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The Evidence Within, a sermon on 2 Cor 4:5-12

church at communion 2The Evidence is Within
2 Cor 4:5-12

† I.H.S. †

May the gifts of God’s mercy and peace become so integrated in your lives that everyone can see and praise God that Christ lives in you!

Can you keep going?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see my first two churches.  They are 115 miles from here, in a desert community called Yucca Valley.  Saw a lot of friends at one of them, as we gathered to pay respects to a man I helped trained in ministry.  He was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks after he was installed as a pastor at his first church.  Drove by the other, my very first church.

During the drive I back, I did a lot of thinking, about why I’ve been doing this twenty years as a pastor and years before that as a chaplain.  I thought about my friend, who at 62 started seminary to become a pastor, and who died a week ago.  I thought my own mentor that retired in that place whom I was able to see. And I thought about some of the challenges that fellow pastors and ministers are facing…

And I heard again these words of St Paul that were read this morning…

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

I’ve seen that statement become true not just in pastors’ lives, but Christians who live all over the world.  Some face physical threats, in places like the Sudan, or China.  Some are harassed and mocked because of their faith.  Some face challenges in the inner city, or in churches that struggle to survive, both financially and because of conflict.  I know a younger lady, with a master’s degree in International Business, who set that aide to be a missionary among the refugees in Turkey, while her sister is working at an orphanage school in Nigeria.  I know people who serve in churches as teachers or setting up everything every Saturday for Sunday service, who volunteer thousands of hours.

Not one of them does it for the accolades or the applause. Just like the Apostle Paul in that passage  – we don’t talk about ourselves. Those who know and follow Jesus serve each other and the world for Jesus sake.

Because God has shown the light of His glorious light into our hearts.

That is why all this is here… To help people know that…

Why?

In verse 6-7, Paul explains why people would embrace suffering,

. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

The light that invades the darkness…A darkness that affects our hearts and oppresses our very lives.

The darkness has a name, it is called sin.

What is this thing we call sin?  Basically, It is failing to love God and hear His voice as He shows us how to live.  It is failing to love Him and all those around us, helping them. even those that count themselves, enemies and adversaries, because God loves them and would invite them into this incredible relationship with Him, that would make them our family.

Sin can seem as little as a tiny lie or breaking an oath or gossiping about someone.  It can seem as big as murder or theft.  In every case, it works to destroy relationships, it plunges us into darkness.

This is the darkness God’s love shatters.

The love that we see in Jesus, as He died to remove all that darkness, all of the burdens, healing the relationships that have been broken.

That is what the cross is all about… the payment for the sin, but in order that we can be in fellowship with God, so that we walk with Him, not only during this life but eternally.

That is the reason for the forgiveness of sin, for the forgiveness of those times where we put ourselves first and forget God and others.  Yet despite the damage we’ve done, and may still do, God is willing to deal with it, He has dealt with it.  By dying on the cross for us, and rising from that death, so that even death cannot separate us from Him

This is what it means for Him to shine His glorious love into our lives, by revealing to us the love that erases the punishment, in the life and eternity, that we would have earned.

The Evidence

It is that glory that you see, in the lives of people that are willing to give up everything, fame, fortune, salaries, comfort, their own pride, even the right to be angry at someone who has hurt them.  This is the love you see, as someone gives up their comfort, or even their retirement, to serve others, This is the glory you see, the evidence that Jesus lives in us, even in us broken down older folk.

God loves us, and wants to cleanse all of us and make us His own people. His own children.   It is then we know the peace of God, which goes beyond all comprehension, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Are We Superheroes, or Slimeballs?

boy child clouds kid

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created 7  This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8  Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9  not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)

592    Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?

There is a balance to everything in life, especially in how we are to view ourselves. The problem is we fail to judge ourselves accurately.  And sometimes we believe we are superheroes, and sometimes just the opposite. 

Pride may cause our self=examination to fail n that we think we are better than we are, smarter, more beautiful, more successful, more in tune with life.   So too may a poor self-esteem, as we consider ourselves the ugliest, the most wretched, the failures that deserve nothing more than eating dirt.

Asking others doesn’t help, they may boost our pride, they may tear us down even more. And when these statements are coming from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we keep them in balance? 

Into this discussion comes the words of a simple, but a very effective priest.  St Josemaria was fond of describing himself as a donkey, tied to one of those decides that lets him walk in a circle, faithfully plodding, though sometimes in need of some “encouragement”  His words today, describing us as a garbage, re-purposed as a planter makes so much sense.

It establishes our value, who we are, not based on our natural talents, abilities, charisma, but rather on what the “divine gardener does with us”.   Our value, our being is so integrated into God, that we take on both humility and yet a meaning deeper than anything we could have imagined. 

This is God at work in you and I, God at work creating something in us not seen before, A value that finds fulfillment in the greatest work there is, the saving of souls. What an incredible joy it is to know that someone will be in heaven rather than hell because I took a moment to pray, a moment to offer comfort, a moment to help them know peace.  

That somehow, God can use you and me to reveal His glorious love to others.

Even if how he uses us in the same way he used St. Paul

15  This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17  All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT2)

God is at work… He is with us… all glory and honor to Him, who makes us His children, and invites us to the feast!

 

Conversation:  Which do you think you are, the superhero or the slimeball  Do you struggle more with being humble, or with seeing yourself having value?  

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whistle While You Work… (or sing while you suffer!)

7 dwarvesDevotional THought of the Day:

16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy,  the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  T  Acts 16:1-3, HCSB

13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14  HCSB

524    “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.

I have a confession to give.  I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!

( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)

The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work”  Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding.  Don’t those characters know how serious work is?  Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!

Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.

First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul.  Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive?  Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment!  ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)

Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love.  The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people?  How do you whistle or sing during that?

Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured.  And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.

Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria.  “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!”  Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church.  Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering.  You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God.  That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.

And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God.  The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison.  SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.

So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time.  And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)

Amen

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Worship Boring?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

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 though all your being with God himself!
20  Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine – to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen! Ephesians 3:14-20 (Phillips NT)

77    You told me that to tie yourself to a plan of life, to a schedule, would be so monotonous! And I answered, “It is monotonous because you lack love.”

It is sometimes.  Ver much so more than I would like to admit.

It doesn’t matter if it is a high powered contemporary service, or a organ blasting traditional service, or a small intimate worship time on a retreat.

Church services can be boring, even monotonous,

And while the pastor and those who music facilitates our praises can impede or encourage worship, there is one key that absolutely makes the difference in whether you find a church and the worship service.

You.

I’ve seen couples where one is completely engaged in worship, one is actively engaged, and talks about church as the high point of their week.  The spouse, however, was so disengaged that they eventually fell asleep.

What makes the difference in perception is the person.

St Josemaria says it well, it is monotonous because of the truth of this, you lack love.

And if you lack love, there are two options, you are unable to love God and others, or what is necessary to love him, you haven’t been immersed in the reality of HIs love for you.  You haven’t had the opportunity, as St Paul desired for you, to explore the incredible dimensions of that love for you.

Not just know the love as a piece of data, because you can’t fully, it is so far beyond our comprehension, You need to be filled with that love, you need to be filled with God.

And that is the purpose of a church service, to help you explore that depth, and those who lead are simply guides on the journey.  Guides who hopefully are still in awe of the same journey, pointing out this treasured point, and that, how this explores the heights, and that explores the depths.

For if you know how incredible God’s love is for you,

And when you do, the hunger to more will help you engage, to enter the service as a participant as we dance with God, rather than being an observer.  For everyone has a part in worship, every voice has its role, a part in the service.  It’s not just about the guys up there in robes,   We are just there to point you to the love that God has for you, the incredible love that makes a difference in every aspect of your life.

So when you come into a church, expect something special, expect to hear you are loved, listen for it, rejoice in it, walk in it, even dance in it, and then love and adore the God who loves you.

The same service will never be the same.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 339-340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A paradox: I needed to be Broken to Find Hope and Peace.

cropped-will-new-camera-12-2008-167.jpgDevotional Thought of the Day:

18 A ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 20 You know the commandments:

Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness;
honor your father and mother.” 

21 “I have kept all these from my youth,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, He told him, “You still lack one thing: Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, n and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”   Luke 18:18-22

Creation exists for the sake of worship: Operi Dei nihil praeponatur, Saint Benedict says in his Rule: “Nothing is to take precedence over the service of God.” This is not an expression of exalted piety, but a pure and practical application to our own lives of the story of creation and its message. The genuine center, the force that moves and orders from within the rhythm of the stars and of our lives, is worship

888      You tell me that you want to practise holy poverty, you want to be detached from the things you use. Ask yourself this question: do I have the same affections and the same feelings as Jesus Christ has, with regard to riches and poverty? I told you: as well as resting in the arms of your Father God, with all the confident abandonment of one who is his child, you should fix your eyes particularly on this virtue to love it as Jesus does. Then, instead of seeing it as a cross to bear, you will see it as a sign of God’s special love for you.

The devotional part of my blog originated as a journal, the writings that summarized my devotional readings for the day, that helped me process what I encountered in the Bible readings and other readings I do.

Originally those readings started out as a discipline, and the writing was something I did because I realized that otherwise, I would go through the motions,  Reading, and maybe even slowly changing, but not with any real desire.  I read because that is what a “good” Christian should do, what a pastor “should” do because then I am an example for my people.

It has become more than that, partially because of Lutheran theology, partially because of St Josemaria Escriva, but mostly because of needing to cope with my own brokenness, and the darkness that would overwhelm me otherwise. I don’t like talking about it, I don’t like even dwelling on it, but it is there… lurking with every click of my heart.

In my devotional reading, in the writing I do that comes from that, there springs hope, I find not only the light at the end of the tunnel but the light, the glory of God, the love of Christ is not at the end of the tunnel, it is there, with me, guiding me, comforting me, protecting me.

The rich young man, (some say it was Saul, years before Damascus Road) couldn’t see his own brokenness.  He couldn’t see the need to be with Jesus, and more importantly, to know Jesus was there, with him.  The man had the same invitation the apostles did, “come, be with me,” and he turned it down.

Likewise, the poverty, the detachment that St, Josemaria describes is a form of the brokenness I have encountered, as things I loved dearly ( sports, martial arts) were stripped away from me, as who I was drastically and painfully redefined. So painfully, that I can easily acknowledge the only comfort that helps is finding rest in Christ, especially in His word, and in the peace, I find in the sacraments, especially Confession and Absolution, and of course the Eucharist, the Holy Supper where Christ gives us Himself.  ANd in the midst of the brokenness, the pain of body heart and soul, I find something more precious, the love of God.  That doesn’t mean I like the pain, but it doesn’t mean I can be thankful for it, and even praise God for it.  For in the pain, I find His comfort.

Which leads me to a third reading, the one from Benedict XVI, where he talks about Creation is worship.  So it is, I find.  Not because I am a particularly pious person, or because I want to be considered holy.  Take my word for it, I am not, not even close!  Worship isn’t just about upbeat praise or ceremonial splendor, it is about finding yourself in God’s arms, held, comforted, healed. It is about being able and free to weep until there are no more tears.  It is there that we find the reason we worship God.

He loves us.

And as we realize this, as it is revealed, nothing else seems to matter, all the brokenness falls away… and worship and adoration is what we do, in response to that love.

Why do I spend the time I do, reading scripture and works of others God has ministered to?

I have to… it is the only way I can survive.  And yet, the beauty revealed, as I see how much God loves us, reveals that such reading and prayer and meditation is not sacrificial, but something that is life.  with Him.  It is exploring the length and width, the height and depth of the love of God, the love I cannot understand, but I can experience.  I pray you can as well.

Know this, He loves you…

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.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3131-3137). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did Jesus Come For You?

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

15 While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. 16 When the scribes m of the Pharisees saw that He was eating p with sinners q and tax collectors, r they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat s with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor,  but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:15-17

In revising the Roman office, its ancient and venerable treasures are to be so adapted that all those to whom they are handed on may more extensively and easily draw profit from them.

It is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity, those who think Jesus wouldn’t associate with them are the very ones He came to unite to himself.  And those, who think they are spiritually adept often miss out on the blessing.

I dare say that our liturgies have for too long aided and abetted this problem.  The look and sound more like the pious Pharisee than the broken tax-collector.  The content of our services, from the mass to vespers and then compline need to be in the language that is profitable, that is beneficial for those broken by the weight of sin.  It needs to resonate with their soul and reveal to them the love and mercy of God, their God, who would have them dwell in peace.

I think those at Vatican II and those who influenced the council’s deliberations were starting to see this.  That the liturgy was for all the people of God, not just those who knew the right actions, the right words, and could repeat them without knowing the power of their meaning.  ( I wish my own small part of Christianity would follow suit, but I fear it is heading away from such thoughts)

We desperately need to be formed by the word of God in our prayers, in our liturgy.  And by we, I don’t mean those on the membership roster of our church and the churches we trust.  It means all the people of God, those He died for, those He is drawing to himself, those who may fight now, only to be baptized tomorrow.  The people of God include all who don’t believe God’s mercy is available to them, for in their humility, they will receive it. Those who think they are good enough already, why would they bother? The liturgy can cause us to really cry out for His mercy, and express praise and wonder at God’s love seen as Jesus was slaughtered like a lamb, that we might live.

If the word is to form us, we have to be able to understand it, simply and without a dictionary, lexicon, and thesaurus by our side.  This message is to needed, to precious, to amazing to conceal it with elaborate words, and movements that have no meaning because they are not know, not explained, not heard.

We all, from the youngest to the oldest, from every continent and country, from every economic group, language group, everyone, needs to know that Jesus came for us all.  It is really a simple concept, one spoken originally in simple Hebrew, Aramaic, and common Greek.  We can and show do the same today so that the people God draws to us will know Him, as the Spirit reveals Him to them through our words, our music, our liturgy.

As we finalize our words for the Christmas celebration, may we do so, and may all those the Spirit draws near profit from them.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

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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.

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