Do not work for food that goes bad; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you, because God, the Father, has put his mark of approval on him John 6:27 GNT
We must at least know ourselves well enough to recognize our own illusions, our own limitations, our own weaknesses, enough to be able to tell when it is not the charity of Christ that speaks in our hearts, but only our own self-pity … or ambition, or cowardice, or thirst for domination.
Dry bones. We see sin and judgment on the sin. That is what it looks like. It looked that way to Ezekiel; it looks that way to anyone with eyes to see and brain to think; and it looks that way to us.
“But we believe something else. We believe in the coming together of these bones into connected, sinewed, muscled human beings who speak and sing and laugh and work and believe and bless their God. We believe it happened the way Ezekiel preached it, and we believe it still happens. We believe it happened in Israel and that it happens in church. We believe we are a part of the happening as we sing our praises, listen believingly to God’s Word, receive the new life of Christ in the sacraments. We believe the most significant thing that happens or can happen is that we are no longer dismembered but are remembered into the resurrection body of Christ.
I read the words of Merton in my devotions this morning, and they stung.
As they should!
Perhaps they should have even stung more!
We must regularly examine our thoughts, words and deeds, as Paul tells us to in 1 Corinthians. To walk thorugh the valley of Romans 7 and realize that Paul wasn’t talking about a battle prior to coming to Christ, but the battle within each of us this day. We need to recognize when it is Christ that lives, and when we are struggling not to die to self.
We need to see the dry bones, to see the ravaged wasteland caused by sin in our world, but even more in our lives.
We have to see them, there is no option. It is depressing, it can suck the life out of you. But we need to see the effect of our sin.
For only by doing so, can our knowledge become our plea, and the answer our reality. For just as we had to acknowledge our sin in order to see our need for the cross, so to do we need to see our sin so that the Holy Spirit can create new life in broken lives. We need to know that our cry, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” is, and always will, be answered!
Peterson’s words come in the midst of a dialogue about the necessity and focal point of pastoral ministry, that of word and sacrament–and the need of people to receive that – even if they don’t presently want it. That’s the message of Jesus’ words this morning as well–to go after what really matters, what really brings us to life– the work of the Holy Spirit as the words and Sacraments serve as the conduit of a grace beyond measure.
This is how life begins… this is how it is nurtured, as the old, sin-burdened man is put to death, and a life transformed in and conformed to Jesus begins anew.
Lord, once again, heal our brokenness by killing off that which is not of You, and bring us to life, in Christ. AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 138.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 144.
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and the cross, for there is my hope!
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me? Psalm 119:81-82 NLT
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, 2 Tim 1:8-9 NLT
To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ.
“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word.” Here the first part contains contrition, while the second clearly describes how we are revived amid contrition, namely, by the Word of God that offers grace.  This Word sustains and gives life to the heart. 1 Samuel 2[:6*]: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.”
For 39 years I’ve heard about the need for Church Growth. It was a major part of my undergraduate curriculum–my major would have been, a Bachelor or Arts in Bible, Church Growth and Preaching. I’ve been blessed to work with some mega-church pastors over the years, mentored by two, and read a lot of the books, including Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?, which predates all the stuff from Fuller, Willow Creek and Saddleback. And even recent works lauded by people, like Canoing the Mountains
There are surely techniques we can apply from these books. But I think the issues is that focusing on Church Growth has us confused, and to be honest, most of the theory is misapplied–simply because they forget to apply it within context! We are hyper-fixated on church growth, or so suspicious of church growth that we analyze the components to death, looking for a reason to dismiss it.
Because our focus is off, the Psalmist’s words ring so true. We are tired, our eyes, hearts and souls are strained, because we trust in God’s promises, but we aren’t seeing them come true in our era. (It doesn’t help that we reduce era to a brief moment!) We know God hasn’t abandoned its church, but because we are fixated on growth, we don’t see what God is doing. Because we don’t see what God’s doing, we burn out, and only half-heartedly commit to the next theory, the next outreach program, the next book which promises that God will provide the increase, if we do our part.
Growing a church is indeed a blessing, but it skews the work (and the glory received from it) making us believe it is our work, our creativity, our passion and strategic-purpose driven life that causes this to happen. And because of that, the church growth movement, and its counterbalance, the confessional/traditional/fundamentalist movements, are doomed to fail.
We need to pray for and seek Revival, not church growth. We need to hear the word and receive the sacraments, realizing what God is giving us in those moments of intimate interaction with a Divine God. We need to see the Holy Spirit killing off the sinner and bringing the saints to life—for that is revival. That is when Tozer’s goal is realized and the church, focused on Christ as a bride focuses on her groom, lives in the moment of salvation. This is true revival, when people are rejoicing beause God has been revealed to be loving, merciful and present in their lives.
As the Church experiences Revival, it doesn’t have the time to be concerned with Church Growth. It is busy helping people live in the moment, so wanting to share the blessing of Christ that they give up their lives. I have seen such people – they are amazing! They simply know Christ’s love, and they will do anything to make it know. The church grows, but that is never its desire. It is focused on Christ, and helping people to know Him, to learn to abandon their wants, desires and even needs. And their they learn, that without what they once considered precious – they are free to live.
This is what we need to pray for- that people come alive in Christ, that they are spiritually defibrillated, and realize they can live in Christ. Then listen, and see those ready to receive God’s word, and His sacraments, as He quickens their hearts and souls…
May we understand that the Lord is with you! And may that revelation result in many coming to know the same thing!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
“Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Artticle XII Repentance”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 195.
Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. 12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, 13 for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death. Psalm 86:11-13 (NLT2)
I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. Ephesians 1:16-17 (NLT2)
2 God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.
I show them (the sacraments) due honor when I believe that I truly receive what the sacraments signify and all that God declares and indicates in them, so that I can say with Mary in firm faith, “Let it be to me according to your words and signs” [Luke 1:38].
King David, the writer of the Psalm above, found his identity so enveloped in his intimate friendship with God. So much so that he was called a man whose heart resonated with God’s, for that was his goal. As the church fades in American, we struggle to find to resonate with things. The next book that is right on, the next new believer’s course, the next mission statement, the next strategy of consolidation or repurposing.
Without resonating with the heart of God, none of those options are worth the outcome of a bowel movement.
From his intimate conversations with God, David learns so much of God’s love that he automatically responds with praise. He realizes what God has done, far more than you learn from a theology text, or the latest book written to motivate us to keep trying to do things that are beyond our comfort zones. We see the same heart in Luther’s thoughts on the sacraments. Meditating on them leads Luther to accept, as Mary did, what God has planned and promised. St. Josemaria encourages such meditation as well, as he concludes that when you realize the divine madness that is the love of God, you will never let go of the hope it gives.
You don’t find such love by reading—you have to experience it. That is the idea of knowledge (epiginosko in Greek) . Study alone does not impart such knowledge—it comes by experiencing God’s presence as God reveals and enlightens our hearts. The Apostle Paul, another brilliant man, desires this for his people, and that is what he asks God for, for them.
The purpose of this all – to intimately know God. We all need to experience His presence and love in a way beyond description, but in a way that teaches us.
It is what I desire for myself, as David did.. and what we need to learn to desire, not just for our friends at church, but for all people.
Lord, teach us Who You are… and who we are in Your sight.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 101.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
53 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55 For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)
The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.
Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.
Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.
There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.
I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.
I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is.
You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.
That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.
This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.
Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
In the sacrament Christ is received. However, this would not happen if Christ were not, at the same time, prepared and distributed through the Word. For the Word brings Christ to the people and acquaints their hearts with him. The sacrament in itself does not transmit this knowledge.
And even if there is some preaching, the mass may be of Christ but the sermon on Theodoric of Bern or some other story. God punishes us in this way because we do not pray for our daily bread. The venerable sacrament finally becomes not only a vain and empty custom but also an object of contempt. After all, what does it profit us if Christ is present and has prepared bread for us, if this bread is not given to us and we do not delight in it? That is just as if a delicious meal were prepared and no one was there to pass the bread, bring the food, or pour the drink, and all were expected to have their hunger appeased by the odor or the sight of the meal.
You might think that this post is going to laud the preaching of the word over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I mean, after all, Luther’s words could be interpreted that way. Luther makes it sound like the sacrament is completely dependent on the word, that without it, it, it is vain and worthless. It would be of no profit to our bodies and even less to our souls.
Theologically, that may sound right, but I do not agree with that interpretation.
I think it is that we can’t separate what God put together, the gift of hearing the word and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. We need both, and we need them together. They need to understand the experience they have, as they take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
As I said in the title, pastors and priests (Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other sacramental groups) are more than spiritual Pez dispensers. Our role is to reveal to you Christ, to ensure you understand the grace that you are being given in the sacraments, to make sure you understand that grace is Christ’s presence in your life, and how that transforms who you are, it results in a change to your very identity.
That is why we see this Communion Feast so important, and the words that prepare us for it critical. This time, not just about our sins being forgiven, but the time we know we dwell in Christ, and He dwells in us.
We need this, and we need to remember, to understand, to savor this moment. So to preach on something else, to not focus on Christ crucified for us, to make sure you understand this and treasure it, and to give you the time to think and work through it, this is our calling.
For your benefit.
So let both people and their clergy, work together, and rejoice together, as God provides for us. Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 57–58.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 I will live there with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 When I place my Temple there to be among them forever, then the nations will know that I, the LORD, have chosen Israel to be my own people.” Ezekiel 37:27-28 (TEV)
I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!
On the other hand, God has never been more gracious to the world than when he granted it well-informed and devoted spiritual leaders, who supplied this Word daily and abundantly. Christendom, and every Christian soul, is born in and through the Word of God.
The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.
Luther’s words are scathing, brutal, and today are as true as they ever have been.
O sure, we have more pastors with higher education perhaps, more and more of my friends are getting Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D./Th.D degrees. I am going for one myself.
So why am I saying that we are in a period where church leaders are blind and ignorant?
I think it is because we are spending most of our time on things besides the gospel. We are trying to find the answers to the declining church attendance, the aging church, how to fight the decline in morality, the sociological and political jungles out there. We hear the latest Barna report,, the latest Pew Research Study, the latest from our favorite religious blogger/vlogger/podcast and we treat our parishioners to our newfound wisdom, our conservative theological acumen, or our theory on how to get our churches to grow and be relevant while staying confessionally centered.
We might even wax eloquently on the core doctrine of Justification by Faith!
Yet we forget the point of justification is to return us to God, to cause us to walk in the presence of God. To realize, using Dr. Kreeft’s words, that God is scandalous, and crazy, as He loves us!
I don’t care if your church is growing 40 percent a year, or declining as you weed out the refuse. If pastors and church leaders aren’t revealing to people the wonderful, crazy, scandalous love of God for them, their work is a curse! Whether the church is 2000 people on Sunday morning, or 24 faithful, confessional, traditional people.
We have to get back to preaching about God’s love for us broken people. It has to be our message. We have to reveal to them that love as we preach and teach, as we give voice to God’s forgiving them (a wonderful, crazy, scandalous thing on its own,) as we give them the Body and Blood to eat and drink.
Pastors, do these things – we know they bring life to our people. People, pray for your pastors, ask them to focus on revealing God’s love for you, constantly. You are in this all together, and you are not alone. For the scandalous, crazy, wonderful God who loves you, is with you! AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 55–56.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 25.
The Place Where God Put His Name
Became our Home
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
I would like to read one verse from our gospel reading from a different translation.
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
Hear the words again,
0 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.
Devotional 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.
Devotional 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.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
It was an amazing opportunity, a blessing that would have been unheard of at the 450th anniversary of the Reformation. A chance for a Lutheran pastor to explain where we have come from over the last 500 years, and using writings of a Pope, Martin Luther, Vatican II and a leading Lutheran Theology professors, give us hope and urge us on to seek reconciliation.
here is a rough draft recording of the talk…..okay a really rough draft.
May we pray that the Church would be one and that it would be seen as one by us. AMEN.