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The Great Scandal, the incredible gift we can give God!

f68f6ad20bfbc6d47f4c6aab419b44e6e2044849510c043d7b02e848674b9064_1Devotional thought for our seemingly broken days:

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you! 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him  Matthew 21:21-32

God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many
mistakes and sins there may be in our life.

The Christian existence, therefore, includes this as well: that we, out of the distress of our own darkness, like the man Job, dare to speak to God. It also means that we do not think we could present to God only half of our existence and must spare him all the rest because it might grieve him. No—to him in particular we may and must carry the total burden of our existence in complete honesty.

If someone did a translation of the quote from the Bible in red above today, we would have to replace tax collectors and prostitutes with some other terms.  Simply put, those jobs aren’t as demeaned and distasteful as they once were.  They aren’t considered evil, so who do we choose?  Whose very identity and actions not only are scandalous, but disgusting?

What if it was those men who were accused of sexual harassment?  What if it were those in the media than manipulated with false news?  What if it were the out-of-control politicians that we all want to hold up to ridicule, as if that would change their attitudes and behaviors.  What if it were those who had committed atrocities with guns, or bombs?

The scandal of the Church being the church is that every sinner, even these are welcome in its midst.  That we will care for such, that we won’t just try to rehabilitate them, we will work to reconcile them to God, and even to those they have hurt. 

Jesus words to those who thought they were righteous, that they were holier than the rest of the sinners is that these disgusting, sickening, evil people are more likely to trust and depend on God, and therefore come to repentance than we are. 

They did in John the Baptist’s day they still do. And it is what we need to do, desperately need to do.

Unless we realize our brokenness, damaged by our own sin, and by original sin which left us helpless against temptation, unless we realize our sin is as scandalous as those mentioned above, how can we return to Him?  How can we out of the distress of realizing our own inadequacies cry out for mercy to God?  How can we, in Benedict’s words, give more than our “good stuff”, and hand over to Him, the offering of our sin and shame.  he has been waiting patiently to deal with that crap in our life, and to offer it to Him may be the greatest sacrifice we have

Yes Lord, here it is, my life, broken by sin, crushed by temptation, ridiculed by guilt and shame.  Here it is, Lord Jesus, create something with it…

This is our prayer in advent, that like Isaiah we would cry for God to rip open the heavens and do what He longs to do, because He loves us and calls us to be His own

It is a costly gift, this gift of our brokenness.  It will truly take courage to give Him, it will truly take faith and trust, 

It will be worth it… when we see what God creates… 

 

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.

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.

 

Is Correct Doctrine and Practice Enough? Are We Just Going Through the Motions?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our Day:

2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6  NCV

Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.

A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God. 

It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church.  That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol.  That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.  

It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing. 

The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above. 

They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.

They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)  

They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it!  Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against.  When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)

Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even.  Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important.  Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous.  But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry. 

St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God.  It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway.  The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!

I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution.  THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself.  Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him.  I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.

FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.

For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…

Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.  quote from Melancthon

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.

 

Are We Too Solemn, too Reverent in our Worship?

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day

15All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant with all their heart. They took delight in worshipping the LORD, and he accepted them and gave them peace on every side.  2 Chronicles 15:15

In the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we detect the enthusiasm of the new converts, for whom being Christians was an unexpected gift, a blessing, great riches bestowed on them by God. It is good for us to realize this—for us who, as Christians, live for the most part with wrinkled brows and such an anxious awareness of the problems it entails that we feel almost guilty when we are happy about being Christians—that might be a form of triumphalism! Fundamentally, the joy of this epistle derives from the fact that the Apostle has dared to look directly at the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and his eternal love.…  (1)

There is a part of me that misses the old days when I would enter church and its silence would lend itself to the awe I felt being in the presence of God.  Reverence wasn’t just an attitude one took on to appear pious, it was something you were assimilated into, it consumed you. It was a very solemn reverence, one that facilitated dropping all your defenses, dropping you guard, and collapsing in the arms of God, in His sanctuary.

Those were precious times, and I still need them on occasion.

But then I need days like yesterday when as our mass ( our worship service ended) some people spontaneously began to clap.  Not sure who, not sure why, but it was appropriate to applaud God at that moment.  TO thank Him fo the work He does in us, work wrought with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For in His resurrection, in that moment of glory, we find ourselves taken up into Him.

His death we share in, even as He takes from us our sin, our shame, and our pain.

When I was younger, my dear devoted teachers would be angry? hurt? shocked? by the idea of people applauding and rejoicing in the presence of God.  But what else can you do, when you, as Pope benedict XVI describes, “dare to look directly into the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and His eternal love”

That love is so overwhelming, so precious, so deep, we must respond, we have no option.  Even when overwhelmed (see Jeremiah 20 – he tried to keep silent! )  This is what Christianity is about – to know we are loved beyond measure, to know we are loved by God, Father, Son, and Spirit.  He has accepted us as His own, given us peace beyond explanation, and therefore we delight in worshipping Him.

We are His… and even on Monday, that is incredible news.

(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.

Potential Talent, the Cost of Discipleship and the Piano Man…

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.    Romans 12:3 (MSG)

684    So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”

It seems like a silly “dream”, yet it was the only option I ever thought of as an option to being a pastor.  It was to use my musical talents in the way Billy Joel sang about in the song “Piano Man”. “And the manager gives me a smile, because he knows that it’s me they are coming to see, to forget about life for a while.”

Of course my classical piano teacher would have been aghast to hear me talk of using my potential for that lowly pursuit.  He wanted me to play Rachmaninov and talked about how my finger spread would make it possible to do what so few could do.

I could look back and wonder if I wasted that talent, to be honest I couldn’t play either piece anymore without a month or four of serious practice and stretching out my fingers.  I can pick up a guitar, or sit at a keyboard and do simple back-up to other musicians, but be the primary instrumentalist?  Not so much…

SO did I waste my talent, and the odd gift that is found in the hands of someone with Marphan’s Syndrome?  Did I not take full advantage of them?

Not that I haven’t’ wondered this on occasion, as I’ve sat down and just messed around on the piano, playing whatever my fingers want me to play. Or when I have had the chance to back up my friend Chris, or when a famous CHirstian musician came to do a couple of solos and asked if he could play with our church liturgy band.

What if… and what would have happened if…

St Josemaria has it right, I think.  The little talent I have had, well, had it grown, what good would it have served, as compared to how it has served?  It’s been used to help people worship, and to be honest, hearing 80 or 100 voices sing His praises, drowning out my voice is a blessing beyond anything I could experience

There is something amazing about hearing people who know and are responding to God’s presence, something that occasionally makes the musicians stop playing, as just find themselves lifted up by hearts resonating with the love of God, as they drop their pain and their burdens, as their souls find healing, deep healing, as tears still flow, but from joy and relief, not from pain and grief.  To see people, as St. Paul wrote, understanding themselves in view of their relationship with God, as they realize the love that is beyond measure that is seen in the cross, and in their resurrection, their being born again.

These are moments I have never experienced at a live concert, as enjoyable as they are.

Talented wasted?  Not in the least.

I can’t think of a better use… than when the musicians can’t play, and the pastor can’t speak, because His presence is so incredibly present and overwhelming.

May we all have the blessing of knowing God’s presence… to the extent that every

we are is dropped aside in awe.. and gratitude.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1591-1593). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Brutal Honesty; Atheism and Christianity

Devotional Thought for the Day:
14  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.  Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

For, taken as a whole, atheism is not a spontaneous development but stems from a variety of causes, including a critical reaction against religious beliefs, and in some places against the Christian religion in particular. Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.  (1)

God must become a reality for us, too, must be more real to us—no! not just more real—than the things we can grasp, so that to please God can become for us a criterion that is also a final liberation from the question of success.  (2)

As I read the words in blue this morning, I thought fo the articles and books I have read about post-modernism and the utter contempt in which some Christians hold those who claim to be atheist or agnostic.   I thought about the memes and quips and quotes which mock and condescendingly treat those whose struggle with God is not so different from our own.

Fifty-one years ago, or perhaps a little more, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church made a brutally honest statement about atheism.

They took responsibility for it, or perhaps, they noted that the Church has a hand, a responsibility for its origin.  For how could a religion (and atheism and agnosticism are informal religions develop counter to some other religion, if that religion wasn’t there?

The Catholic Church was brutal in its honesty, as we in other branches of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church should be.  We haven’t lived dependent upon God, and therefore our actions, our sin, our hypocrisy has so hurt and broken people that they rebel against God.  They strike out at Him, actively or simply by dismissing Him as a myth, and if we are honest, we know that we bear some responsibility for that.

Maybe it was the pastor who treated a young sinner without giving  him any hope of mercy, or people who turned their back on the young pregnant mom.  Maybe it was the elders or deacons who overlooked their friend’s abusive nature; and they didn’t rush to help his oppressed family.  ( Joe after all, was a good guy, don’t you know?)  Or maybe it was the Sunday school teacher, or confirmation instructor, who turned a deaf ear to questions that really mattered, that plagued the person they were instructing.

To be honest, as I think about such stories, I wonder why more people aren’t atheists, and more people are sure they can’t know whether God exists.

Even as I write this, I want you to be sure – if you were the person whose actions drove someone away from God, there is no time like the present to ask God to forgive you, assured of the forgiveness guaranteed at the cross.  Maybe consider, if you can still contact the person, that you ask their forgiveness as well. You would be surprised what and attempt at reconciliation does for healing wounds of the past, theirs and yours.

But for the future, how does the church stop creating atheists?  How do we stop de-churching those, as we have done in the past?

The obvious answer is seen in those verses above in red, to let the love of God shine through us.  Our light not being our skills, or incredible personality or personal stardom, but the simple love that reaches out and serves.  Whether it is greeting someone and asking how they are really doing, and humbly walking beside them in their pain, or praying for them, or helping them in any other of a myriad of ways.

In short, loving them as you love yourself, caring for them as you would desire others, as you would need others to care for you.   That is easy to say, and how do we do it?

At Vatican II there was a young scholar who would become Pope Benedict.  His words in blue pretty much sum up how we become a light, and how we see that it is never snuffed out.

Know God is with you, realize how real He is!  With Paul, oh I desire that you would explore the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for you, revealed in Jesus. His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, everything from HIs work in Creating this word to dying for it, till the day of Judgement is to communicate this love, this incredible, real, life-transforming, cleansing love.

And when we are realizing that love when our hearts and minds are finding rest as we look to Christ, we shine with His glory, the glory they will praise Him for, as they to are drawn into it.

This isn’t rocket science, it is simply worship in spirit and truth.

So go look to Christ, ask Him to be merciful and be in awe as He answers that more profoundly than you would even have thought possible.

He loves you. And through you, he would call His children home.

(So stop treating them as outsiders, and welcome them!)

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

(2)  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.

The Forgotten Furnace Prayer….Is One We Need to Guide our Worship/Liturgy!

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

26 “Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our ancestors, and glorious forever is your name. 27 For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper. 28 You have executed proper judgments in all that you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors. By a proper judgment you have done all this because of our sins; 29 For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil. 30 Your commandments  we have not heeded or observed, nor have we done as you ordered us for our good.  NABRE Daniel 3:26-30

481      Take a good look at the way you behave. You will see that you are full of faults that harm you and perhaps also those around you. Remember, my child, that microbes may be no less a menace than wild beasts. And you are cultivating those errors and those mistakes—just as bacteria are cultivated in a laboratory—with your lack of humility, with your lack of prayer, with your failure to fulfill your duty, with your lack of self-knowledge… Those tiny germs then spread everywhere.  (1)

Perhaps I had read the Bible passage in red as a child, as I grew up in the Catholic Church. I know I haven’t recently, for I usually use protestant (evangelical) translations of Scripture, which have a few differences in the Book of Daniel.  The passage has been there, and Luther quotes it several times. I have to admit, as I read it – I came to love it, it resonated deeply and pointed me to Jesus.

I find it remarkable, as the three men are sitting in a furnace, and they are heating it up, that they pray in this way.  Their prayer doesn’t start with calls for vengeance, or even a call for deliverance.  They aren’t calling God to blast their enemies.

It starts with their confession – and the acknowledgment that God has every right to punish them for how they turned their backs on Him.

In the midst of their trauma, in the midst of being tortured and persecuted, the three men turn to God and admit they are guilty, and God has every right to punish them. They even recognize that the commandments are for their good, to guide them in life that is lived well and full.

They didn’t obey; their people didn’t obey.

They deserved God’s judgment, and they recognized it.

So they turned to God, confessed their sins and depended upon His character, His mercy, His love.  Assured of His mercy, the second hymn will be a joyous song of praise – sung in the presence of the Son of God.

How we need this spirit to be replicated in us today.  That when oppressed or persecuted, when struggling we recognize that we deserve much worse, (this is our confession)  we are then encouraged to depend on the mercy of God to deliver us ( the sermon), and then have a celebration in the presence of the Son of God (isn’t this what communion really is?)

Rather than striking out at those we perceive to be our enemies.  Rather than calling down God’s wrath upon them, rather than trying to justify ourselves, what if our first reaction was to pray that we be forgiven.  What kind of joy would come from this?  What sense of serenity found in Christ Jesus?   To be rid of the germs our guilt and shame, and the beam that blocks the vision.

What an incredible prayer (I highly suggest reading the entire thing) What an incredible statement of dependence on God, and the effect of it on life.

May we learn to pray and worship this way…even in the midst of the fire…

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1834-1838). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

When God’s Law is More than Law…

devotional Thought fo the Day:

9 How can the young keep his way without fault? Only by observing your words. 10 With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. 11 In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes. 13 With my lips I recite all the judgments you have spoken. 14 I find joy in the way of your testimonies more than in all riches. 15 I will ponder your precepts and consider your paths. 16 In your statutes I take delight; I will never forget your word!  Psalm 119:9-16  NAB-RE

The last sentence of his Gospel tells us, for instance, that when the disciples had seen Jesus ascend into heaven, they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:52). The Acts of the Apostles repeats the theme: “… they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). They went their way after they had seen the Lord ascend into heaven—and their hearts were filled with joy. From a purely human point of view, we would expect their hearts to be “filled with confusion”. But no! One who has seen the Lord not just from the outside; whose heart has been moved by him; who has accepted the Crucified One and, precisely because he has done so, knows the grace of the Resurrection—his heart must be full of joy.

There’s no man living on earth who knows how to distinguish between the law and the gospel. We may think we understand it when we are listening to a sermon, but we’re far from it. Only the Holy Spirit knows this. Even the man Christ was so wanting in understanding when he was in the vineyard that an angel had to console him [John 12:27–29]; though he was a doctor from heaven he was strengthened by the angel. Because I’ve been writing so much and so long about it, you’d think I’d know the distinction, but when a crisis comes I recognize very well that I am far, far from understanding. So God alone should and must be our holy master.”

Part of the duty of those who preach is to determine what Lutheran theologians call the “distinction between law and gospel”.   This is what others may call the terms of the covenant and the blessings of the covenant.   It is that which convicts us, and causes us to turn to Christ for the only relief that is possible, and the very promise, the guarantee of that relief.

As Luther noted, it isn’t that easy, and towards the end of his life and ministry, he became even more aware of the difficulty doing so created, especially in our times of crisis, as we face trauma, like anxiety, and even the fear of death burdens us more.

Part of the challenge is that in the Old Testament scriptures, there are multiple uses of the words for law, the words that describe God speaking, and forming.  For in one place the Law is the entire covenant – the parties, terms (law) and promises (Gospel).  But the same words and phrases on another describe the law as in the terms – the way God has planned for us to live, as we live as His beloved.

This confusion is often seen in the Psalms, especially in Psalm 119, which lauds and praises God’s law, commands, precepts, judgments, testimonies, and path.  Is this the law that convicts, and gives us the choice of confession o living in guilt and shame?  Or is this the incredible law and gospel covenant?

The simpleton in me finds that answer in the joy, both anticipated and known, in this section of the Psalm.  That would indicate to me that the psalmist knows the entire schematic, that God’s law convicts us, and drives us in despair to cry out “Lord, Have mercy!”, But it also knows the answer.  That God desires, wills and has promised to show us that mercy.  That is why the praises and blessings ensue, the glorious revelation of the Love of God, the love that we just want to bask in, explore and know, and yet we know we can’t fully.

It is what ungirds our praises; it drives us to celebrate this and to share it with those around us.  As Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict noted, it brings a calmness and joy to the place where there should logically be confusion. It is when we know Christ Jesus, and the power of His resurrection and assured of it, and our place sharing in His glory (Col. 1:27ff)

This is why our church services are celebrations of the Eucharist, why the post communion hymn (for us often the nunc dimitis) should be an incredible song of praise!  It is why going up to the house of God should become more and more desired, more and more a place of comfort and release of burdens.   And if a church leaves without celebrating the magnificent mystery of the love of God, then Law and Gospel were not kept in tension, and the pastor failed.  Celebrating it doesn’t mean necessarily dancing in the streets, it can be a jaw dropping sense of awe, or simply unspeakable joy….

But it is there, the knowledge of God’s love, and the peace that passes all understanding, for that how Christ protects our hearts and minds.  This is why making sure that we realise that baptism is not just about the forgiveness of sins and repentance, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is why absolution includes a prayer for strength and comfort to walk in our calling, and why the Lord’Supper is the feast celebrating a new covenant, a new life with God.  it is the fullness and fulfillment of the Law – that which Christ commanded we teach all people to guard, to keep, to treasure.

This is our feast, this is our joy, this is God and man, together.  This is what God established and made to be His complete law…  AMEN!

 

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

(2)  Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 54, p. 127). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Walking with Our Father, during Easter Week

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9  This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 10  may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today the food we need. 12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. 13  Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.’    Matthew 6:9-13 (TEV)

The word “Father” makes me sure of one thing: I do not come from myself; I am a child. I am tempted at first to protest against this reminder as the prodigal son did. I want to be “of age”, “emancipated”, my own master. But then I ask myself: What is the alternative for me—or for any person—if I no longer have a Father, if I have left my state as child definitively behind me? What have I gained thereby? Am I really free? No, I am really free only when there is a principle of freedom, when there is someone who loves and whose love is strong. Ultimately, then, I have no alternative but to turn back again, to say “Father”, and in that way to gain access to freedom by acknowledging the truth about myself. Then my glance falls on him who, his whole life long, identified himself as child, as Son, and who, precisely as child and Son, was consubstantial with God himself: Jesus Christ

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.

My work today in the office is to try to get 8 services planned and prepared for printing, all which will occur in the next week. Services for Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and two funerals as well.

It was a good reminder then to hear the words in green above, that remind me of why we do these things, what the ultimate purpose is, that trusting in God, and being in awe of His love and mercy, that we can turn to Him…. and pray.  The result of a worship service is to teach people to communicate with God!  What a radical idea!

Talk to your creator, talk to Him, not as a minion to a master, not as a lowly employee to the CEO of the company, not as a prisoner to a warden, but as a child, who knows they are loved, talked to their dad.

Yes it is a level of humility that we would not normally want to admit to, but it is not the kind of humility or perhaps better, humiliation, that those other relationships often create.

You see, I think we see the Father-child relationship the wrong way.  Pope Benedict nails it, we want our independence, we want to be emancipated, freed from the burden of answering to someone else. But that isn’t the relationship that is pictured in the Lord’s prayer, in all of the times God shares his desire to care for us, to encourage us, to nurture us.

Benedict XVI’s words call us back to that point, to the point where we like Christ identify ourselves as the sons (and daughters) of God.

As you walk with the Father through this week, as we prepare to remember the last supper, the garden, the cross, consider the Father hearing these words from Jesus.  Consider our Father hearing these words from Jesus, this incredible prayer he taught us, not just in words, but with His very life…  For this is the prayer of a Son to the Father. It is His prayer, and as we go through this week… don’t just say it, hear it said, from Jesus to the Father….
… as Jesus clears the temple courtyard., so people who are not His people can pray and know they are heard
….. as Jesus washes the feet of sinners, because they argued about who was greatest and taught them the greatest serves
…. as He breaks the bread, and blesses the wine, and gives us a feast beyond anything we could imagine
…. as Jesus is whipped and beaten, that by the scars we would find healing,
…. as Jesus carries the beam he would be nailed to
….as Jesus dies, showing the world that all glory, honor and power is the Father’s.

So come to worship the King of Love, our Lord, and learn to depend on Him, and depending on Him, share your life in words, of praise, and of prayer.

as the sons of our Father!

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.) (pp. 97–98). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Which Is a Greater Priority in Life? Prayer or Theology?

Devotional Thought of the Day?
18  Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people. 19  And pray also for me, that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel’s secret.
Ephesians 6:18-19 (TEV)

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi – As we pray/worship so we believe, so we live.

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.

447         You lack interior life: that is because you do not consider in your prayer other people’s concerns and proselytism; because you do not make an effort to see things clearly, to make definite resolutions and fulfil them; because you do not have a supernatural outlook in your study, in your work, in your conversations, and your dealings with others… Are you living in the presence of God? For that is a consequence and a manifestation of your prayer.

The Church has brought about the emancipation of simple souls and has promised even to them the ability to be philosophers in the true sense of the word, that is, to comprehend what is essential to human nature as well as, or even better than, those who are learned.  (a few sentences later)  But how can this teaching of the Church be binding if it is not binding on theologians? The essence of the Church’s teaching ministry consists precisely in the fact that the proclamation of the Faith is the valid touchstone for theology as well. This proclamation is the object of the reflection of theology. The faith of simple souls is far from being a kind of watered-down theology for the laity, a so-called “popular Platonism”; the relationship is exactly the opposite: proclamation is the standard for theology, not theology for proclamation

Back in the days of taking algebra and geometry, my instructors would get upset at me because I didn’t include every step as I solved a problem  I would get the answer correct, but the missing steps, things I assumed everyone knew, were missing.  My attitude was that they didn’t matter.  I would eventually find out it they did……

I think the church, especially those who preach, teach and blog are guilty of the same thing.  We love to come across as profound in out theology.  We love to say why this piece of arcane theology is far more accurate than that, or why this practice will lead to a slippery slope, where those doing or thinking this will become heterodox, then heretical, and then bound for hell.   Well, we might leave that last part out.

There is another group that is strongly opposed to theological teaching, whose modern creeds are, “Love your Jesus, hate your religion” or “Relationship not Religious rules”.  They are no different that those two hundred years ago cried out “no creed but Christ”.

They are the simply souls who know there is something missing in our theological proofs.  Who realize the dissonance, that there is a weak point in our equation.  They might not be able to put a finger on it, but they realize what we believe is not impacting how we live.
Think about how many blogs, sermons, Sunday school classes urge us to pray, that teach us how to enter into conversation, either publicly or individually with God?  Sure you can find blogs about worship, usually to the extent of “those guys don’t do it right”, but how many help you connect to the awe of realizing you are in the presence of God?

The Lutheran Confessions almost seem snarky when talking about calling prayer a sacrament because then we might take this encounter with God more seriously.  St Josemaria talks of living in God’s presence is a consequence and manifestation of our prayer, simply because you have to know He is here to talk to Him.  Pope Benedict, then a cardinal, talks of those freed form sin and their simple faith, which is greater than the deepest of theology.  (read Augustine’s Confessions and you will eventually find that are the end of his journey)

The missing part of our sermon/blog equation is the starting place.  The time spent pouring our heart out to God and letting His comfort and presence bring us hope.  It is what will form the basis of our theology, of our teaching, of that which we write and blog.  And that is what makes our life, this realization that we dwell in the very presence of God, in His holiness, in His glory. That we can give Him every burden, every anxiety, as He draws us to Himself, as He cleanses, heals, and makes of our lives, our souls, something incredible.

Prayer and worship cannot exist without faith, not just the faith described in theological tomes and creeds, but the dependence, the trust in God to give us what He promises.

To understand that God is here, for you, drawing you into His love. Theology might teach about it, prayer, worship, the sacraments are all experiencing it.   Theology tells us what is happening to us, if it is based in prayer.  Otherwise, you never get past it to living out that life in Christ.

Spend time in prayer, spend time listening and pouring out your hearts and souls to God, who loves you enough to give you His name to call upon. Who wants to walk with us, live with us, rejoice and cry with us.

Don’t skip by prayer to get to your theology, it is not just a requirement, it is what the theology needs to discuss!  For it is life.

Lord have mercy on us!

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1981-1985). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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. 40). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Will You Let His People Come?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we any different than Pharoah?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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