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The Place Where God Put His Name Became our Home: A sermon at the closing of a church

The Place Where God Put His Name
      Became our Home

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as It has during His work here at St Paul’s for decades.  AMEN

Our Home

I would like to read one verse from our gospel reading from a different translation.

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)

The New Living Translation uses the word home instead of “dwelt”, and I think the difference is important.  The word in Greek refers to setting up a residence in a community, it talks of establishing more than a house, it speaks of a home. It was used in the Greek Old Testament for the tabernacle, the place where God dwelt in the midst of His people.

More importantly, I believe it is why we are here today, and it is why this day is so hard.

You see, we call places like St. Paul’s Lutheran church our “church home” for a reason.  This is the place were people have come home to God for decades, for generations. It was here we learned to feel at home in the presence of God, it is here where we came to be baptized, to celebrate Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, it is from this place we buried those who left this church home for their heavenly home.

For here God made us feel at home with Him.

You may not have realized why this place became your church home, we may have never reflected upon it.  But it was a church home, and therefore leaving it is a moment of sadness, a moment of sorrow, a moment where we question what happened, what went wrong, why did this happen.

And today, as we move on from this home, we need to realize why this place was our home, where God made His home among His people.

The Place where God Has Put His name

In our Old Testament reading, we see Solomon addressing God at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. In that prayer, even as they dedicate this building, Solomon’s prayer includes the concept that God can’t live on earth.  Yet the temple was the place where he put His name, and people could pray, and know they could be at home with God,

Hear the words again,

 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. 

This place where God put His name served the same purpose.  This is the place where God has made you at home in His presence.  He cleansed you, he brought healing to your souls, He forgave your sin and fed you the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

and then, for others, this place was where they found him, even as aliens found God at the temple…again from the Old Testament reading,

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do.1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT2)

Over the years, the numbers of people baptized in this place is numerous, the number of people who discovered God because their prayers were answered has been significant.  That is why we are here today, to celebrate how God’s mercy has been poured out in this place.

To realize that it is a special place, that it has been a church home, a place where God has put His name.

It is in that name we find out the hope Paul worked diligently, with all he had to preach and teach.  The riches of the mystery of Christ in you! And in the end, Paul’s statement to another church will ring true about this church home, numerous people will be presented mature in Christ Jesus, because of the ministry that has happened here.

The Work Done Here, Has Honored His Name

The apostle Paul once said that the people he wrote to were the evidence of God’s work through Paul.  In the same way, those who came to faith here, and those people whose faith was sustained here throughout the years are proof that this place has been home to God and man, communing together. It is the place where He put His name,

In a couple of hours, after we commune together, after we share in the stories of God’s work in this place, the doors will close, the lights will be turn off, and we will move on.  It may take a while to get used to the new place where God draws you to Himself, these temporary homes on our pilgrimage to our eternal home with Him.

There will be some dissonance, just as when the red hymnal was changed out for the blue, and then the burgundy.  Or when the King James gave way to the RSV, then the NIV, then the ESV or NLT.  Yet the main thing does not change.  The main thing is this: God will continue to draw you to a place where His people can realize the gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins that testifies that we are safe and at home in Christ.  And that others will pray there and find themselves at home as well.

And until we are all before the throne in heaven, we find ourselves drawn to where God has put His name, that we can come and pray and be forgiven, where unbelievers can pray and have God answer. In such places, we will know God’s peace, a peace beyond all understanding, For Christ will guard you there, keeping your hearts and minds safe in these earthly homes.
AMEN!

Confession of a Burnt Out Minister of God

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the day:

14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the LORD demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame?  Jeremiah 20:14-18  HCSB

14. In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.

I always worry when in my devotions I read passages like those above.

No, this confession isn’t mine, it is Jeremiah’s.

But it could be, as it could be the confession of so many pastors and priests and others who work in the church.  It doesn’t matter whether they are volunteers, or whether this is a paid vocation.

Burnout is inevitable.

There are days serving the church where it seems we would be better off dead.  (And we even think maybe those we serve would be as well!)  There will be days where the demands of our duties and the problems they bring will overwhelm us.  Where we would rather lock ourselves in our offices, and simply write.  Or find some passing big fish and dive into it, ala Jonah!

And Vatican II points out that devotion alone isn’t the answer, it also notes that just going through the motions of ministry doesn’t solve the problem as well.  We can do the job, it can bless others, but it is just as empty as becoming a monastic and retreating from the world which needs us, simply because we know we need God.

We can minister more effectively, and help others, even in the midst of burnout and brokenness, when we accept that the weariness is sometimes necessary.  That God is with us, even there.  That the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the Lord of life will lift us up, and empower us, and work through our lives to call others to depend on the God who is there.

Max Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in a concentration camp, probably knew this weariness more than any pastor in the USA today.  Imagine, working with the guards, who denied their actions were evil.  He served the Christians who were in despair, Fr. Max served and died for those who didn’t know Jesus as well.

How did he do such a thing?

Maximilian Kolbe was an individual deeply marked by Christ, wholly ordered to Christ. When he immersed himself anew in the witness of Holy Scripture, he was not searching for theories, not on a voyage into the past. It is impossible to live with a mummy—with a merely historical Jesus; nor can we live with mere words and programs—with a “thing”. But Kolbe lived from and for Jesus. He could do this because he heard in Scripture the voice of a living Person. He heard Jesus as a living Person because he experienced him as a living Person; he could touch him in the Blessed Sacrament in which he forms a Church and is present for us.

The only way to minister through the hardest times and despair in ministry is to hang on to what we’ve been entrusted with as ministers.  Not word and sacrament, but what they are conduits of, the experience of encountering Jesus in both word and sacrament.  Of knowing God loves you, because of that encounter, of knowing His care because it too is encountered in the sacraments.

As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT) 

Knowing about God’s love won’t sustain you in the darkness, it won’t keep you moving through the despair. It won’t help you see God at work in the midst of the pain.  But knowing you are known, finding hope in the fact you are loved, being refreshed through the grace and mercy poured out upon you.  Being filled through all your being with God Himself.

That is what we need, and that is what He provides… so relax, hear God!  Hear God! And find rest for your weary soul!  AMEN!

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

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 281). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

You need to be a saint…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15  Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16  The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)

250    I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.

In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.

His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.

If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him.  Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.

Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.

Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description,  It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.

Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do.  In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.

It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help.  It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression.  A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.

But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect.  It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy  Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.

We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.

Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

500 Years Later: What Blessings Does the Church have in Common?

It was an amazing opportunity, a blessing that would have been unheard of at the 450th anniversary of the Reformation.  A chance for a Lutheran pastor to explain where we have come from over the last 500 years, and using writings of a Pope, Martin Luther, Vatican II and a leading Lutheran Theology professors, give us hope and urge us on to seek reconciliation.

here is a rough draft recording of the talk…..okay a really rough draft.

May we pray that the Church would be one and that it would be seen as one by us.  AMEN.

How they/We Recognize(d) Him. A sermon on Luke 24

How they We Recognized Him

Luke 24:13-35

I.H.S.

 This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.

The walk – 

I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.

Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples?  Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus?  (significant pause)

Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel.  She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus.  She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body.  It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…

Why hide?

Why hide in plain site?

In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.

It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.

And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.

So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered.  He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.

He Listens

The first thing Jesus does is listens.  Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him.  They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!

Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him.  There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony.  Think about it!  They are telling Him what happened to Him!

But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on.   Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.

We do too…

The Revelation of the Word

Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”.  He explains what we need to know about Him!  The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.

And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.

But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,

The glory of the Resurrection

For Praise God, He is risen!  (He is risen indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore, we are risen indeed!

And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.

But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.

We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.

And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….

And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him.  And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.

They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.

The Revelation of the Sacrament

He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart.  For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.

And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes.  This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.

Not only was Jesus the Messiah.

He was their risen Lord.

He had entered His glory.

And they were there to share it with Him.

What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.

He lives and because He Lives, we live as well.  We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.

That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….

Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.

Where we learn to rejoice.

Where we share in His glory.

The Ministry of Word and Sacrament

This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.

For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you!  And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.

AMEN!

 

Pastors and Priests are NOT Pez Dispensers…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. Psalm 141:5 (NLT)

1  You should think of us as Christ’s servants, who have been put in charge of God’s secret truths. 2  The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. 3  Now, I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass judgment on myself. 4  My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I am really innocent. The Lord is the one who passes judgment on me.
1 Corinthians 4:1-4 (TEV)

This sacred synod also prescribes that general directories be prepared treating of the care of souls for the use of both bishops and pastors. Thus they will be provided with certain methods which will help them to discharge their own pastoral office with greater ease and effectiveness.

Paul, to be sure, describes the duty of ministers in one word when he says in 1 Cor. 4:2, “It is required in servants that they be faithful.” To this faithfulness pertains the fact that they should have at least a fair knowledge of those things which are required for service or ministry and that they show diligence and constancy in performing their duties. There are several aspects of ministry: (1) The preaching of the Word, for which is required: (a) that “he speak as the oracles of God,” 1 Peter 4:11. (b) that he “not teach false doctrine,” 1 Tim. 1:3; but “guard the treasure which has been put into your charge,” 2 Tim. 1:13; “rightly dividing” the Law and the Gospel, 2 Tim. 2:15. (2) The proper administration of the sacraments. (3) The use of the keys in absolution and excommunication. (4) Praying for the whole church. (5) An example to the believers, 1 Tim. 4:12; Titus 2:7, 1 Peter 5:3, “that the ministry be not discredited,” 2 Cor. 6:3. (6) The care of the poor, such as visiting the sick, comforting the afflicted, etc.

200      I am sure that God has listened to your humble and heartfelt plea: My Lord, I am not worried about “what people say”. Forgive me for my unworthy life: May I be a saint!… But it’s You alone I wish to please.

When I first started to see this blog forming out of quotes I encountered, I thought about making it’s title “Your Pastor/Priest is not a Pez Dispenser.”  And then I thought, some of us need to remember this as well, and so the title could have been Dear Pastor/Priest:  You are not a Pez dispenser.”

Not that there is anything wrong with Pez Dispensers.  🙂  I actually wish we could make church as addictive as candy!

But it isn’t our role. not within any protestant theological system, not within the understanding that I read in Vatican II of the Roman Catholic Chuch, and definite not within the walls of Lutheran understanding.

Being a pastor/priest is not about giving you sweet little sayings which you can use for meme’s or tweets. It isn’t about giving your once a week dose of the Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Christ is not something to be taken so lightly, it is to be treasured.

We have to stop acting as if we are robots, as if this ministry, the stewardship of the mysteries of God is just a job. It is, as the quote from Vatican II states, the very caring of our people’s souls.

And both those who are ordained and those whom we serve need to know this.

Not so they treat us “better”.  To be honest, clergy needs to stop worry about that. We all need to realize we are more than Pez dispensers because of what we dispense. Paul is pretty clear about that in many places, including Col. 1:28ff.

We preach the gospel, and at times that means we have to confront and correct.  We need to do it in love, knowing that this is about the person’s life with God.  We need to call them to repentance, and they need to let us “meddle” in their lives, knowing that we don’t do so because it is fun.

That Gospel, these words of life, these words that bring healing to the soul also circumcise the heart.

The same thing with the sacraments, this isn’t just being a waiter at Denny’s. Well, in a way it is, as far as our importance is concerned.  But the Body and Blood of Christ is what matters, the Lord communing with His people.   This means we have to help them be assured of this blessing, to know how rich it is, to remember and find their hearts renewed, as the covenant is made clear.

God the Father love you this much….He gives you His son.  And as we heard in yesterday’s epistle reading Christ is in you, and that gives you the hope of sharing in His glory.

We in ministry aren’t Pez dispensers because we are not plastic and perhaps a little rigid.  We aren’t PEZ dispensers because we are dispensing the means of Grace, we pour our that which brings people to faith, nourishes that faith, helps us to realize that God counts us righteous, and makes us His holy people.

So pastors and priests, as you serve your people, do so with the knowledge of what you have been entrusted to give, and people, respond with joy to that which you are given, even when it is the call to repentance.   For it is for you these men have been called, to care for your very souls, to reconcile you to God, to help you know the Lord is with you!

AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church: Christus Dominus. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Chemnitz, M., & Preus, J. A. O. (1999). Loci theologici (electronic ed., p. 392). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 894-895). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Monday: A perfect day for church! (I need it!)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 20 How great is your goodness, Lord, stored up for those who fear you. You display it for those who trust you, in the sight of the children of Adam. 21 You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from scheming enemies. You conceal them in your tent, away from the strife of tongues. 22 Blessed be the Lord, marvelously he showed to me his mercy in a fortified cPsalm 31:20–25 (NABRE)ity. 23 Though I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your eyes.” Yet you heard my voice, my cry for mercy, when I pleaded with you for help. 24 Love the Lord, all you who are faithful to him. The Lord protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full. 25 Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord.      Psalm 31:20–25 (NABRE)

42  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46  They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47  all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.    Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)

After the happy encounter on Easter morning, Mary Magdalen wants nothing more than to return to the former familiar status quo, to leave the Cross behind her as though it were just a bad dream. She wants to have “her teacher” as she had had him formerly. But that conflicts with what has transpired. No one can have Jesus as “his teacher” while disregarding the Cross.  (1)

As a young man, even as one who wanted to and was studying to be a pastor, I never understood why the church met in Acts daily in the temple.  Part of it seemed practical, how could you write a sermon every day, and do an adequate job.

Perhaps part of that is that I focus on the teaching aspect of their getting together, not the sacramental, the communal nature of it.  As one who was trained in expository and exegetical preaching, I tended to believe that the sermon was the critical part of any gathering of the people of God.  That it was and is the major tool in the box of the preacher, in order to make disciples of all nations.

Looking at Benedict’s words this morning, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  If we think Jesus’ primary role is that of the teacher, the disciple whose lessons show us how to live, we have tragically missed what being a believer is about. 

It is for walking with God, about living life in HIs presence, in the presence of God who loves us. The love which drove Jesus to the cross, that love which had the Father throw all of His wrath on Him, the wrath we deserved, onto Jesus.  Check out Isaiah 53:10 and Hebrews 12:2-3 to see this more clearly, as it was for joy Christ went to the cross, and it pleased the Father to crush Him there.

So we could be the children of God. the holy children of God!

So great is His love for us!

So back to why I want there to be a church service on Monday, what Catholics and old fashioned Lutherans call a “mass.” It is because of the Psalm above.  As God becomes our refuge, our hiding place, the refuge, and fortress that David sought, that Luther’s most famous hymn celebrated and rejoices to find. 

It is there, that Jesus becomes more than a teacher, as we celebrate His incarnation in our midst, as we celebrate His sacrifice, as we take and eat, and take and drink the very body and blood of Christ.  It is there, with our knees bent, we find our refuge, we find our peace, at the altar where we encountered the crucified and risen Lord.   Where we find our healing, where we find our peace.

Where we no HIs promise, that He won’t forsake us, that we don’t walk alone.

Maybe I am a wimp, or too weak in my faith, but why should someone like me not value and treasure such times?  I have to deal too often with death, and with brokenness in life, in my life, in those I minister to, and that refuge, that time of rest and renewal is too meaningful.

The cross, the grave, the resurrection, and the knowledge we aren’t alone…..

What a blessing…

Maybe the early church knew what they were doing!

KNow God is with you my friends… know He is your refuge!

Even on Monday.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 129). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

Struggling with Division in God’s Church… WIll We Die With Him?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the day
8  Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9  And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10  So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
11  This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. 12  If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. 13  If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. 14  Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them. 2 Timothy 2:8-14 (NLT)

Augustine tells us that, one day, he tore himself away from his friend Alipius in order to be alone in the garden with his misery, his temptations, his inner conflict. In that moment of overwhelming agitation he thought he heard a child’s voice calling repeatedly to him: “Tolle et lege—Take and read!” He arose, found a Bible, and read these words: “Put on the Lord Jesus!” This was the turning point of his existence. Augustine had, in that moment, discovered the word of God. (1)

Over the years I have spent in ministry, I have struggled with how we deal with division, denominationalism and sectarianism in the church.

Some have the ancient answer, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials freedom(liberty), in all things charity (love, grace, mercy.)  The problem is that they divide soon after based on what is essential, and insisting on non-essentials, and dismissing charity as being weak.

Others handle the division by misquoting Romans 16:17, and the idea that we should toss aside those with heretical and even heterodox doctrines.  I say this because the context includes causing divisions in the church by use of these doctrines, these teachings.  Whether they be teachings about theology or practice.  Heretical meaning that they are against God and His desire to save all of mankind.  Heterodox meaning that they aren’t giving glory to God in their teaching and practive as God deserves.

I’ve been part of both groups at times, and I can tell you the sincerity and intent of both groups are noble.  Even as they fail to apply it properly.  In being a participant and observer of this, I have reached a conclusion.

We are all broken.  We all have our heretical and heterodox practices. As we all have those things that glorify God in their holiness, proving God has set us apart for Himself  Even in the beloved churches I’ve been blessed to be part of, whether it was St Joe’s – Salem NH, St. Francis Church in Lawrence, MA, First Baptist, Salem, The Crystal Cathedral youth group, OVBC, North Orange Christian,  Arrow Hwy Wesleyan, West Valley Christian, First Christian YV, Good Shepherd Lutheran YV,  Shepherd of the Valley, Anze, and now Concordia Lutheran – Cerritos.  I’ve named them all for a reason; I can think of people in each of those church’s who were holy and broken.  Whose doctrine needed to conform to Jesus, and yet who Jesus worked through in diverse and yes, miraculous ways.  Who indeed needed to grow, but were growing.

So how do we do this?  How does a splintered, fractured church see Christ’s church?  Does it welcome people of all beliefs and say that doctrine and practice don’t matter?  Does it instead force everyone to become clones?  I can’t agree with either perspective. Indeed, I think both extremes of full inclusion and full exclusivity miss the mark.  That’s being nice; I believe both are sinful.

If we can admit we have areas of our theology and/or practice that are broken, then we have some hope.As we find healing for our brokenness in Jesus, that healing will bring us the unity we need.

We have the opportunity to do what Paul was setting as an example for Timothy.  We remember His death and resurrection, and the fact that He has united us to Him, bonded Himself to us in that event, so that we can know life, both now and everlasting.

This is what made the difference, this gospel, in Augustine’s life.  To see, to hold in your hands the story of God’s love for you, revealed!   That is our turning point and over and over in our lives we need to have it.  The best example I can think of is a swordsmith, who folds the steel over and over on itself – each time gaining more strength.  So too as we remember Christ, as we hear and read and speak of His love, that strengthens us.  As we hear of the promises given to us in baptism, that strengthens us, as we eat His Body and drink His Blood we again encounter His presence, a presence that leaves us in awe, as we realize His mercy and love.

This is our God, here in our lives.  Listen to Him, Know Him….

And as that happens, the issues that divide us that shouldn’t fade, and we will realize a unity not based on our faith, but His faithfulness.  And together we can cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  AMEN

(1)  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. 327). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why I Believe “The” Church MUST Strive for Unity

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22  I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23  I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me. John 17:20-23 (TEV)

9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:9 (TEV)

20  Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21  Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)

19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:19-21 (TEV)

546      Pause to consider the holy wrath of the Master, when he sees that the things of his Father are badly treated in the Temple at Jerusalem. What a lesson for you! You should never be indifferent, or play the coward, when the things of God are treated without respect.

Dustin, as a Lutheran pastor you know very well the theological gulf that exists between Rome and the BoC.  Why do you continue to flog this very dead horse?

A few days ago, I was asked the question in green above, on a facebook forum. In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a man, a pastor who I admire, even as I note we don’t agree on a few important things.
And the four quotes have been swimming through my head since I was asked the question.

The four quotes from scripture are why I must “continue to flog this very dead horse”,  The quote from St. Josemaria is the reason I will do so with a lot of energy, put into prayer, into study, yes and into writing blogs and having conversations with friends across denominational lines.

A comment about each of the passages, might help.

John 17:  I don’t think we can read this prayer without seeing the desire of Christ and the Father.  Read it carefully, our unity ( real unity) is sourced, not in compromise, but in the love of the Father. Even by praying for it publicly, Jseus is noting that it is going to require supernatural influence. (deistic cessationists might have a problem with this…)  Yet it is in the very deep, personal, relationship we have with Christ, that we find ourselves in a relationship with each other.

2 Peter 3:9  Last I checked, God wanting all to come to repentance (to have the mind of Christ) is also a supernatural manifestation of His presence. All means all, it doesn’t mean “us, but not them”.  This isn’t something you can try once, grab a t-shirt and give up on.  This call to repentance is not something we can dismiss by saying, “they aren’t of our brand” or “we are an immigrant church and can’t reach out to other ethnicities.”
If God wants all to come to repentance, if this is His desire, then we will begin to desire that, the more time we spend in His presence.
On further thought.  It doesn’t say God is patient with them…but us.   Think about that.  (Go – do it!

(no, I mean it – take 2 minutes to think that through)

(that was 10 seconds – go do it some more!)

2 Cor. 5:  We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (that’s what “Churchese translations” do for this passage) Simply put, God desires greatly to reconcile with mankind, to restore a relationship with Him, a friendship, a deep, permanent, relationship where love and mercy are the norm.
Mathematically, if a=b and b=c, the c=a.  Or, if you are reconciled to God, and “they” are reconciled to God, the you and they are reconciled.  That can’t be denied.  If they aren’t reconciled, your work, done in faith, is bringing this message of reconciliation to them, to give them this hope and celebrate it with them.  Either way you are stuck, you are reconciled with them, or your vocation is reconcile them to God.  This isn’t law, this is the work of God’s gospel in you.

Unless, of course, you need to be reconciled to God yourself….. in that case… let me let you know, God will remove every sin and all injustice that separates you from Him, and He desires to be in a relationship with you, and has made it possible.  Enjoy it!

1 John 4:  If this doesn’t provide the icing on the cake, I don’t know what does.  We must continue to work that people would be reconciled to God, and the goal of any unity discussion or work starts and ends there. At the altar of God, in His presence, God and His people.
Working for unity between the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran Synods and churches is as much included in this as working to reconcile with that obnoxious person in the pew behind you, or the neighbor next door.  If we don’t work for such, if we don’t care whether they are reconciled with God, how can we claim to love them?  If we don’t love the, can we really claim to love the God who loves us?

Some may read this, and say I am a dreamer, that the RCC and Lutherans are both so stubborn that they will never change. If so, that is sad. As I am reading through the Book of Concord and the works from Trent and Vatican II, I see a lot of areas we can find enough common ground, to strive together toward unity in Christ.

Even if our leaders are afraid to breach these conversations, it is the vocation of pastors and priests, those who pastor the people of God and the people themselves to bring this message of reconciliation to God to the world.  That will produce unity, even as we struggle with how that can be expressed, (and we should struggle with that, not just dismiss the differences)

And by the very word, and the promises given to us in the sacraments, this should become more and more part of our spiritual DNA.  It should be part of our vocation, part of our prayers, striving to bring this message of reconciliation, which will reconcile us, even as it’s heard…..

LORD HAVE MERCY!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2055-2057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Power and Mean to Accomplish Great Things

Discussion/Devitional Thought of the Day:

I used to have big dreams of doing great things.  When I was my sons age,I dreamt of being a president like Abraham Lincoln, just a few years later – a priest whose sermons would change the world, like some of those I read about in school.  Time and distance changes some of those dreams, and some of us have left dreams behind.  I do not think today I could be a politician, never mind a president – the public is far too mean – and doesn’t respect the office, or the burden it carries – and being a priest – well,…..

But does that mean we have to give up trying to accomplish great things?

Or do we realize how great the normal things God calls us to do are?  Like loving our neighbor, like helping those who find themselves without the ability, even for the moment – to help themselves.  It is my opinion, that visiting someone who is a shut in, or sitting by a stranger at church is worth more than 10,000 facebook forwards, or eating at a restaurant whose owners are undersiege.

Even greater, forgiving that adversary, working to reconcile a couple of friends, telling someone of God’s grace.  These are the great things… things that take sacrifice, things that may actually cost us.  And that gets to the point of this entry, the thing I would have us discuss- how do we accomplish the greatest things in life?

One author put it this way:

” The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?”    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1152). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Cross and the Gospel – the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross – that is where our sins our forgiven.  The cross which we are linked to in our baptism – where we were united to Christ’s suffering and death, that we would be untied to His resurrected life.  And of course in the Feast where we know that sacrifice  In this cross – where God comes to us and transforms us – they are the means by which God enables us to do the great things He has planned for us to do.

And the Gospel is that same “means”.  The incredible news of God’s love, of His mercy, of His grace. The news that He has come – and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, even as we will one day share in it.

Comprehending that through the cross, through the gospel, Jesus comes to us, bonds us to Himself and changes us – it is in this that we find our strenghth, our life, our hope…. and the power and means to accomplish the greatest things, the very things God has planned from long ago to do… because He has sent you to do them.

One last thought from St. Josemarie, a prayer:

“Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard, make us love all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood – and then cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day, for the Love of You.  Amen!  ( Escriva  – The forge)

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