside influence affected those men in our Gospel reading from Mark today.

These fishermen are doing what they do for a living, they are fishing and they are repairing their nets and probably the boats and whatever else it takes to be successful in their careers.

This is the career they have chosen and they had planned to do this til they retire.

Did they retire back then? Maybe move to Arizona or Miami? Did they have a 401k?

So here comes this rabbi who is proclaiming a message of repentance and a belief in some good news that the promises of God are happening right now!

They probably heard the rumblings and talk of this rabbi but then He sees them and makes like a laser beam to them where He says to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

This is the outside influence that changes their career path.

What was their response? Did they look at him and say ohh kayyy and dismiss Him? No, They left their nets at once and followed Him. They repented of their sins and believed the Good News.

This all sounds like they had a choice and chose to accept Jesus.

But listen to what Jesus says in John 15:16 says,” You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Of course, they could choose like Jonah tried to do in our OT reading and you saw how that worked out for him!

He became fish bait!

You could say that we have a choice to reject but really we have no choice as that is our standard human default mode. On our own we can’t accept Christ nor do we want to.

So an outside source made these fishers of….fish now start a second career and become fishers of …men!

This was Jesus calling them and choosing them just as He does to us. This was and is Jesus saying,” Consider a new career!”

“Come to me and I’ll do all the heavy lifting. I will make you a trade and a promise, my blood for yours!”

In this promise or covenant is repentance of sins that calls us and changes us and gives all of God’s people a second career, a new start.

Before this we were slaves to our jobs and if we are honest with ourselves, our jobs were sin and we were and are extremely proficient at it even making it our career.

Job and career are the same but different. You work at a job but a career is something usually planned and prepared for. It might include some kind of schooling and training.

Jesus calls these fishermen to leave their jobs and begin a new career with Him just as He does with you and i.

Leave your jobs of sin and begin a new career with our Savior.

Before this new career offer that you can’t refuse, we had settled in to retire in this life. We had no purpose and the products we made was the results of sin. We worked in the dark and on our own trying to control and run our lives and ways..

But the outside interference of Christ changes that.

You’ve been let go of your position and your services are no longer needed or wanted because you now are employed by the Sovereign King of the Universe who sends His Son to bleed and die for you.

The benefits are perfect and the retirement is top notch!

This repentance of sins is yours and it’s freeee!

This repentance of sins though is more than just saying your sorry for your actions, that is a result and response to what God has done and continues to do.  If you look at the Law you realize that you can’t keep the Commandments in thought, word and deed. It really appears hopeless and that is when we hear the good news about the promises of Christ as the Law drives us to the cross.

It is a holistic change and what I mean is that it affects all of you not just a part or section of you but all of you. It is who you become through Christ calling you in baptism. You repent because the Holy Spirit comes to you and you, through the waters of baptism are cleansed and transformed. You have Breen changed and are able to start your second career in service to God through Christ. You are made new.

Remember how it feels when you start a new job? There may be a little apprehension but there is also the fact that you are starting over and starting fresh and new. You have that new car smell not the old fishing trawler smell.

I began the sermon talking about God calling men into a second career as pastors but this calling applies to the entire priesthood of all believers. You all have been called into second careers as you have been repented and transformed by divine love and you now through His work believe the good news.

The good news of Jesus Christ. The very Son of God who came to us and became one of us and died and rose for each one of us and everyone else so that all may live and begin anew!

So consider a new career or better yet, don’t consider or contemplate it, know it through the promises of Christ that you have been called to it and into it.

You have a new career, a second career and what does that mean?

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and there are lots and lots of fish to catch.

In your new career you get to fish! My kind of career!

But God has called us to fish for something different and work the harvest for something rather than corn or wheat or grapes.

Our work fishing and harvesting is the sharing of the Word.

Through Christ calling and choosing us which brings the repentance of sins, we can go out and proclaim this same repentance given to us to each other, to family, to friends and co-workers, to our neighborhoods, this neighborhood, to our cities and country.

As we follow Christ in our new and second career, people can see that by our acts of service in response, the repentance and transformation that can be theirs as our Lord calls to us, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men!”

Consider a new career? Instead know that you have one through Christ choosing you like He chose those fishermen!

Alleluia, amen!

Mission, Vocation, and our Neighbor

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

25  A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 26  Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” 27  The man answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” 28  “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” 29  But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 (TEV)

20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)

 16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18  All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19  Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (TEV)

Does a believer have a responsibility to be missional?  To go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach them to treasure all God has commissioned?

To speak theologically, is this one of our vocations, along with being spouses, parents, employees, employers and good church members?  Are we all missionaries?  Do I have a responsibility as a believer in Jesus to those around me, who still are lost in darkness?

In a recent discussion, I put forth the first passage – the story behind the story of the Good Samaritan for a reason.  Notice that that our relationship with our neighbor (whether they are our spouse, kids, actual neighbor, co-worker, or whomever) comes right after our relationship with God.  Being a loving neighbor is our vocation.

Our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbors is inseparably intertwined.  The quote from 1 John makes this clear – our love for Him is seen in that love we have for our neighbor.  That’s why the teacher of the law combines the two.  We can’t love God if we fail to love those He calls us to love.

Loving them isn’t easy, it requires that we know.. no, that we dwell in the love and peace of God.  That His mercy so resonates with our life, that we don’t have to think about the ministry of reconciliation being given to us, we simply work in that ministry.  We seek to free people from the darkness of sin, the oppression of satan, and break the grip that death has on them.

Loving them means inviting them into the relationship where God reconciles them, where He makes us His friends, where we understand what He is about is bringing us home to the Father.  That is what being missional is about, or what some others call our apostolate. It is in loving our neighbors as God does, not because we have to fulfill some quota, but that’s what we do as we walk with Him.  (He describes it clearly for us, but we hear it…. like a duty, not as an invitation to spend time with Him)

We are missionaries, for our Lord is, and we walk with Him. It is His mission – and we live and breathe in Him!  Therefore we work with Him in seeing His desire come to being.

We love our neighbors, we desire to see them reconciled, to become friends with God, because He has done this with us.

May we rejoice in every baptism, and may we teach them to rejoice and treasure this life He has given us!

Are We Waiting for the End of Time with Joy?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 10  Announce to the nations, “The LORD is King! The world stands firm, never to be shaken, and he will judge its people with fairness.” 11  Tell the heavens and the earth to be glad and celebrate! Command the ocean to roar with all of its creatures 12  and the fields to rejoice with all of their crops. Then every tree in the forest will sing joyful songs 13  to the LORD. He is coming to judge all people on earth with fairness and truth. Psalm 96:10-13 (CEV)

794         Mary spent three days and three nights looking for the Son who was lost. May you and I also be able to say that our willingness to find Jesus knows no rest.  (1)

Carmelite Vow:   Let each stay in or near their own cell, meditating, day and night on the law of the Lord, and vigilant in prayer, unless otherwise employed by the Holy Spirit!  (2)

As I look at the last quote, it seems odd for me, a Lutheran pastor, to quote a Catholic Monastic Vow.  Luther was not known to praise monastic orders, he saw little use for them.  

But to dismiss this thought entirely, is to forget the amount of time Luther spent in prayer, and in the word of God.

What would happen if we spent this kind of time with God, that whenever we weren’t involved in our vocations of life, we were using that time for prayer.  If we made the time we spent entertaining ourselves, the time we watched “reality shows”, the time we spent just doing nothing, seeking the Lord?  If we gave thought daily to His return, His glorious return? I think we wouldn’t fear it, or see Christ’s return as simply an escape from the day’s trouble. ( I will admit there are days I cry out for his return, just to be done with the trauma and drama of this life)

I think the experience of being so aware of His peace would change us dramatically.  

We would hunger for those times as the Psalmist does, as we read of men like Luther and Wesley who would make a priority of hours a day in prayer. I love St Josemaria’s thoughts as well, what if our willingness, or desire to find Jesus knew no rest – if we looked for His presence, not just in the fifteen minutes of the day, but also for hours, and for the seconds when we have nothing else occupying our minds?

That would change how we view our vocations, how we view the daily grind of life.

It would change every encounter, as fueled by our time with Hi, our hearts would be centered on the glorious day of His return. The time where judgment comes, and rather than fearing it, we welcome it, because of the work of Jesus Christ. We welcome His coming, seeing the Father face to face, knowing as we are known.

Come, let’s plunge into a life of devotion, come, lets spend time with our Lord! Not to impress Him, not because of some expectation we hope to meet, but rather, in love with a God who would come and make His life here… among us.

Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3286-3288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Celtic Prayer Book, Monthy Devotional Thought for the 3d Day of the Month

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