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Posts Tagged ‘mission’

The way the Church is built and builds has been a disputed topic for some time now. The many and sundry blueprints for the Church at corporate (district and synodical offices) have been promulgated to “grow the church”, e.g. church growth.  There are as many ‘new’ ideas to ‘grow the Church’ put forward as there are many fears that we are not growing and we are going to die.   This ‘new’ plan will save the Church!  Wrong.  The Church is saved and is being saved by the One Who alone finally builds His Church: ” And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16: 18)  Anything else is the beginning of sheer unbelief, just as Peter wanted to prevent the Lord from the Cross.

The Scriptures contain the building plans, building materials and the identity of the builders for the Church:

Builders :  The Lord is clear He is the builder of His Church.  The Lord also calls builders, such as the Apostles and then pastors and He calls, instructs and encourages the  builders to use the best materials available.

Building materials: The gold, silver and precious stones of His Word:  the Word of the Bible, Law and Promise, the Word of God in the Sacraments, the Word in prayer, the Word of rebuke and consolation.

Building plans, blueprint: The Scripture is quite clear on the Lord’s blueprint as He He builds His Church:    a Temple formed, reformed and conformed (see  1 Corinthians 6:19,1 Peter 2:5 Romans 8:29, to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:46-48). 

The past two Sundays after the Epiphany the Epistle readings are  1 Corinthians 3:1-9  and 1 Corinthians 3:10-23.

The following passage from 1 Corinthians is quite illustrative of the Lord’s builders, building materials, and blueprint for His Church and I will be exploring this Text with you:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple.

In  verse 15 the translation “skilled” is in Greek, sophia, as “wise”, e.g. as in philosophy, literally “love of wisdom”.  The Apostle clearly identifies the “wisdom” given him:  the wisdom of  the Crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). God’s wisdom is most assuredly not human wisdom.  The Medieval Ages could not have been simply the “dark ages”, as they developed the architectural plan of a sanctuary that proclaims clearly the Cross of Jesus Christ:

The Greek word for “master builder” is the one from which we have our word, “architect”.  Paul, Apollos and many others build. Paul laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth which is the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, not religious experience, human wisdom, man’s plans and the like.  Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the original builders (Israel) and men, cast out, has become the chief cornerstone (cf. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11 Ephesians 2:20).  The Apostle laid this foundation by the only means Christ gave to His Apostles and His apostolic Church:   preaching “Christ and Him crucified”, 1 Corinthians 1:23.  Our preaching is cross-shaped as missionary work and evangelism:  

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)

and

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3: 1)

The Sacraments are likewise cruciform, see  Romans 6:3-5;   1 Corinthians 11:26.  The stones for His Church are not quarried out of granite, but out of Jesus Christ, now “living stones” , see 1 Peter 2:5. Peter (Rock) from Christ, not Christ from Peter.

The two lists of construction materials that the Apostle lays out side by side,

gold, silver, precious stones”

and

“wood, hay and straw” .

Those two contractors’ lists are strikingly different  The first list is obviously more valuable than the second and it is clear from the text, the desirable materials.  Gregory Lockwood in the Concordia Publishing House Commentary on 1 Corinthians notes that the first list were the building materials for the Temple.  It is so obvious in the Apostle’s comparison that the Temple building materials endure because they are non-combustible.  Fire will not burn them but  fire will test everyone’s work.  Further, it is plain to see that the Temple of which St. Paul writes is the Church.  The Greek pronoun “you” is plural, as we say here in the South: y’all.  There is no Church of one, no ‘super-Christians’, but a communion, a “spiritual house” being built  Lockwood comments:

In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

Wood, hay, straw…one match, it’s ablaze and gone.  Let’s say that synodical and district offices are akin to a contractor’s office, then the only task for which they are to oversee is to see that the building materials are the gold, silver and precious stones of His Word and Sacraments of His Church, as outlined in Scripture and the Confessions. The Word endures to eternity and from eternity and in time and space, flesh and bone.  The Word  is not ephemeral like wood, hay and straw of human wisdom, plans, schemes, techniques and tactics.  We point to the Word of promise, not to church programs.  Episcopos, or bishop, the role of district president, literally means “oversight”, not “overlook”. Bishops, pastors and district presidents are not to be designing new blueprints,nor using substandard building materials.

We cannot keep on using substandard building materials as we have done now for decades, quick let’s have a ministry, get some funding and 5 piece band.  The Lord builds His house, not a coffee house, to sell people a little Christ with their capuccino.   We do not package and sell the Word of God, peddling it, then the Word becomes  a commodity and the Lord’s House becomes  a whore house:

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.(2 Corinthians 2: 17)

We are not messing around with a weekend carpentry job finishing the basement.  One reason to use easier materials is that the “job gets done” and many a weekend carpenter has worked with wood and that’s fine for finishing a basement.  Using the inferior “plans of mice and men”, of human wisdom and that work will not last.  Building by using substandard materials and they tend to collapse and people die.    Yet, it makes pastors feel useful and the job is done quickly.   The basement, the foundation has been laid and it is precious in God’s sight.  The original builders rejected the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  what the Lord is building and which is precious in His sight.  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”  The Law of God is frightening as well it should be. We are using sound building materials, that is “sound doctrine”.

The other aspect of the two groups of building materials is this:  I opine that “gold, silver and precious stones” not only are more costly, but harder to work with than wood, hay and straw.  Gold and silver take time to smelt and burn the dross. Pearls were not cultivated then, but one had to dive into the depths of the ocean to find them. In fact finding one, one sells all he has to buy it.  This triumvirate lasts as the Word of the Lord  endures forever.

Our calling is not to master the public but to make public the Master.  What is the Church to do?  Like seed, cast His Word to all (see St. Matthew 13: 1-23).  Ours is not to figure out how it will work but to trust He is at work in His Word according to His Word.  We are to confess Christ.  

Pastor Bonhoeffer preached it well in 1933, in Berlin, about building the Church and confession Jesus Christ:

…it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

 

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13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

In the 70s, symphony conductor and composer, Leonard Bernstein wrote a kind of an opera/musical called “Mass” which the story of the celebrant of a Roman Catholic Mass and his faith and loss of it, and restoration, told within the parts of the Christian Liturgy. .  The opening is “Simple Song”. Part of the song’s lyric has stuck with me now for years, “Sing like you like to sing; God loves all simple things. For God is the simplest of all” A simple man is a humble man.  Jesus said, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(St. Matthew 11).  God is the humblest of all, compared to the preening of his creation, man.  Man, wanting to be like God, will only say I am humble to impress someone.  Someone wrote, How odd of God to choose the Jews.  Only odd to man who thinks he’s god. He chose a people needing choosing, despite themselves, Israel.  He chose as His first disciples 3 fishermen. He began the Sermon on the Mount with beatitudes with the first Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  His blessing is simple. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,     but the haughty he knows from afar. Psalm 138: 8 And before Sermon on the Mount,  the Lord simply called His first disciples.

One day Carl asked Jesus:
 

He called, the fishermen followed but it is in the Lord’s calling they followed, by His Word.   He baptized, we follow, all His Words from love your enemies to seek ye first the kingdom of God, coming to realize only by staying close to Him as He is to us, we are not straying. Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  His last beatitude before today’s Gospel, Blessed are you when you are persecuted.  The message of His forgiveness will not be received well in self-sufficient, self-made, self-invented world that is Olympic in it’s ambitions. 

You are and you are, the salt of the earth, the light of the world. The Lord loves simple things, after all He created them.  We take salt and light for granted yet without salt and light there would be no life on the earth.  The first thing the Lord created was light.  He created salt to sustain life.   Salt and light are so simple.  You are the salt of the earth, the light the word:  these are plain declarative sentences.  They are not imperatives, You must be the salt of the earth, you must be the light of world.  There is nothing to achieve in our Lord’s declarative statements but everything to receive by faith in His call to us all.  It is you He redeemed to be salt and light and they are meant to be in the earth, here and now. It makes not sense to light a candle and put it under a basket!  Maybe we, as a mission, should not be hidden away here in the Piovano room here in the library. 

 Jesus is describing His Church, His own Body.  Salt is bitter and is so different from that which it preserves, seasons and yes, saves.  Light is so different from darkness so that we can see the way and yes, be saved.  The Apostle Paul really only had one mission strategy:  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, so good that He died alone, shamed, bloody and naked on the cross to save us from even our selves.  So good, He rose again from the dead and gives us His Body and blood, taste and see the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever, as the psalmist prayed. The Cross is so different from the tasteless and dark world. If any pastor or minister in his preaching and sermons does not lead always to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he’s not doing his job.  The apostle Paul said we preach Christ and Him crucified, present tense.  Jesus Christ is the present tense Savior for present tense sinners.   His Word pierces the darkness as to who He saves us to be:  the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  Our righteousness is to exceed that of the Pharisees. And, as Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented on this lesson:  “…the disciple had the advantage over the Pharisee in that his doing of the law is in fact perfect. How is such a thing possible? Because between the disciples and the law stands one who has perfectly fulfilled it, one with whom they live in communion. They are faced not with a law which has never yet been fulfilled, but with one whose demands have already been satisfied.” The righteousness it demands is already there, the righteousness of Jesus which submits to the cross because that is what the law demands.  Jesus Christ was born under it that in Him we have the righteousness that comes by faith, exceeding the law.  He deepens our righteousness into our very hearts and will as we will see next week. 

A few years back I saw an ad for this kind of hand-held olive wood cross with this ad copy, ““Shaped to comfortably fit into the palm of your hand as you pray and meditate, crafted to inspire you with its deep meaning in your faith.” The cross is no talisman. His Cross is not about fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world. Pastors, congregations, have tried so many ways to make the church tasty to attract new members, or maybe consumers.  A comedian once quipped that when he came back to church, in addition to communion, they now have a salad bar.  Trying to be tasty, we become tasteless.  Our calling is not to use the salt but not to lose the savor of His grace, mercy and peace in our lives.  Our good works in our Monday through Saturday life will point not to our selves but to Him, which we won’t even know we are doing pointing to Him who is our beatitude, our righteousness and peace. His Cross is not fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world and we will look different than the world, in Him we point to him, who bore the Cross, we preach Christ and Him crucified, a present-tense Savior for present tense sinners, forgiven.  I conclude with a portion of a sermon preached by Pr. Johann Gerhard:

The Lord  the Master,  dies instead of the servants

In place of the debtors, the Faithful One; 

The Physician dies for the good of the patient;

The Shepherd rescues His sheep,

The King dies for the sins of His subjects;

The Peace-maker for the warriors;

The Creator dies for His creation;

God Himself wins man’s salvation!

What now should the servant, the debtor,

the sick one, the sheep, the nation, the multitude do? What should the creatures, mankind, do?

In love extol his Redeemer!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS

Daniel 3:8-28

Psalm 2

Acts 13:26-33

St. Luke 24:36-49, with comments

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!” ( Rev. Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard, +1637)

36As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 

Comment:  In the Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Pascha), St. John 20: 19-31, the Lord says three times, “Peace to you” to the disciples.  This is a greeting and more than a greeting:  the truth of His once and for all Sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross:  peace with God is made.  Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He has reconciled us to God (Romans 5:9-11). Peace is not a feeling and so it is not accomplished by us between the Lord and us, only by Christ Jesus.  

In both the lesson for this day and the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the Good Shepherd goes in search of His lost sheep after the Crucifixion.  The disciples are doubting, frightened by arrest and execution, trembling, after all “They all forsook Him and fled”Mark 14:50  before the Crucifixion.  Please note, the Lord does not come in judgment, pointing His finger for what they have done but He comes in His peace, seeking His lost sheep.  He does not point at them, He points to His wounds. He finds them…you. See Luke 15!

This lesson continues right after the narrative of the Road to Emmaus.  This is a different time, God’s time in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  “Time cannot separate disciples from their risen Lord or from Easter’s promise of resurrection for them too.  The church  now lives in the eternal Sabbath rest of Easter Sunday.” (Prof. Arthur Just,Commentary on Luke, CPH)

37But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Luther:  “…the disciples…are frightened by Him, and think it  is a spirit.  From these words we learn that it is not a new thing that people may see spirits.  For the Lord himself does not deny that spirits make themselves visible,but rather confirms it by making a distinction between the spirits and Himself.  He says to the disciples, Why are you frightened and thinking such things?”  And so the Lord says:

 39See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 

Comment: The sign in sign language for Jesus is pointing to the print of the nails!

Jesus shows His hands and side in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter as well.  His wounds are connected to His Word and so to them and to us:  “it is I Myself”.   The Greek is emphatic and is literally rendered, “it is I AM myself”.  In a similar fashion the Lord says the same in the I AM passages in John’s Gospel: I am the bread of life, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the light of the world, I am the resurrection and the life, and that is also “I AM” as God is the great I AM, the Word became flesh (John 1:14).   The true God alone has wounds, the wounds of the Cross for us and our salvation.  See the poem, Jesus of the Scars by World War I veteran Edward Shillito. Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith all bled but being not the Incarnate Word they could not bleed for you in love of you for your eternal life.  They can only give precepts, the Lord us His person. 

One of the ways the Gospel is summed up is Fear Not as the Lord asks here, why are your hearts troubled.  Gerhard:

“…we should remember that He allowed His hands and feet to be nailed to the timber-trunk of the cross for our sake.  He let His side be opened up with a spear so that we similarly might be able to peer into His heart to see how it burns with heartfelt love towards us.”

41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate before them.

Gerhard:  

Just as in those days the Lord Christ ate with His disciples as He appeared to them alive, so also when Christ will reveal Himself from heaven, so also will it sequentially occur that He will receive His believing disciples to Himself so that they eat and drink at His Table in His kingdom Lk. 22:30—not earthly and perishable food, but rather the Bread of Heaven, the imperishable food of beholding the Divine, Ps. 17:15-1 will be satiated when I awake in conformity to Your image. Ps. 36:9,10—For by You is the living fountain. They will drink of the rich loving kindness of Your house, and You will give them to drink of voluptuousness [pleasure) as from a river.

 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

Comment:  The pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection is the pattern of the apostolic message He gives to “all nations” for the apostles to proclaim:  “repentance and forgiveness of sins”.  I hear too often in the media about the Church about “what the Church says” and it is usually on morality. With the election of the new pope, this is abundantly clear.  Morality is Biblical but so is the disciples not acting morally courageous:  me, too.   As the Lord said that “the Law of Moses” is also “written about me”.  The 5 books of Moses is also the Gospel, the Lord who frees His people out of the house of bondage.  St. Luke alone tells us that in the Transfiguration Jesus and Moses and Elijah discuss His “departure” (Luke 9:31).  Departure” is the translation of the Greek, exodun, exodus! “The law and prophets” point to Him as He fulfilled perfectly the Law and the Prophets(Matthew 5:17) so that as all of the Scripture points to Him (John 5:39) The Law not only and merely contains our carnal instincts but the Law is spiritual as it shows us our sin and the Gospel proclaims our Savior that we can turn toward Him daily. This is daily living in Baptism.   Luther:  

“(Baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

We can so die and rise because He has.

48 You are witnesses of these things. 49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

Gerhard:  

Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s  command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15, and wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but (He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.

We were widely separated from God by sin, Isa.5. Just as the Lord Christ promised His Apostles the Promise of the Father—that is, He wanted to send them the Holy Spirit and clothe them with Power from on high—so also He proffers to us the comforting promise that He does not want to leave us orphaned or comfortless; instead, He desires to send into our hearts the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in the inner man and comforts us in every anxious doubt.

Beloved in the Lord, we see here yet another revelation of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father sends the Son and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit so that beginning in Jerusalem, the Word of so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:2-4) is preached into which we are baptized. The Holy Trinity is the one God, if you will a “conspiracy”:  literally con, with, “spirare” to breathe, (same root word for breath or  for spirit), literally” to breath together,  breathing as one the Word of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father into a sin-soaked, dark world.  

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!

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“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Because God has done all for us in Christ, faith is nothing. It is holding onto something. It is holding onto Christ for dear life. We must rebuke human reason, which attempts to shame us out of our faith: “Come on, do something really worthwhile! Don’t focus on this nothing of faith. How could God accept nothing? At least show God your commitment to Him by the obedience of your life and your holiness. Most people don’t believe that faith alone saves anyway.” Well, yes. But whom are you going to believe: the erring multitudes or a gracious God who saves us so that we will never perish? We should not follow the crowd, but Christ, who is the shepherd of His little flock (Luke12:32).

This is why the Christian Church can never be identified with mass movements. The idea that “bigger is better” is intellectually and theologically bankrupt nonsense. Christ tells us that it is the little flock, hidden under the shadow of the cross, that inherits the kingdom. In almost every case in the New Testament, little is better not because there is merit in size but because the Lord lifts up those whom the world despises. He makes great through faith the little. In fact, the Church sounds risible when she touts her bigness, her power, and her success. She places herself under the mockery of the world that can always counter the Church’s little bigness with the size of Exxon, the Pentagon, the Pistons, andPittsburgh. She sounds like the youngest child in a large family who is always shouting, “Hey, look at me! Hey, don’t forget about me!” No manner of counting will give us the ability to compete with the world. The Church’s only message is the cross, its shame, and the preaching of the nothing of faith. More than that? Perish the thought. We have a little kingdom, which is great because it is Christ’s flock.

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Proclaiming the Gospel since the year 33

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The televised images of 9/11 are etched on the memories of those who watched the events of that day.  One of the images was  firemen going into the twin towers to fight the fire and save those trapped and lost.

Every disaster has clips of those looking high and low for those in the rubble in hope of life.

In movie “The Rite Stuff” about the original Mercury 7 astronauts who were all either Air Force or Navy jet pilots.  One of wives reminisces about going home to New York City.  Her friends talked about their husbands working on Wall Street, Madison Avenue, “…and places like that” and how it was a dog eat dog world and so cut throat.  “Dog eat dog…cut throat..I wonder…”, the tired pilot’s wife said, “…what they would say if they were told that their husbands had a 1 out 3 chance of not leaving that boardroom alive.”

The NYC firemen were killed in the service of their vocations.  This is  a sure testimony to faithfulness in serving our neighbors in a man’s vocation, to find and save even one who is  perishing. It is humbling.

Jesus spoke about the Kingdom a lot.  One time He said it is like  a shepherd who has 100 sheep and loses one, leaves the 99 upon the mountains in search of the 1 lost sheep.  Against all odds.  A losing proposition. In the parable, we are not told the length of time: a hour, hours…into the dark night?  He finds it!  He brings the lost sheep home upon the shoulders.

So many times we think of the pictures of Jesus carrying lamb on His shoulders.  In the parable, it was not a lamb.  It was a full-grown sheep weighing a few hundred pounds.  Like a firemen carrying a fully grown man out of burning building.  Rejoice! There is more rejoicing in heaven over one who repents than 99 who do not.

Jesus went into the burning building.  No chance of Him coming out of alive. He came to save those who were lost.  He is risen.  In the midst of the Twin Towers the cross above, from beams of the Word Trade Center, was found.  May He always find us.

Our bravery and courage should be like those who firemen:  to search for the lost. We are not yet called to be martyrs.  Our risk might be social discomfort, i.e. shame.  But we are not ashamed:  for He died and rose for you. “Oh, wondrous thought He found me when I sought Him not!”  In this crooked and lost generation, our vocation as His Church is not spiritual self-satisfaction but to be ready to bear the hurting home.  He will.

Let us pray…

Lord Jesus, light of the world, You shine with the brightness of the sun in the darkness of our crooked and twisted generation.  Give us strength to shine as lights in the world as we live out our baptismal life by serving our neighbors with thanksgiving and joy as sacrificial offerings of mercy and love;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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