† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be evident in your life in the Harvest field!
- You are that answer to Prayer
For the next 11 weeks we are going to be talking about God working through us, turning us into an answer to prayer—a prayer Jesus taught us to pray. It comes from Matthew 9:38, There, we find written:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT2)
And so we pray, and then we find that we are the answer to pray – each one of is not just sent into the harvest fields once in a while, God has called us to live in the midst of the field that He has planted.
As we look at this, there are a number of lessons to learn experientially, before we get to the reading of Revelation 7, and the final eternal celebration of the Harvest:
We will hear that description on Reformation day,
“9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, (have everyone read this part) “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT2)
I can’t wait to hear you say that in heaven!
Today’s reading from Psalm 67 talks about it… we see the promise of the harvest, 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us. 7 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
So what happens before that…
- Before the harvest
Is prayer – a prayer that God’s blessings be known, not just to us, or to the Israeli people, but to everyone. Hear it again!
2 May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. 3 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 4 Let the whole world sing for joy, because you govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world.
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you.
I still wish Bible translators knew of the existence of exclamation points!
People throughout the whole earth, people everywhere, need to know what God is doing! How He is using all His power to save people everywhere! We need to know, everyone needs to know God is there, to the point where their reaction is simply to praise Him.
Which means to know what it means to be saved.
We need to explore that – because to just say, “hey, you were just saved.”—especially without a exclamation point…. Doesn’t inspire a lot of praise and adoration.
Our salvation – yeah that does. Or it should!
- Justice and Guidance
So to understand salvation – we have to look deeper into the passage, to where it talks about God governing the nations with both justice and guidance.
The first is justice – everyone thinks they want justice in this world, until you really think about what it means. I had two instances where I had to think about what justice truly is this week. One situation has played out in the news, the other was regarding something I witnessed.
The first case, I urged patience in, the details of the court case was only given by one side. And the other side is only beginning to be heard. Rumors abound, which doesn’t help anyone, it just divides people. The second case, I thought I wanted what I thought would be justice… and then, when it didn’t go quickly or easily, I became uneasy, and when the dust settled – my thought was the accused got way too light of a sentence for the suffering he caused.
And then I looked at my sermon notes again…
If anyone of us got the sentence that justice demands for our sins, the sins we commit in our thoughts through our words and what we do, not one of us should be here. Not one of us should be allowed to receive communion, in fact, Bob and I should be struck dead as we approach the altar…
So God’s justice cannot be what we call justice. It must be something more…
It has to be God’s justice, or to use the other word that is translated as–His righteousness. God governs us, which is about judging us and our lives.
And in His righteousness, He sees us as righteous.
His level of righteous…for in Christ’s death and resurrection, Jesus was credited with our sinfulness, as He credited us with His complete righteousness. So, God is completely just, His judgment is unquestionable.
After judging us as righteous, God does something even more phenomenal. He invests in our lives. He guides us and takes responsibility for our lives.
This is why we praise Him! He makes us His own, caring for us, cleansing us, walking with us through life, simply because He loves us.
These are His ways that need to be made know throughout the earth, the effective way He will save everyone who depends on Him..
- The Harvest that is now – and not yet
As we spread that message, as those seeds are planted, they grow until the harvest at the end of time. We heard it from the Psalmist earlier, but let’s hear it again,
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us
Or as Jesus said it
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:13-14 (NLT2)
So its simple – we work in the fields we live in, sharing the work of God, knowing His presence, and then, the harvest happens, and we are all brought before the throne of God. Until that day, God governs us and guides us, His people as we dwell in His peace…doing His will, sharing His love with the world. AMEN!!
58 So then, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless. 1 Cor. 15:58 GNT
42 He remembered his sacred promise to Abraham his servant. 43 So he led his chosen people out, and they sang and shouted for joy. Ps 105:42–43.
My goals here are to suggest some of the ways in which priests can be pastors and vice versa, to sensitize my fellow pastors to the rich resources for pastoral care within the liturgical life of the church, and to show how insights and skills of the pastoral care disciplines can be of service in the continuing task of liturgical renewal.
Instead, readers will find fresh inspiration to take up again the Scriptures and the practices of the Christian tradition and find in them sufficient hope to finish the race that our Lord and Savior set before us. Hunter does not take us to a final destination, but he equips us for the journey.
As I come to the completion of my formal education at 58 years old, I wonder if the education has been worth it, or if my studies have just driven me mad. My advisor wants to know what academic research I will pursue or encourage next, and yet, I want to return to a focus that is simple, to remind people that God has not forgotten His promises to us, and for those people to then sing and shout for joy.
Not just the people at Concordia, but like Bishop Willimon wrote decades ago, to help pastors and priests see the resources now overlooked in worship. To see worship as not just a way to warm people up and prepare them to be taught, but that worship actively provides the pastor the chance to teach and care for them far deeper than out 15-30 minutes pontificating on some principle or some key to life.
They need to know Jesus, and the Liturgy that is drawn from the Scriptures is a great way to help them walk with Him. (read chapters 2-4 of my dissertation if you doubt me!) These practices weren’t randomly generated by an AI, they came down to us from men who saw their benefit, who compiled them with purpose–that the people of God would experience Christ, from the incarnation through His teaching, His death, His resurrection, through their lives, as they wait for the Second coming.
Is Liturgy the only tool in the toolbox? Is worship the only way to walk with Christ? No, but if the Liturgy is done well… then it can provide a foundation, a place to work from for the entire church. Therefore it is worth the effort, it is worth learning to savor its words like fine bacon wrapped shrimp (or whatever your favorite food is). To live the liturgy in such a way that others hunger for what it is the pipeline for, Jesus, and the grace given to those who depend on Him.
That was what Willimon saw back in the 80’s, and what Bishop Todd Hunter’s new book is supposed to provide. I can recommend both, and a few others, or maybe let me take you out for tea or coffee, and lets’ talk this through…
Lord Jesus, help us to see You as we are gathered with others, that as You are revealed – our soul, our heart and our minds find peace, and joy, and learn to praise You for what You’ve given us…as promised! Amen!
William H. Willimon, Worship as Pastoral Care (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1982).
Esau McCaulley, Foreward, Hunter, Todd D.. What Jesus Intended (p. 3). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Thoughts driving me to Jesus, and to the Altar/Cross:
For seven days all the people of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 18Since the days of the prophet Samuel, the Passover had never been celebrated like this. None of the former kings had ever celebrated a Passover like this one celebrated by King Josiah, the priests, the Levites, and the people of Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem 19in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign. 2 Chron. 35:17-19 GNT
True penitence or contrition flows out of love for God and righteousness. Without such love it is impossible for man to hate and detest sin and to repent of it. An important problem in the doctrine of repentance, therefore, is the question of the origin, or creation, of such love in the human heart. Is it the result of man’s own efforts, or is it the work of God?
Staupitz answers the question by saying that such a love for God and His will is the product of two factors: (1) the revelation of the love of God in Christ and in His suffering for men, and (2) the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man. “The love of Christ kindles the spirit of the bride (that is, man).” “Love for God is created by the revelation of the love of God toward us.”56
The event that resoluted in the marvelous celebration of the passover was the finding the word of God, reading it, and realizing not only that the people of God were guilty of sin, but that there was a way that resulted in the people being free of the bondage created by that sin.
A freedom that was foretold in the story of the passover, a story that Israel was commanded to keep, that they would remember the love of God that assured them of His work in their lives.
It is with this hope, that they celebrated the freedom won for them, and the ultimate freedom that would occur when the Messiah came. And even only with hope of the future, the people of God threw a party that would be memorable throughout history!
How much more should we, who have that hope fulfilled in Jesus, celebrate the love of God, show to us in Christ Jesus? We have the two things necessary to love God – His love fully revealed, and the love of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts! We should be as excited to see God at work in our lives as the bride is, as she looks down the aisle to see her about to be husband.
The key to worship is not found in the band or organ, the type of music or when it was written. The key is the gift of repentance, the work that the Spirit does in transforming us, as we learned we are love, as we learn to love. The result is worship like hasn’t been experienced before, for it changes from being based on the future, to being based in the present.
It all boils down to the relationship and realizing what God is do in this relationship…
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 22–23.
10 And then he said, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king.
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:10,21-23 GNT
It is in the intimacy with God that we develop a greater intimacy with people and it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that we indeed can touch the heart of the human suffering to which we want to minister. Do we really believe this? It often seems that our professional busy-ness has claimed the better part of us. It remains hard for us to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed, in order to be with him from whom all good things come. Still, it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that the minister becomes minister. There we remember that if anything worthwhile happens at all it is God’s work and not ours.
Something happened to King Josiah as the gospel, contained in the word of God was read to him. It went far beyond doing church, “right,” and being good, ethical stewards of the money entrusted to their care.
He didn’t have a time of silence and solitude as we normally think of it, but as the gospel was read to him from the word of God, the miraculous happened.
The Holy Spirit created the intimacy with God which made King Josiah unlike any other king, including Hezekiah and David.
He became a king who was also the pastor of his people. He realized part of his work was to free them from bondage to false idols, to bring them to the point of celebrating the Passover–something long forgotten among the people.
They celebrated it, in a way that reflects on their hunger and thirst for the presence of God, and to see and celebrate the work of God in their midst…now!
The people of God came back to life, they realized again what God was doing! Revival broke out–not because they were running the business of church right, but because their time was dominated by God’s revelation of His presence and care.
Nouwen is correct though, it is not our work that makes us pastors, priests and ministers. It is not from our agendas that we find the strength and ability to minister. It comes from the time when our darkness was invaded by the glory of God’s love, where His comfort and peace sought us out to heal us.
It is time, to gather around the gospel, to hear it–to realize the intimate presence of God–who loves us, cares for us, comforts and heals our brokenness..and then uses all of that, as we serve and minister to those around us…. as we guide them to the Altar– to our Passover…
Lord, may it be said of our time, that our moments of being gathered together and celebrating Your work in us is unlike any other, as You revive Your church as you did the people in Josiah’s day!
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 51). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
75 We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks to you! We proclaim how great you are and tell of the wonderful things you have done! Psalm 75:1 GNT
They who do not feel their sin, and are not dismayed, nor see their infirmities, profit not a whit by it, nor do they delight in it. Though they hear the gospel, it has no effect upon them, except that they learn the words, and speak of what they have heard. They do not treasure them in their hearts, and receive neither comfort nor joy from them.
It were well, if the gospel could be preached only where faint-hearted and conscience-stricken ones are found. But this cannot be, and for this reason it bears so little fruit. The fault is not in the gospel, but in the hearers. They hear it, but they do not feel their own affliction and misery, nor have they ever tried to feel it.
The Last Supper must be understood and proclaimed also as such. Just as in baptism we meet our death and the promise of new life, so also here we encounter the death of the old and the hope of the new. “When you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). It is death-dealing to pretentious god-seekers to be reduced to eating a bit of bread and drinking a sip of wine for salvation. But just so it is also life-giving in the promise. It is the breakthrough of the new in the midst of our time.
THE sincerity of all prayer, whether liturgical or private, depends on the fundamental acknowledgment of our actual spiritual state. We have to have some realization of what we are supposed to be, of what we are not, and of what we are. The first step towards a liberty that is a free gift of God’s grace is the free acknowledgment of our own need for His grace.
As I was reading Psalm 75 this morning, I thought about why we praise God.
It is not because He is all powerful, or all knowledge. It cannot be based in fear anymore than it can be through some idea of manipulating God into saving us.
So where does worship come from? From realizing that God is at work in our lives.
And that is where the horrible, ugly, truth comes into play.
We need Him to work in our lives.
We need Him to do so because we are broken and crushed by the world and by our own sin.
Luther’s words drive this point home- noting how we have to feel our sin, we have to recognize our brokenness. Not so we can be belittled or terrorized by it – the sin does that on its own. But we need to face it, so we can say that we are forgiven it. This hurts most of the time – for the same reason pulling stitches and dressings off of wounds hurts. Merton agrees with this – explaining that we have to understand where we are, in order to understand grace. Forde nails the point home, when talking about the mystery of the Eucharist, and how such a simple piece of bread and sip of win is so transforming–because it is the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. The promises in it are amazing, if we only take the time to think through it.
It is there, at the altar, and at the baptismal font, that the great miracles in our lives happen. THey may also be the most overlooked, for they are sublime. As we come to understand them, the true glory of God, His love, is made known to us. ANd worship should well up inside of us,
Letting God deal with our darkness is needed for worship to really soar. So let Him in… and know the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 142.
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 178.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 162.
Jesus answered, “All those who drink this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life.” John 4:13-14 GNT
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 GNT
With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: for physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations). And with pastors, it is God (not relieving anxiety, or giving comfort, or running a religious establishment)……Most of the people we deal with are dominated by a sense of self, not a sense of God. Insofar as we deal with their primary concern—the counseling, instructing, encouraging—they give us good marks in our jobs as pastors. Whether we deal with God or not, they don’t care over much.
Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
It used to be that people would tell me that “that was a good sermon pastor,” as they walked out of church. “Or that was a great Bible study!” They do it less often now because they know I will often ask, “why? what made it good for you?”
Some are quite able to answer, others, – well what else do you say to a pastor after church?
It gets me to think, what do people remember of the services we share in, what is their take away?
I can only pray it is Jesus. That He is present in thier lives, that He is merciful, that He loves them.
Anything else is worthless..
The Augsburg Confession makes that clear – the comfort to anxiety laden consciences is what is found when people is what the Liturgy (aka the Mass or Worship Service) is about. That is what and how we need to leave people. Aware of their relationship to Jesus, and comforted by it. That was Peterson’s goal, and his struggle as well, as people didn’t always respond to that focus. Still it is what we are called to do!
So look for that comfort as you attend church or Bible Studies, prayer meetings or other small groups. Perceive the presence of Jesus, as you sing, as you pray, as you listen to the word read and preached, and as you receive Christ’s body and blood in Communion.
And know, He is with you!
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), 139–140.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 56.
The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David! Take pity on me!”
40 So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” “Sir,” he answered, “I want to see again.” Luke 18:39-41 GNT
Jesus came preaching the forgiveness of sins in God’s name and we killed him for it. How can it be said that we did it? We were not there. It is important for the proclamation to encompass this because the universal claim of the cross to be for us all depends on it.
If we are willing to add the appeals from the book of Revelation to the weight of the other Scriptures, we discover God saying to us that the earth on which we live is not self-explanatory and certainly not self-sufficient.
If we bully people into talking on our terms, if we manipulate them into responding to our agenda, we do not take them seriously where they are in the ordinary and the everyday.
Nor are we likely to become aware of the tiny shoots of green grace that the Lord is allowing to grow in the back yards of their lives. If we avoid small talk, we abandon the very field in which we have been assigned to work.
Last night I went to a concert in town. The band, Chicago, had three original members from the founding of the group in 1967, when I was 2 years old.
I expected to see a lot of people ten to twenty years older than me. Sure enough, a little more than half the crowd fit that demographic. A few more where my age, from the height of Chicago’s popularity, but a significant amount were younger, even much younger. The concert has been sold out for a while as well. During the second set, the band announced that they were doing some old favorites from the 1980’s, and the place went ballistic. People were dancing, singing, going crazy in the aisles. Young, old, and the young, digging the music, the beat, the atmosphere!
It got me to think about the theories I have been hearing for years about church services, how they need to be planned for certain demographics. Too often we project our fear of not being respected by others of different ages? They won’t get us, because we don’t think we have much in common with them.
Yet in this midst of a rock concert, there was no thought to age. or culture. There was enjoyment of the moment. There were hearts touched by the lyrics and the music. What communicated in the 70’s and 80’s communicates still.
So why doesn’t the gospel? Why doesn’t the liturgy?
Perhaps it is not with those who haven’t come yet.
Perhaps it is more about us, and our fears and anxieties.
We find a church that does something we treasure, that meets us just as Jesus met the blind man. We may not always understand the impact of the cross on our life, but it is always there. As we are taught about it, as we confess it with our singing and prayers, we celebrate it as we eat His body and drink His blood. We should be in the moment just as much as when we are singing “Saturday in the park” with 2,000 people.
It is that moment that we have to share. It is that moment that we can invite them into, much as we would invite them to a concert.
It doesn’t matter it if is worship led with guitars, or organs, whether the pastor is wearing shorts and polos or a chausable. You may change some – but don’t do it till you know you will recognize Christ in the moment. You find that naturally, not forcing it, and you help them find it normally, naturally. That is something most evangelism materials don’t tell you…
It matters if, in the moment, you recognize the presence of God caring for you.
Your heart and soul recognize it, at a far deeper level than a concert.
The Lord is with you… and desires to be with them.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 122. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. 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.
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
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), 70.
† Iesou, Huios, Soter †
Deacon Charles Zetzman from the Concordia was laid to rest on September 17. Despite battling type 1 Diabetes for over 70 years and dementia for at least 15, he went through the deacon program in order to help his crazy pastor. This was while he was fighting health problems and dementia. Miraculously, he could handle the courses… struggled with them, but he handled them
He became a spectacular practical theologian; he boiled down everything to two simple thoughts. He thought if we “got these things” we would find that God has and is restoring, supporting, and strengthening you, as our key verse said He would.
Sing Chuck’s first profound theological statement with me.
“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”
Hey, wait, you guys kept going—and those words weren’t on the slide! Sigh… just like Monday night—where you all were on autopilot during confession and absolution! I did that, by the way—so you would think through the rest of the service before assuming what would be said!
Chuck’s second theological statement, which would change the world, is on the next slide.
The Lord is with you!
Just curious. Did anyone notice the difference between my version?
Instead of the Lord BE with you, I have there the LORD Is with you and periods are replaced with proper exclamation points! Think on that later.
For Chuck, Jesus is the answer. Simple
Jesus loved Chuck and spent a lot of time with Chuck.
He got that—through all the darkness of dementia, through all the challenges… and he wanted to help me tell others about it.
I want you to this to these words from Tozer,
In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…
Those words come from 1986, but are still relevant today.
Sorry guys, our worship isn’t doing what its supposed to do…
WORSHIP MUST REVEAL CHRIST’S PRESENCE!
And if we are going to care for the souls of our church, then we must change how we do what we do–we have to help our people to realize that they live in the presence of God.
Helping them experience the loving presence of God begins on Sunday morning, or Saturday night when your people gather to hear you…and maybe sing some songs or listen to them, and maybe suffer through the liturgy.
You want to make their lives easier, reveal Jesus to them in those 75 minutes. You have a portion of their attention, and realize everything you do in that service reveals Jesus in an incarnation way in your life first, and then you can help them see Him in theirs
Worship needs to reveal this – every part of it.
I don’t care if you wear robes and do DS4 from LSB or page 15 from TLH ( I might have a problem if you do page 5 – your people need the Lord’s Supper!) I don’t care if you do contemporary music wrapped around baptism, absolution, the reading of the Word and the Lord’s Supper.
What I care about is this – did you realize that every part of worship is a revelation of the presence of Jesus. Everything!
Those words you say… you need to know they reveal Christ, His presence and His love.
In the stead and by the command – you are forgiven!
The Lord is with you!
Some of you may notice I replaced the Period there with an exclamation point, If you read that… blah… proclaim it!
Your reading of the gospel
The Lord is with you!
The peace of the Lord is with you!
What have you said to them?
That’s why I moved the Lord’s prayer in our service – to end the general prayer with it. With words like these:
And for all the things we don’t know how to pray for, for those things that burden us, stress us out, and keep us awake all night; for the prayers where we don’t even have the words to say, hear those prayers as we pray as the Lord Jesus taught us…
How does that change how we say/sing the Lord’s prayer?
What about the things you do?
For example–what is in your hand on Sunday mornings?
Is it just water, or bread and wine? Or “just” the theological body and blood.
Or is it really Christ, broken and given for them?
It all reveals Jesus, and therefore, it needs to be savored and said with the weight and joy of what you are giving them! Believe those words you are saying, be confident in what you are doing and the sacraments you administer!
If the church is to revive—it must be because we realize our lives are lived on ground as holy as that Moses stood upon.
By the way, this has always been the purpose of every part of the Liturgy – going back to the patristic age, through Luther’s reformation, an Walther’s time. The purpose after all – of all worship is to teach people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.
Every era of the church saw worship as this, if you don’t believe me – there is a dissertation about Liturgical Worship and Soul Care presently be written with 180 quotes out of those time periods to this very concept of worship being the foundation of soul care.
Quotes like this:
“The people are also reminded about the dignity and use of the sacrament—how it offers great consolation to anxious consciences—so that they may learn to believe in God and expect and ask for all that is good from God.” (article XXIV, Augsburg Confession
Change consolation to comfort.
But we’ve forgotten it – and we’ve forgotten the tie between what we do on Sunday morning, and what happens at the dying person’s bedside, or with the couple working toward divorce, or the youth struggling with the gender issues, or the person wanting to grow in their faith – and they are looking for somewhere to “start?”
Dr. Meier started this week by stating that he had some dissonance with the Easter Acclimation You know it well
Alleluia! He is Risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let me share what the real Concordia adds to this liturgical gem.
Alleluia! He is Risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
WE are risen indeed! Alleluia!
The Lord, who reigns over the world and the church, has drawn us into His death, and we have been raised with Him.
That fact is where all healing of the soul begins, it nurtured as we pour water over heads, as we proclaim forgiveness
Since we are talking about Petrine literature – I would say this – The reason, the apologia that you have hope, the reason you are supposed to be always ready to share is this…
The Lord is with you!
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Col 2:13–14. NLT2
25 Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success. 26 Bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Psalm 118:25-28 (NLT2)
What should happen in genuine conversion? What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?
There ought to be that real and genuine cry of pain. That is why I do not like the kind of evangelism that tries to invite people into the fellowship of God by signing a card.
There should be a birth from above and within. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God. Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be.
First of all, it is true that not only should Christians regard and recognize as sin the actual violation of God’s commandments in their deeds, but they should also perceive and recognize that the horrible, dreadful, inherited disease corrupting their entire nature is above all actual sin and indeed is the “chief sin.”  It is the root and fountainhead of all actual sins.
Paul exhorts us to take for granted that we have already received as a pure gift in baptism all that we need in order to attain salvation by virtue of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. We have only to enter by faith into the kingdom that has already been established in the depth of our spirit and take possession of it. Thus, if we truly give ourselves to God in faith and open our minds and hearts to him, we may begin to find him in the silence of the prayer of faith very quickly
I just received several ads for several events on worship. Some of these were invites from friends, somewhere corporate ads for conferences, with nationally renowned speakers. Each was interesting, and if it wasn’t for working on my dissertation, I would probably attend one or two of these events, probably the ones that are more small group dialogue based, and see worship as more than singing.
As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, I was struck by an old thought.
The power of worship is not based on the music, or how a liturgy is delivered.
The power of worship is a reaction to the power of God, which delivers us from the bondage of sin!
The more we feel the pain caused by our sin, and the “violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God, the more His merciful healing touch means to us. The more that means to us, the more worship is generated in our soul. This is the point of Tozer, but it is also seen in the quote from the Lutheran Confessions, seen in blue. There we see the incredible debilitating power of original sin, for in that would all other sins are created.
Sin is brutal, and though we know in our minds the cause and the cure, to deal with it is hard. It is painful, and to be honest, we would rather treat the guilt and shame as if it were grief. We will deny we sinned, or that it is as brutally painful as it is. We will try to negotiate or bargain away the pain it causes. We will get angry, at God, at others, and finally, honestly, at ourselves. Our inability to do anything about it can cause severe depression, and ultimately, we have to options to accept.
That we are sinners, so we might as well enjoy it.
Or that God loves us so passionately, so completely, so intimately that He took on that sin, removed it, and brings us into His Kingdom.
All that weight of guilt and shame is gone. The wounds of our sin and the world’s unrighteousness – healed completely! What was broken in our lives is restored completely! Better than the original! What was corruptible is incorruptible, what was mortal, now is immortal!
This is the masterpiece God has made of our lives,
An amazing masterpiece.
Looking in the mirror, seeing our lives as Jesus does, for this is the joy He looked forward to as He died for you an me… is amazing.
It is worthy of all our thanks, and all our praise.
So the secret to powerful, pure worship… is found when we see ourselves as wretches, but realize God saves wretches like us….and so we cry out to Him.
No other sophisticated, choreographed, orchestration compares to knowing the God who loves us is here.
Lord, help us cry out to You, for only you can heal our sin caused wounds. Only You can restore our brokenness. Only Your mercy and love can change us. Help us see Your hand at work… and then, Father, receive our praise and thanks! AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
“Article 1: Concerning Original Sin. The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, 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), 533.
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 231.