Pentecost: Divine Resuscitation


Divine Resuscitation
Ezekiel 37:1-12

  IHS

May the Holy Spirit’s Work in Your Life Make You Even More Aware of the Grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Missing Piece

So today, children of the Father, we have a small pop quiz.  It might be tricky, and anyone who fails may be subject to going through confirmation again.

I want you to think of the creed that you just confessed, before singing “my redeemer lives”.   Without reciting it in your mind, or looking it up, here is your one question quiz.

Who is described as “the Lord” in the creed?  ( pause for answers)

Specifically, who is described as “the Lord and giver of Life.”

We may talk of believing in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, but even the Creed talk more of the effect of the Holy Spirit than of the Holy Spirit himself.  We talk of the communion of saints, knowing our sins are forgiven, the resurrection of the Body and life, the life given us by the Spirit, everlasting.

But we often so overlook the role of the Holy Spirit, who has given us life.

So curious how many people need to have a refresher in what they learned in confirmation?

In today’s Old Testament passage, we see a great picture of the work of the Holy Spirit, who is not just the giver of life, but the Lord of Life.  Yeah, the Lord of Life.

We need to understand this, not just as a matter of semantics, but to understand the work that God does in us, to us…. And through us.

The Damage of Sin

If we are to understand this, we need to see the reason that the bones were there in the valley.  The clearest explanation is given by the people who struggled with God,

They are saying, We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished. ”

By finished, Ezekiel is making the comment that they are cut off from God.  Using the Mosaic Law, they are exiled from the people of God. They are acknowledging that they all deserve the treatment that blasphemy earns described well in

13  Then the LORD said to Moses, 14  “Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard the curse to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. 15  Say to the people of Israel: Those who curse their God will be punished for their sin. 16  Anyone who blasphemes the Name of the LORD must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any native-born Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the Name of the LORD must be put to death
. Leviticus 24:13-16 (NLT)

That is what they mean by their nation, their people, being finished.

That is why there is nothing left in the valley, but the dried, withered bones. We aren’t talking about bones like this… but ones so dried out, that they are brittle. There is nothing left, no marrow, no DNA, nothing…

That is what sin does to us, it hollows us, makes us empty, completely eradicates all trace of life, even from our perspective, any trace of God’s presence.

But that is why this son of Man was asked, “can these bones become living people again?”  It is why Jesus came and wandered among those dead in sin, and why His cross and resurrection is that which puts back all that sin destroyed.

it is amazing to contemplate the bones coming back together, the cartilage and muscles crawling back over the skeletons, the flesh being restored.

Even then, forgiven, put back together, made whole, the army of bodies needs something to transform them from death to life.  To use the word found in the creeds – to be made quick, to be brought alive.

They need to be resuscitated.

The Divine Resuscitation

We needed to be resuscitated, to be made to inhale the breath of life, the Holy Spirit.  Even as God breathed into Adam, even as Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said, “receive the Holy Spirit,” We needed to have happened to us what happened on Pentecost.  Hear Ezekiel’s words again… and know this is your promise:

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again

The Spirit to be breathed into us, to bring us back to life, to be the Lord of life and the giver of our life. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms us, that kindles faith and a repentant and transformed life.  It is the Holy Spirit that brings us to proclaim Christ Jesus as our hope, reminding us of all He teaches us.  That brings us together, as a unified body of Christ.

That makes us one, holy, united church that is sent in the world to transform others, even as we have been transformed as the Holy Spirit focuses our lives, our minds, our hearts on Jesus.

Doing this while as invisible, but as tangible and real, as a refreshing breeze that washes over us and gives us life on a day when we are parched and tired, and our faith may be dry.

The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, the Spirit who discerns who has which talents, which gifts, and forms the church, ensuring it has what it needs, to depend on Jesus, to minister to each other, to minister from Cerritos to Georgia to the Sudan and Papua New Guinea.  To reach out to expectant moms in Africa and the people of Bellflower.

The Spirit, who would blow through your life, removing that which isn’t like Jesus, who would see the glory of God, reflect through us, bringing hope to the people around us.

Remember – this is the day when a church of 120 grew into a church of 3000!

May the Spirit so enkindle our hearts, so breathe life into us, that the same thing would happen again!

Didn’t He Already Do That?

You might ask what I mean by the Holy Spirit breathe life into us again.  No, I don’t mean that we are spiritually dead like in the valley of dried bones.  But there are times where we feel like it, where we wonder if our bones if the church (and I don’t mean just Concordia) can be brought back to life in this country.

If you look at the statistics, or just tour empty churches on Sunday morning, you would wonder if the church couldn’t say these same things.  Areas where 50-70 percent of people were once in church on Sunday morning are now where the number is one-tenth the amount.

The church isn’t dead, it cannot be, we haven’t left God’s presence, the work of Christ isn’t in vain. For the Holy Spirit isn’t just the giver of our life, but the Lord of it. Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work, this way,

17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)

And that is a promise to us, in this day, as solid as the promise to bring us to life in Christ…for that is what the Lord of Life does… He makes more and more like Jesus… as we are changed into His image… as we see His glory.  AMEN?   Then realize this, the Lord of Life is with You! AMEN!

In Memory….


Devotional thought of the day:

26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 (TEV)

437    If one of my fellow men had died to save me from death … God died. And I remain indifferent.

On Friday, I “shared” a picture on FB.  It was a picture of men, paratroopers in a World War II airplane.  The right side was the original picture, the left was a picture of men who had served then, but today.  It was an amazing morph, the men in their youth, young, excited, ready to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane. That side of the picture was black and white. Contrasting that picture was the older men, pictured in color, their weary bodies not overloaded with combat uniforms and packs, but ties and blazers, their grey hair covered by berets.

More than other picture I have shared or posted, this picture has been liked and shared by more people than any other picture. Maybe it is because people are realizing that memorial day is about more than barbecues and beaches, that it is ore than the unofficial kick-off to summer.

We remember that some men have given their lives to free others who were mistreated, who were oppressed. Surely that wasn’t the aim of some of them.  Some were more about revenge, or gaining fame.  But many simply fought, bled and died, because that is what they were called to do.

And some lived, and suffer for years for what they’ve seen, or what they’ve had to do. Those who sufferi from Post Traumatic Stress, (those who’s sleep is at best is uneasy because of the memories, the pains, the guilts and shame.

We need to remember these men, for no matter their motivation, they have served, and all have been wounded in their souls…. war creates victims without any rationale. Maybe that is why the picture was shared so many times.  Gratitude on our part, and a desire for those who served to find peace., to be able to face that which they’ve tried to bury, so that they can know peace.

This morning the blue verse above was in my readings.  I was struck by it, because of the timing, because of the context of Memorial Day Weekend.  St. Josemaria is correct  We stand in awe of those who have died or embraced suffering for us. If we know some wh’ve served, we might worry about the demons they didn’t leave on the battlefield, the pains and hurts. We put flowers and flags at their grave sites. We have parades and concerts and flies flags in their honor.

Bow much more should we remember the death of God?  The suffering, the sacrifice that was embraced with full knowledge and pure and holy intent   A sacrifice that not only liberates those who are the victims, but liberates those who were the oppressors, A sacrifice that brings peace that that a war’s end cannot imagine.

A sacrifice that can even bring healing to those who were broken by war…Like my dad, who didn’t die, but one could say that a part of him.  Who struggled to receive the Lord’s Supper, often crying as he faced the love of God, who would give His life, deliberately to assure my dad of God’s love for him, to assure dad of a place in heaven.  I just know the mixture of pain and relief and joy of being loved all was there, as my dad knelt at the rail, and remember Christ’s sacrifice as he shared Christ’s Body and Blood  For a second there was God’s peace, overwhelming everything else.  A peace that now he knows.

We need to remember Christ’s love, first and foremost.  We need to celebrate it, and the freedom and peace it brings.  We need to see it as powerful, as overwhelming as awe-inspiring as those who understand the depths of pain that it relieves.

Pray for those who are serving, those who have served.  That they would know the Prince of Peace, AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1074-1075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The “S” Word, Relationships, and Accepting Love


Featured imageDiscussion Thought of The day:
21  And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (NLT) 

Among experts the question is raised: “Yes, but who actually needs to be converted? Must the fathers yield to the young? Or the young to the fathers?” … It is not a case of one group’s yielding to the other, but of both groups’ yielding to the other by renewing their courage to believe in God. It is only thus that they will learn to accept and understand one another. It is only when hearts have been turned to God that there can arise the courage of togetherness, the confidence in other persons, and so the ability to love them and to endure their otherness.

There are two “s” words that may have come to mind, as you read the title of this blog.

This is about the one that would have been thought far less often, but actually is more controversial.

Yes, this isn’t about sex, it is about submission.

But now that you are here and are disappointed, you might as well stick around and read it.  Because it isn’t just about one relationship you are in, it is about every relationship you are in, and in every one of them, what Paul directs us to do in Ephesians 5:21 is needed.  It’s why the Holy Spirit led him to write those words.

Following verse 21, there are three relationships compared. The first is husbands and wives, and how they must set aside their best interest given the other.  This is not submission to any barbaric thing, but to seek out what is best for each other.  Then there are relationships between husbands and children, and employees and their employers (or back in the day, slaves and masters)

Every relationship, with those who follow God, who are in awe of His love, reaching out with that same love to the person with who they relate.  Every relationship has some form of submission, of setting aside our desires, much as Jesus set aside His divinity, to come down and be with us.

Pope Benedict nails it, when he identifies the key to this being, not in focusing on yielding to the other (a synonym for submission) but instead having and renewing their courage to believe in God. For it is there, in seeing how Christ gave of Himself to save us, to enter into a deep relationship with us, so that He could present us to the Father, that we find the peace and strength to love others.  To love them by having mercy on them, by forgiving them, by seeking their forgiveness.  By reconciling to those for whom reconciliation doesn’t even enter their thoughts.

Allowing them to love you, to care for you, that is at the heart of submission…. whether it be to God or to someone else.

This does require you to see them as God sees them.  Part of this submission is lowering our defenses, letting them in, loving them enough to trust God and let them see us, as we really are, and letting them love us.  For then these relationships transform from being duty-driven and duty bound, to being focused on the love of God that brings us together and causes the relationship to flourish.

Which allows the relationship to endure…. because God is there.

So everyone, out of the reverence, considering the love and mercy of God, seek out and love your neighbor, helping them, caring for them, putting their best interests first.  Have the mind of Christ, for He will never leave nor forsake you.



(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 169). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

In My Search for Meaning, In Our Search for Truth, Have We Lost Our Minds?


Featured imageDiscussion/Devotion Thought of the Day:

2  “Everything is meaningless, says the Teacher,completely meaningless! 3  What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4  Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6  The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7  Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8  Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. Ecclesiastes 1:2-8 (NLT)

Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.  (1)

425    To realize that you love me so much, my God, and yet I haven’t lost my mind!

I am not a natural born philosopher.  Matter of fact, my “favorite” quote on Philosophy sums it up – I may be wise simply because I know I don’t know it all. ( Paraphrased of course)

I once did, well, at least I thought I did know it all.  I knew a lot back then.  No, let me rephrase that, I picked up an retained data, and found uses for it faster than some others. But knowing data is not the same things as having complete knowledge, much less being wise.

Solomon had this problem as well, at least in the early chapters.  For his wisdom and knowledge, recognized by all, still led him into discontent, a sense of failure, a sense of meaninglessness.

In the same place are all philosophers who try and hold the position of judge, as Benedict XVI points out clearly.  Philosophers must be observers of reality, to live in awe of it.  To ponder its depth, not rule over it. Solomon would eventually get there, (tomorrow in my readings perhaps?) to the point where he will define himself by his relationship with God.  But even that is a position of suppliance, of faith, of dependence.

The philosopher who approaches reality without the reverence and humility that Benedict recommends ends up in Solomon’s position, a place where we indeed lose our mind, our psyche, and perhaps, our soul.

I am not saying we are to give up on philosophy, on deep thought, on exploring, with great awe, the existence and meaning of life.  To search out what is real, what is true.  We need to do this, and St. Josemaria gives us the place to start, in realizing the love of God, for us.  That is where philosophy and theology should, no must start. In the depth of a relationship with the God who not only defines reality, but creates it. As St. Paul encourages,

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 166–167). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 1053). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition

Are We Afraid to Be Honest With God? How Honest?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived! You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. Jeremiah 20:7 (TEV)

It’s been one of those years when things that aren’t supposed to happen do happen. When I’ve had to help more people pick up the broken pieces of their life, and plead with God to put them back together.

When I’ve seen other friends, turn their back on God, and choose their way to go, encouraged by those around them. When those entrusted with responsibility become Machiavellian in the work, and then justify it.  I am not just talking about the secular world, I see it in the church as well.

It is almost enough for me to change from being cynical to being a pessimist. It is enough for me to despair, and even go through something akin to depression.

But it is there, almost consumed by darkness, that I remember the brutal honesty of Jeremiah.  His ability to speak honestly with God, even to admit he was ticked at God and felt betrayed by Him, even deceived by Him.

To many people I hear today, acting as if life is perfect as if there is no brokenness as if everyone can achieve everything they want to, simply by only speaking positively. If life was such, why would they need to be encouraged to adjust their attitude, to only speak positively as if the challenges of life were not there?

Jeremiah is speaking positively when he rails against God when the prophet admits he is tired when he admits that he doesn’t like the suffering, the pain, the life he has to live.  He doesn’t hide this stuff, bury it deeply, ignore it and cover it with nice notes of encouragement.

He wrestles with God, like a true son of Jacob; the man renamed Israel

I was blessed to work with a pastor named Robert Schuller a few times.  Let me rephrase, I didn’t work alongside him, but in a series of courses, he taught me a few things about preaching, along with his trusted associates.  He’s known for a positive message, perhaps along with Norman Vincent Peale to be one of the father’s of positive thinking, at least in the Christian realm. One of the bits of confusion is the allegation that he was a name-it, claim-it type guy.  Not so much.  The stories he would tell of people’s encounters with God’s grace always included the challenge God would get them through, the scars that God would use to bless them and others, the pains that resulted in gains.

An attitude that didn’t dismiss the brokenness, but freely admitted it, but also entrusted one’s self to God.  Something that can only be done when we are as honest as Jeremiah was, as we admit out frailty, our pain, our honest feelings, and let our Heavenly Father comfort us.  It is when we are honest, we see how overwhelming His mercy is, how compassionate His love is, as it reaches out and begins to heal us.

I have to admit, I don’t like what God somehow allows.  I tell Him that, sometimes as bluntly as Jeremiah.

but then, eventually, my tantrum subsiding, I realize what Jeremiah does, just a couple of verses later…

9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:9 (TEV)

His message of mercy, His message of love, is that deep.

I can’t shut it even… even when I feel bruised and broken, or when I am tired of trying to help those who are.

for I know His presence, I know His mercy, and I trust in the compassion of our Father, who sent Jesus to die, to make life just and right…. and a blessing.

Cry our, Lord, have mercy!  You will see that He does… in more ways than we can count.

Godspeed!

The Transformation of Easter: Pt VII A Relationship of Unity


The Transformations of Easter

The Change of our Relationship with Each Other

John 17:11b-19

IHS

 May the grace of God so flood your soul with mercy and peace, that you easily realize how many others dwell with you in Christ!

My Struggle with Cynicism

I’ve got a confession to make.

Some of you, for example, Chris and Tom, know that I am somewhat of a cynic.

I wasn’t always, you can ask Kay, but as I’ve ministered in the church, I’ve become more cynical over the years.

Once upon a time I would look at a passage like today’s gospel with great expectation, great hope, great enthusiasm for the day where I would see this unity happen.  Where simply because we preach Christ crucified, unity happens, and the Church throughout the world drops all of the squabbles, all of the politics, all of the guilt and resentment, all of the pride that announces we are right, and they are wrong, and we would gather around the altar and share in the biggest communion service ever seen.

Now I am somewhat of a cynic, because there are days I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, or if it does, it is because we have buried important parts of doctrine.  Things like the death and resurrection of Jesus, or the presence of the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the promises of Jesus, promises made to us in our baptism.

Part of the cynicism comes from being a history geek.  I know the times that unity was a driving force in the church, like in the 2nd great Awakening, or in the time of Gregory VII and even St. Francis of Assissi, and the results always seemed to be more division, or peace through the use of force. I see the other times, when hanging on to the correct teaching of the faith resulted in division, and death.  Even now, I see political games being played in denominations and churches.  I can see a lack of unity, and indeed, a desire for division.

So my cynical side says that such unity, throughout the church isn’t as possible.  Which leads me to the question.  If it is impossible, why did Jesus pray for it, and why didn’t God answer Jesus prayer?

The Standard of Unity

The idea of unity here in John’s gospel, in this incredible prayer, is a high level of unity.  Hear again verse 11:

Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

Unity in the church, among the people of God is described as being united, just as the Father and Jesus are united.  That’s pretty close, so close that we can’t understand it.  For God is three persons, yet completely One.

That is pretty united.  Paul describes the unity of the church this way

10  Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit. 11  Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for God. 12  Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. 13  Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them. 14  … as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don’t curse, bless. 15  Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. 16  Live in harmony with each other…. Romans 12:10-16 (Phillips NT)

So I hear these words, and I hear Jesus prayer for unity, and I feel like the police officer in Les Mis, hopeless in view of the injustice, the division, and the fighting that goes on in Christ’s church, throughout the world.

Were we ready for the Ascension?  Did the Father answer the prayer

On my more cynical days, I wonder if either the Father didn’t hear Jesus prayer, or whether the church isn’t the church.

On my less cynical days, I wonder if the Ascension was a bit premature, that Jesus should have waited 2 or 3 thousand years before returning to the Father.  I mean, if He was here…. We wouldn’t be in this situation, would we?

I mean – we are just God’s kids, and you know what would happen if you leave your kids home alone for a few days…

Because even church leaders can act like a bunch of spoiled kids at times.

Jesus gave Himself… The Memorial Acclimation’s promise

So where is the hope that confronts our sin of disunity, our pride, our inability to love each other?

Go back to Jesus prayer,

Holy Father, you have given me your name;* now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

We find our unity as a result of God protecting us, giving us sanctuary. As He gives us His peace, as He assures us of His presence, of the Holy Spirit’s comfort. We find ourselves relaxing, restful, and trusting Him to maintain it.  For as we know we are safe, we drop our defenses, we forget to be anxious about people betraying or sinning against us, and we reach our in the love of Christ to them.

The is why later He prayers,

17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

We’ve talked about holiness before.  Rather than being perfect or pure, the idea is to be set apart to something.  Jesus asks the Father to make us holy, even as He is holy.  Remember Jesus addressed God as Holy Father?

Here is the truth, God sets himself apart for a relationship. A relationship with us, and Christ makes that relationship possible, by setting Himself aside a sacrifice. His sacrifice on the cross which opens the door for the Father sanctifying us, by giving us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to abide with us.

And unity is the result of this holiness.  For as we enter into a relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we find that we are together in that relationship.

I said before I can be cynical, I neglected to say that in one of those cynical moods, I find hope.  For I realize that what it takes to overcome my cycnicism is the same thing it takes to create unity.  The miracle of the blood of Christ, sacrificed for us, to create the relationship, a relationship described in this new covenant. We can’t find the unity and the peace we need around a negotiation table, or in the vote of a congregation, or a synod.

It has to originate from the baptismal font, where Christ claims us as His own, and from the altar, the feast where we realize the depth of His love for us. That is what has made the difference here in our congregation.  It is what can make the difference in the church at large.

And as I see that unity come to fruition here, I know it can envelop others.  That is why we are sent by Jesus, even as the Father sent Jesus to be our sacrifice. To reach out to them, to invite them into our sanctuary, into our fortress, into the place where God protects us.  Not this building, but this relationship, God and His people, together.

To share that peace which goes beyond all comprehension, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen!

Spirituality, Religion, debates, a serpent on the pole (and other theological nonsense)


Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. 27  Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:26-27 (MSG)

12 In the third place, such traditions have turned out to be a grievous burden to consciences, for it was not possible to keep all the traditions, and yet the people were of the opinion that they were a necessary service of God.
13 Gerson writes that many fell into despair on this account, and some even committed suicide, because they had not heard anything of the consolation of the grace of Christ.
14 We can see in the writings of the summists6 and canonists7 how consciences have been confused, for they undertook to collate the traditions and sought mitigations to relieve consciences,
15 but they were so occupied with such efforts that they neglected all wholesome Christian teachings about more important things, such as faith, consolation in severe trials, and the like.  (1)

384    Confusion. I knew you were unsure of the rightness of your judgment. And, so that you might understand me, I wrote you: “The devil has a very ugly face, and since he’s so smart he won’t risk our seeing his horns. He never makes a direct attack. That’s why he so often comes in the disguise of nobleness and even of spirituality!”  (1)


When I see individuals or groups opposing each other, I often find that they make the same error. Like my favorite illustration of the pessimist and the optimist arguing about the 16 oz container with 8 oz of liquid in it.  They lose their ability to fight when I reveal that the purpose for the glass is not the discussion, but so I may be refreshed through drinking its contents.   (Usually they get upset at me until I remind them that it was my beer they were arguing about.. not their own)

I see this often in debates about religion, and about spirituality.  Often it includes a debate about traditions, whether those traditions are understood or not.  Or whether the traditions belong to the centuries or that traditions someone has created in more modern times… like over the last decade…. or year.

Either way, the debates come about in such a way that they are competitive and miss the meaning.  They may not be debates even, but blogs and video blogs that try and prove their view right. Or that their preferred theologians kick but on less holy and knowledgable folk.

And all it does it leave the writers, and the readers, scrambling to find the next quote, the next arrow to be added to their quiver, the next weapon to back their position.

And int he meantime, we lose sight of Jesus,  We turn away from the conduits of grace, His word, and His sacraments.  We fail to be in awe, for we fail to recognize His presence.  The very presence that our traditions (whether new or ancient) had a part in revealing to us.

My son last night, as we were reading about the destruction of the serpent Moses obediently fashioned, wondered why people would offer sacrifices to it.   He’s noted that God saved them using the bronze serpent; the serpent didn’t save them.  So it was silly to his eight-year-old mind that people would worship a tool rather than the one wielding it.  But how many other things have been like that.  The Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, Gideon’s breastplate, the liturgy, contemporary and traditional music. Even crosses and church buildings, theologians and philosophers and their writings…

All of that stuff can be good, it can also distract us from offering a glass of water in His name.  It can edify us, or it can prevent us from edifying others.  It can consume our time, and while seeming good, it can also become sin, separating us from spending time with God.  It can blind us to what God has commissioned, a life walked with Him, going where He sends us, to reconcile the world back to Him (and therefore to each other).

This is real life, walking humbly with God…. living for others as Christ did.

May all our traditions, all our practices, point us toward Him, and may we see Him, and not the practices.

.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 65–66). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 970-972). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

On Clerical Roadkill


justifiedandsinner:

Because its written by a catholic, the titles are a bit different…. yet the pain and anguish are so much the same among those I know.

Keep your pastors and priests in your prayers, encourage them when and where you can!

Originally posted on Roadkill Rhapsody:

I’ve just realised that I know (or know of) five priests who have left active ministry – of whom two later Died Suddenly, one apostasised, and one disappeared – two priests who, while retaining both faith and vocation, still needed leave for the sake of healing, and four who, while also retaining faith and vocation, left their orders to become diocesan priests, not so much because the diocese called them, but because of the burnout and ill-use they experienced in ordered life.

None of the men were modernists. None of them left their orders or their vocations because they doubted the truths of the faith. At least three of them had supportive bishops (in one case, the bishop was pretty much all that keeps this tally from including a third Sudden Death), and, even in the one case in which a woman contributed to the loss of vocation, the situation…

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The Christian Religion; A Confident, Holy, Healing Walk With God.


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 10  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that Day the heavens will disappear with a shrill noise, the heavenly bodies will burn up and be destroyed, and the earth with everything in it will vanish. 11  Since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, 2 Peter 3:9-11 (TEV)

26 Augustine also reminds us that we would understand the word “faith” in the Scriptures to mean confidence in God, assurance that God is gracious to us, and not merely such a knowledge of historical events as the devil also possesses.

378    Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith. (2)

As I was going through my devotions this morning, there was a simplicity to the various readings I do.  It’s Monday, so a review of the basics seems appropriate.
The definition of faith found in the second quote got my mind moving.  Especially that word “confidence.”  Augustin is correct of course, and the amateur theologian sees the Latin for faith, “fide”, buried right in the middle.  To live life, not just believing in God, but having a relationship so deep, so nurtured by Him, that we trust Him.  To have faith means, we have confidence in His working in every part of our life.

That can only come from knowing God’s desire is not to condemn mankind, but to show us love, to cleanse and heal us from brokenness, to set us apart for a relationship with Him.  We trust Him do what He has promised! We know His heart and desire is to save us, to have us dwell in His peace.  We know His beauty,we know that He loves us, you and I.  Put you nickname there, God loves me.

Amazing!

That is why reading scripture is so essential in my life. Not because pastors and holy folk have to do it but to hear more of God’s heart toward us, to grow in our trust of God.  To know that He makes all things, even pain and suffering, work for good because we love Him, we trust our God and our Heavenly Father.

That is why St Josemaria (and Luther for that matter) could speak of living confidently, even though he knew physical pain, and suffered in many ways.  (his biography is fascinating!) Even though he ministered in the midst of war and famine, in spite of adversity.  Luther as well knew these things, as did those who accompanied him. They, like so many who had and have confidence in God’s love for them, endured and even looked at life optimistically while they endured.

They knew the promise of Romans 8 well, that all things would work out as a blessing, that nothing could separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Not because of intellectually understanding anything, but because they knew God, knew His constant and continual presence, knew the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit, which is unlike anything in the world…..

They had confidence in God.  Knew He would fulfil every promise…from saving us from sin to dying on Cross, to rising from the dead to uniting to us in that journey.

That makes an eternity of difference and affects our lives each day.

Trust in Him, have confidence in His love and greet everything in His life, as an incredible blessing!

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 45). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 960-961). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Transformations of Easter, God changes our Demographics


Featured imageThe Transformations of Easter

The Change to Our Demographics

Acts 10:34-36

IHS

 May the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so heal and transform our lives that we continually hear His desire that all come to the same healing and transformation.  And may we dedicate our lives to this very work!


Whose conversion would leave you “out of your mind”?

Have you ever been so confused that you felt out of place?  That life all of a sudden was so jumbled that you wondered if you were out of your mind?  That life didn’t make all that much sense, that your world seemed to be turning upside-down, inside-out and backward,

You aren’t alone. I’ve had those days myself. Matter of fact, I’ve had more than my share of them!

So did the apostles. Imagine how you would feel if at the next combined service – with two hundred people to feed, we only had 5 filet-o-fishes from McDonald’s, and Jesus said, “No problem, let me pray and then hand out what you’ve got?”

Or the time Jesus was asleep in the middle of the storm, wakes up and tells the sea to be still.   That one left them more afraid of Jesus than the storm.

Think about how things changed that night when Jesus, who they witnessed dying on the cross, just walked into the room and told them to stop being afraid, to stop being anxious. That confused them a bit, don’t you think?

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus transforms everything in our lives, and sometime, okay, most of the time, we aren’t even ready for it.

Like in the story from Acts today, when the Roman soldier and his family, the enemies of Israel are saved.  The word for amazed in our translation is the word existemi – to be displaced, or more bluntly, to be out of your mind.

That’s what happens when God transforms your enemies into your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Yeah, your enemies.  God wants to transform them and welcome them to our family.

Whether that is the ISIS leader, some politician you don’t like, your neighbors whose dog keep you up last night, there is someone whose salvation might confuse you a bit.

You see one of the transformations of Easter is God changing the demographics of His people, to include people of every group on earth.

Including you.

the Challenge of Grace

As we walk through life, we are going to encounter those people who are described with words like enemies, adversaries.  They may seriously threaten us, or they may simply irritate us.

For the most part, the Romans were counted among the former group in Peter’s day.  And the animosity and fear were mutual.  Jews were taught that non-Jews were not people because they weren’t allowed to be people of God.  That isn’t what the Bible taught, but it was so often heard in synagogues that it became part of the religion.

This resulted in a culture of fear, and the oppressive Roman government didn’t help much, nor did the extremists like the zealots, who made every issue a critical one.  Jewish men weren’t supposed to go into the homes of Gentiles, whether, Greek or Roman.

We may not feel this way about a nationality or race of people today, but most of us do have people we find hard to love or accept.  Maybe it is because they are of a different economic class, or because they belong to a different political party. Maybe they are family, these people who you would struggle with, And maybe your own reaction to them causes you to grieve, to be filled with anxiety, to even give up hope for reconciliation and healing.

Maybe we have even been dealing with the brokenness of a relationship so long, we believe it beyond God’s ability to heal?

For the Jewish people, these relationships with Greeks and Romans, even with their Samaritan neighbors, had long since been shattered.  Even though, God had promised Abraham that his descendant would bless all nations, even though David and Isaiah wrote about it, even though Solomon dedicated the Temple to both Jewish and non-Jewish people praying to God there….

The relationships were shattered; there was nothing there but animosity, fear, resentment, division and hatred.  Simply put, they were shattered by sin.

As have our relationships…indeed all relationships… until the hope of Easter transformed our relationships.

Among the things we can “take away” from this passage, it is the hope that realizing how “out of their minds” the Jewish believers were, when they witnessed their natural enemies and adversaries being touched by the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit who they counted on, who they were comforted by, who transformed their world, in a moment healed the broken relationship Cornelius’s family had with God, and therefore healed all the brokenness between them.

It is as radical as if we got a call from the leaders of Isis, to come share God’s love with them, and we ended up baptizing them and their families.

It is as radical as the guy who killed and captured pastors, coming to know Christ’s love, and becoming an incredible missionary,

It is as radical as God saving you, or I.

Making us the body of Christ, the people of God, the friends of Jesus.

As it happens, as God transforms this Roman military commander, and his family and household, there is confusion and joy and a myriad of emotions as they realized that God doesn’t have a list of types of people that are welcome before His throne.

There are people of every nation, every culture, every language, every economic class.  People who grew up worshipping idols, people that grew up knowing of God, but needing to know Him.  All types, all kinds, all ages,….

And those who, when God begins working in them, cause us to pause, to wonder, and then to be beside ourselves with joy!

That is why we don’t lose hope for those we struggle with; that is why we try to live at peace with them, care for them, love them.  That is our hope for dealing with them and seeing reconciliation happen.

Because it can, and it has….

Because of a cross, a burial and a resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God.

Yes, because of that we can all know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

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