Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beloved of God

This summer I had the distinct pleasure of obtaining my first, very own copy of Johann Gerhard's Sacred Meditations (translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler). While I have heard and read many wonderful things about Gerhard and his Lutheran Orthodoxy, I never had the joy before of reading his writing itself. I have found it to be the deep, contemplative, and holy book of meditations on God's faithfulness and love and on the consolations and certainties that the beset sinner has in the assurance of Christ's work for me that I imagined I would find there. Beautiful.

A snippet that I read from Meditation VIII: The Certainty of Our Salvation today moved me to want to write again on this blog, and hopefully resume my former practice of working out my own meditations on the sacred presence and work of the Lord Jesus in all of life, even in the seemingly common bits of life.

Without any further digressions or explanations, here is the motivating excerpt:

Inexpressibly great was the price of our redemption (I Peter 1:18); great and marvelous, then, is the mercy of God in our redemption. It would almost seem to one as if God loves His elect children as dearly as He loves His only-begotten Son; for what we obtain by purchase we certainly esteem of greater value than that which we give in exchange for it. And that He might have adopted sons, God did not spare His own co-essential Son. 
 Gerhard follows a logical conclusion about God's love for us that I have never before considered, and perhaps that is the reason it struck me as so powerful.

That God loves us, his elect children, as dearly as Jesus, his only-begotten Son.

And yet how true it must be, for the Father to give the Son in exchange for us, as a ransom for all mankind.

Gerhard's words bring also to mind God's promise through the prophet Isaiah: a promise to the nation of Israel, a promise to the Israel of faith, that is you and me and all the redeemed:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine... Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, people in exchange for your life. Isaiah 43:1, 4
Not only does the LORD promise to give peoples in exchange for the lives of his chosen ones, He gives the life of His own Son as their ransom. And what a fearful and wonderful privilege, to be purchased at such a costly price.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Some thoughts on vocation

I took a few minutes to read the news today, a beloved practice of mine that I have neglected for far too long. Sifting through The New York Times website, I found the opinion article "A Life Beyond 'Do What You Love'"

It was a refreshing read, to see a lucid articulation of what Lutherans call the Doctrine of Vocation there on the page: doing what is necessary, what is best, what is good for your neighbor, rather than simply what one likes to do.

These are the things that the Lord calls His people to: serving the neighbor, whether its convenient or not, whether it's the thing that one would most like to do.

This idea of vocation may also involve a call to love and serve when it is decidedly inconvenient, even when to the world it looks like lunacy. Like this incredible video I saw recently.

The living God does not ask something that He is unable or unwilling to do, Himself. He is not above doing the necessary thing, like remaining on the cross to serve His people, in spite of taunts and revilings.
"'He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.'" Matthew 27:42

The beautiful, upside-down thing about Christianity is the incredible honor in being asked by the Lord to do "lowly" things.

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:23-25
God grant that I may honor Him and my neighbor today and every day in the vocation He's given me. And if it pleases Him, may He also grant me joy and pleasure in this service.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Long Middle

Today I find myself thinking about being in the "long middle" of things. Right now the Church throughout the world is in the long middle of Lent, we're almost exactly halfway between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

And how is Lent going? How is my penitence? My contrition? My self-examination? Frankly, not as impressive as I hoped it would be at the beginning of this season of penitence, contrition, and self-examination. Somehow, somewhere along the way I got distracted by the fact that the rest of the world, and the demands of vocation continue on as though Lent were not. I find it difficult to focus on slowing myself and my thoughts down in the midst of the bustle of life-- even during Lent-- in order to reflect and meditate on the real state of affairs in my sin-laden heart, and to see which part of me the Lord is working on for my sanctification.

So there's another thing to repent of: imperfect penitence.

In this long middle of Lent, I also find myself thinking about the long middle of Lent in the life of Christ. The long middle of Jesus' 40 days of wilderness fasting; the long middle of Satan's temptations; the long middle of that night when he was seized and shuffled from one part of the Holy City to another, from one kangaroo court to another; the long middle of the Via Dolorosa; the long middle of those agonizing crucified hours. And, for the disciples, the long middle of those days in the tomb when all was silent and all hope seemed lost.

And now for the Bride of Christ, the long middle of life as we continue to await His reappearing and long for the wedding banquet to begin.

Perhaps the Lord is teaching me patience (one virtue that I am particularly lacking), teaching me to wait. The Lord is indeed not slow in keeping his promise, and perhaps He is teaching me to wait on Him as He takes His time in teaching me penitence and contrition and self-examination. And as He sanctifies me while I wait in the long middle for Him.

May God grant it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How is the role deaconess found in the Triumphal Entry?

This morning, my dear husband and I read Matthew 21 (The Triumphal Entry/ "Palm Sunday") in our devotion time. This carried me back to Dec. 1, the first Sunday in Advent, and my deaconess commissioning and installation. Matthew 21:1-11 was the text for Pr. Jonathan Mumme's sermon that morning. He made a beautiful, humorous, and humbling case for how a deaconess is like a donkey in this story. 

Hosannah to the Lord! For He fulfills God's word.

Matthew's account of Palm Sunday is the only one that tells of two donkeys: the unbroken colt and the other one. The Lord rode on the colt, the one on which no one had ever sat. The other donkey-- the auxiliary donkey-- was the one which bore burdens on behalf of the colt, that the colt might be reserved for bearing the Lord. 

The deaconess is like an auxiliary donkey: she bears burdens and performs many tasks so that the pastor, like the colt, might bear the Lord, and bring Him to the people. Both animals are beasts of burden and neither receive glory for themselves, but their task is a glorious one. For the first, it is to bear the Lord. For the other, it is to facilitate the bearing of the Lord. 

What a blessing it is, then, to be in the role of auxiliary donkey. At times this calling, as Pr. Mumme assured me, will be work, a heavy struggle. After all, donkeys are beasts of burden, and an auxiliary donkey certainly is tasked with weighty loads. The blessing is in the knowledge that this work, this role, is one which enables the Lord's other servants to focus on the primary need of bringing Christ Jesus where He means to go. What more honorable role is there than serving so that the Lord's work is done! As a deaconess, may I be a joyful burden-bearer, and devoid of that other trait for which donkeys are so well known: intransigence and stubbornness. God grant it!