22. Security Guard Basics: Active Shooter

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What I have written here should only be seen as a seed for thought, I strongly encourage everyone to contact security professionals for more information and insight on this subject.
When someone has a hand gun or a rifle and has begun to shoot at objects and individuals, either randomly or targeted, it is called an active shooter incident and requires all first responders to be at their highest level of professionalism. Because of the damage a gun can inflict, the needs of the survivors, and the grief felt by family, friends, and first responders an active shooter incident is also one of the most traumatic incidents that a first responder will experience. An active shooter incident requires team work, with everyone contributing to the conclusion of the incident.
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ALERTS: I remember talking with one of my instructors of the Spokane COPS training program, he said this about preparations for an active shooter incident, at the beginning of the incident an alert should be sent to everyone involved and this alert should be silent or natural to the environment so as to not draw the attention of the shooter.
But which businesses need such an alert? This is a good question and I would advise all businesses to consult with a security expert and get their advice on alerts. If you are advised to develop an alert, do not hesitate in doing so and practice it like you would a fire drill. Unfortunately, like a fire, you never know when an active shooter will visit and so you should be prepared, both in your protocol and with your mind. This is a sad, but very real part of our world today.
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RUN: During an active shooter incident avoiding and running away from the shooter is priority one. If no one is there, then no one can be shot.
This requires knowledge of every possible means of safely existing a building. As a simple rule, fire exists are good because they are designed to get people quickly out of a building. When you see a shooter or get an alert you should immediately go to the assigned exists for an activate shooter incident. Do not look for personal belongings, do not search for a friend, do not use a hand held devise, just leave as quickly and quietly as you can.
Like in fire drills, after existing the building having an assigned place to meet allows everyone to be accounted without confusion. This place should be identified in the exit plan.
Once you leave the building you might be confronted by a law enforcement officer. Do not be surprised or even upset if he/she tells you to keep your arms up and your hands visible, he/she is acting with an abundance of caution, because there have been shooters who have attempted to escape by blending in to the crowd leaving the building.
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HIDE: If you cannot escape the building during an active shooter incident, then you should gather with others in the building or on the same floor in a room identified for this purpose. This is often referred to as sheltering in place. You should turn off the lights and if possible any electronic devices. Cell phones should be in a muted format or turned off. Barricade the door and if possible lock it. Make every attempt at keeping low to the ground and stay away from windows. Use an appropriate object as a barrier and remain behind it. Stay quiet and control your emotions. If you have a security guard in the room, let him/her make the decisions regarding safety. Do not leave this room until you have made actual contact with law enforcement.
A Safer Room. There should be offices and/or side rooms that appear to be typical and normal in every way, but in reality are rooms that have been identified as “safer rooms” for those who cannot escape the building during an active shooter incident. These are not safe rooms, because no room is safe when confronted by a well-armed individual. But these rooms are safer than the others in the building. These rooms should have only one door with a bolt lock, the door and frame should of industrial grade and strength, it should have furniture that can either stop or slow down bullets, and items that can be easily used as barricades for the door. There should also be a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit in this room.
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FIGHT: This is a “if all else fails” option. If you cannot avoid and flee from the shooter and all attempts at hiding have failed, then fight becomes the option by default.
However, let me be very clear, because of the danger and potential loss of life, security guards should avoid this kind of confrontation whenever possible, because it can only happen if they are close enough to the shooter to engage in hand-to-hand combat.
This kind of combat requires a high skill level and should be avoided by anyone without this training. Simply put, if you “think” you can do it, you cannot. Because it is a form of training that becomes instinctive, a natural reaction. Therefore, if a security guard does not have hand-to-hand combat training, they realistically have only two option, fleeing and hiding.
To enhance their skill level, I would encourage all private security guards to receive Krav Maga self-defense training and maintain this level of training throughout their career as a security officer. Unfortunately, many of the instructors who provide Krav Maga training charge a rate that is prohibitive to many security guards, who only earn a basic hourly wage.
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Written by Dave Pflueger July 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is a former Correctional Chaplain of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and certified for mental health peer counseling.

21. Thoughts on Natural Supports

The greatest barrier to employment and an enriched life for those who have a family member who are developmentally and/or psychologically disable is no natural supports. What are natural supports? First of all, we must remember there are two models for services, the Recovery Models and the Clinical (professional) Models. Natural supports have a long and established history in the Recovery Models. Typically, natural supports are relationships and connections that occur in everyday life. They typically involve the extended family members, faith communities, friends, work, and other acquaintances. Natural supports are a network that provides services to those who have disabilities and impairments. In many natural support networks, the primary role of professionals is to provide medical and counseling services, they generally do not provide support services and programs. These are provided by an extended natural support network.
Natural support systems are basically a return to the family structures before our modern era and faith communities existed as collectives that provided a variety of support services.

The idea of natural supports being the primary means of support has been on the table for a long time now, but has received lots of resistance and for a variety of reasons. Faith communities are resisting because of the behavioral health issues often associated with disabilities, they want to become places that are safe and removed from challenging behavior. The anti-domestic violence community has deep reservations about the disabled in family homes and neighborhoods, because they are opposed to aggressive behavioral symptoms. Families are resisting the idea of becoming care givers again, many have delegated care giving to professionals and programs. Social organizations like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club are resisting because of liability concerns.

Because of the below market reimbursement Medicaid has only a small market and state resources for the disabled and impaired is limited, therefore the dependency on natural supports by government agencies and their case workers will continue.
While states want natural support networks to provide a meaningful life for the disabled, the private sector is largely unaware of this. While state and private social and health programs know about the desire by the states for natural supports, many other parts of American society have not received the message and there are many reasons why the word is not getting out into a larger audience. Because of the ongoing reduction in government funding, the states are going to use recovery based resources, but many in society prefer to use professional services.

Developing and maintaining a natural support network for those who live on the higher functioning levels of their condition and can keep their condition stable is not a problem. However, those who are moderate and low functioning face a variety of challenges.
One of the most familiar challenges comes when the mental health of an individual becomes seriously unstable he/she goes into residential care for 10 to 14 days and stabilized. Once they are stabilized they are released back into the community, without a natural support network the road towards destabilization starts all over again.
One might think that at some point the state would open the purse strings and provide for the development of more resources for moderate and low functioning individuals, but this is not going to happen. It can be very overwhelming challenge to develop natural supports for them.

Over the last few years I have walked the streets and have seen the growing number of high and low functioning individuals with developmental and psychological disabilities living under highway bridges and in abandoned buildings because they have no place to call home and no natural support network. So I think the time has come to make some serious decisions about how the disabled are cared for and supported.

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Written by Dave Pflueger May 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is a former Correctional Chaplain of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and certified for mental health peer counseling.

20. Why Security Guards Do Not Pursue Shoplifters

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One of the most heart wrenching things a security guard can hear from a store employee is, stop that man, he is stealing from the store. Why? When there is only one security guard, which is often the norm, they must follow wisdom and not an immediate sense of justice. From all appearances it sounds reasonable, after all that is what security guards are there to do, protect store property from being removed from a store without payment first. But this is the commonly accepted appearance of a security guard and not the reality of the circumstances.

The circumstances that surround shoplifting today is very different from the 1950’s, when shoplifting was done by bored kids looking for something to do or by a very poor mother looking to give her hungry child an apple. The shoplifter of today is more likely to have a chemical addiction, associated with organized street gangs, or their mental health may be compromised by a psychological condition, all of which are potentially very dangerous. While a commissioned police officer has the training and immediate resources to confront individuals with a chemical dependency issues or those involved with street gangs, the typical security guard does not.

Again, in appearances the shoplifter may look like the average person, but when confronted by an authority figure like a uniformed security guard, a person with a chemical addiction or a mental health condition can become defensive and combative, because the uniformed individual is perceived as someone who will prevent them from supporting their habit or take away something they currently cherish.  Their altered minds to not allow them to follow reason and common sense, and when you find yourself in a potentially physical confrontation with them it is very dangerous on so many different levels.

Every security guard has been trained on the realities of one-on-one confrontation with the shoplifter of today and what can happen if they attempt a citizen’s arrest under a Merchant Statute. They know if they are alone this can be a dangerous and life-threating event.  Therefore, when you see a security guard is not pursuing a shoplifter, it is not because they do not what to make an arrest, it is because they have chosen wisdom rather than an immediate sense of justice. The security guard would rather have the store security cameras and their written report be another chapter in that criminal’s history, then face a lengthy stay in a hospital or worse. In the security guard community this is called, being a good witness.

Written by Dave Pflueger in May 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is a former Correctional Chaplain of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and certified for mental health peer counseling.

19. A Reflection on Liturgy

Holy Spirit (1)

The Introduction

Send out your Light and your Truth, let them lead us. Let them bring us to your holy hill, and to your tabernacle. Then we will go to the altar of God, to God our exceeding joy. Psalm 43:3-4

Give to LORD, the glory due to his name. Bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship LORD in the beauty of holiness. Psalm 96:8-9

From a book by Johannes H. Emminghaus called the “The Eucharist” we receive this gem concerning the Jewish Passover celebration, “The festival itself was already, even before Moses, a nomadic celebration connected with the “shifting of pastures.” In a ritual shepherds’ meal, one of the new lambs was sacrificed, roasted on the fire, and eaten …. The original character of a nomadic meal, in contrast to the customs of hunters and farmers, is thus deliberately preserved [in the Jewish Passover] … Unleavened flat bread of the nomads was much older than the customary leavened bread of farmers, which was baked in ovens.”

Within this light we once again see that nothing is new, just reformatted to fit the need of whoever was borrowing it and this reformatted shepherd’s ritual has served the Jewish community for many centuries now – with very little change. The focus of the Jewish Passover is freedom from bondage, enslavement, and injustice.

When the Christians were removed from the Jewish synagogues, they simply did what their forefathers did, reformed the style of worship. In all likelihood their worship had the appearance of the style of worship found in a synagogue with a community meal attach to the end of it. For both Jewish and Gentile Christians worship was a celebration that was a time for the people to gather for reflection, guidance from the Scriptures, and the celebration of the sacred mystery of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit of Christ in the bread and wine.

First Point: Development through the Years

As the years passed, the different Christian communities evolved and so did their worship. In the Latin speaking communities worship was a Roman “work of the people (Mass)” and celebrated with reverence. From early on the Roman community had a preference for simplicity of worship, as seen in the works of Justin Martyr and Hippolytus. However, as the years turned into centuries, different cultures and communities would add their own ideas to the Roman Mass. With these additions, the Roman Mass also received new names to reflect the additions. Such as the Ambrosian liturgy, the Gallic liturgy, and the Frankish liturgy to name a few. By the Middle Ages there was one Roman Church, but it had many different liturgical expressions of the same Mass.

In time, these expressions evolved into a complex style of worship that for the most part excluded the participation of the congregation. By the time the Reformation hit the Roman Church, the liturgical experience had all the appearance of a theatrical program, and all one had to do is show-up on Sunday for the next performance.

Under Pope Pius, V the Tridentine Mass of 1570 was developed. While it did little for incorporating the congregation into the Mass, it did go a long way in giving the Roman Church a common universal form of worship. This meant that an individual could go into any given Roman parish in any given country and experience the same liturgy spoken or sung in the Latin language.

Now let us turn our attention the revised Mass of 1969. This Mass was conceived during the second Vatican Council. I believe this revised form of worship has done three major things: it has returned the Roman liturgy to a simple and dignified form of worship, it has incorporated the entire congregation into the celebration of the liturgy, and it has embrace both the language and customs of the local congregation. So in many ways this revised Mass is not necessarily new, but a return to a much order style of Roman Catholic worship.

The Second Point: The Liturgy of the Word

From the Mass: Opening Prayer, First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Alleluia Song or Gospel Acclamation, Gospel Responsorial, Gospel Lesson, Homily, Profession of Faith, Prayers of the Faithful or Special Rite

The Eastern liturgies do not begin with a confessional, but it is very common for liturgies of the West to have a confessional in the entrance liturgy. After the entrance liturgy the Mass continues with the section called the Liturgy of the Word. This part of the liturgy closely resembles the Jewish synagogue worship and its primary purpose is the instruction of the congregation. Through the appointed Scripture readings and the homily (sermon) the congregation receives instruction on living a Christian life.

After being instructed in the Christian faith, the congregations affirm their faith through a Creed, like the Apostles’ Creed, and offer their intercessory prayers. While reciting a creed is nothing new, the intercessory prayers are something new for the modern Christian. What was ancient is new again, the collective prayers of the gathered assembly are offered during the Mass. For over a thousand years the intercessory prayers of the entire community had been removed from the gathered assembly and neatly inserted into parts of the Eucharist Prayer. The liturgical reforms of the second Vatican Council brought these prayers from the altar to the pews and by doing so restored an ancient practice.

LORD, your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Luke 11:28

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68

Teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord. Acts 15:35

We have looked upon, and our hands have touched, the Word of Life. 1 John 1:1

His name is called The Word of God. Revelation 19:13

The Third Point: The Mystery of the Bread and Wine

From the Mass: Preface Dialogue, Preface Prayer, Holy, Holy, Holy Song (Sanctus), Eucharistic Prayer, Doxology, Great Amen Song, Lord’s Prayer

God takes away the first sacrifice that he may establish the second. By which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:9

Before beginning my presentation, I will note that there is diversity among Christians on “how” the manifestation of Jesus the Word happens. Most would agree that a transformation of some kind takes place, but they have tendencies of disagreeing on many of the key points of the “becoming.” For me personally, I favor the position of the Eastern Orthodox Church. They teach that this a is a great mystery that is beyond human understanding, it is enough for humankind to known that Jesus took bread and said this “is” my Body and then he took the chalice and said this “is” my Blood. And, through a miracle that is beyond human wisdom Jesus comes into the midst of the faithful, as he promised when he said, when two are more gathered in my name I will be in their midst.

Now on to the subject matter. The Byzantine Church Fathers remind us that the death of Christ on the cross was not meant to satisfy some sort of divine justice, rather it was to defeat death. The Body and Blood of Jesus has defeated death and today gives us spiritual health and life.

From a review of the worship manuals from Justin Martyr, Hippolytus and others we can see that this memorial celebration of Jesus was simple and dignified, a style of Christian worship that would become known as Roman. The book Apostolic Tradition written by the Hippolytus around 225 A.D. we have one of the earliest recordings of a Roman Eucharistic Prayer. To this day the Eucharistic Prayer recorded by Hippolytus serves as the basic blueprint for all Eucharistic Prayers.

The Bread of the Presence and the Cup of Salvation is without question the bread and wine that serve as the hosts for the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ among all humanity. As the hosts they are interwoven with the Spirit of Christ and they are the source of spiritual strength and the Holy Food for the eternal soul. The entire body of Christ (blood, words, body, and spirit) are a reminder of the depth and greatness of the love of God to each and every one of us. Therefore, we should never forget that the mystery of the Body and Blood of Jesus is a sacred act of love and a sign of unity. An Easter meal in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and the soul is nourished.

I once was asked, is the presence of Christ in the bread an idea the Christians created? I pointed out to the individual that Holy Bread as the host for the Presence of God was an ancient Jews practice that Jesus and his disciple knew very well. Before walking away, I gave the individual something else to further think about. I said, the third cup of wine of the Passover is the cup of redemption, which reminds us of the shedding blood of an innocent Lamb which brought our redemption. Who is the innocent Lamb of God?

You shall set upon the table the Bread of Presence before me always. Exodus 25:30

The priest gave him holy bread: for there was no other bread there but the Bread of the Presence; that was taken from before LORD. 1st Samuel 21:6

For the life of the body is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Leviticus 17:11

We shall take the Cup of Salvation, and call on the name of LORD. Psalm 116:13

Daily bread and wine, these are the labor of human hands and the offerings of the faithful assembly gathered to worship the Almighty God. These are also the primary forms of substance for those of poverty throughout the world. In fellowship with the poor and the heavenly company, the Holy Spirit of Christ has chosen these simple and common elements to serve as its hosts when it comes upon humanity. These everyday items become the dwelling place for the Spirit of God, a visual means to offer general devotion, and the renewal of the souls of the faithful. Therefore, in solidarity and of great love for humankind the Holy Spirit of Christ comes to us and dwells within the most common everyday items, so that we may honor God and receive spiritual enrichment.

The Conclusion

The first time the Jesus came to us was through the Holy Spirit and the womb of Mary. Other than Mary, the humble servant, humanity played no role in this manifestation of God. Today the Holy Spirit of Christ comes to us through a human assembly offering their invitation and the reverence of a humble presbyter.

The Roman work of the people is a celebration of worship and praise. It is a labor of love by an assembly of Christians who want to offer their devotion to the Living God. The Roman work of the people is also an ancient form of worship that goes back to the early Christian communities. In closing, I encourage all those who want to study Christian worship to read and research the history of the Roman work of the people.

== Written by Dave Pflueger February 2, 2009 © copyrighted by Pflueger

+ + AN OLD CATHOLIC EUCHARISTIC PRAYER + +

The Priest: Therefore, most merciful Father, we humbly ask of You and request of You through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, that You would grant to accept and bless these gifts, these presents, these holy and pure Sacrifices which, in the first place we offer You for Your Holy Catholic Church, to which grant it peace as also to preserve, unite, and govern it, throughout the world, together with Your servant __ (name of the individual who leads the denomination ) __ , our __ (formal title of leader) __ , and __ (name of the local Bishop ) __ , our Bishop; and all faithful believers and confessors of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

Remember, O Lord, Your servant(s) __ (names may be offered for those whom we wish to remember ) __ , and all here present, whose faith and devotion are known to You, for whom we offer You, this sacrifice of praise for themselves, their families and friends, for the redemption of their souls, for the health and salvation they hope for; and who now offer their promises to You, the everlasting, living and true God.

In communion with and honoring in the first place the memory of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord – Jesus Christ. Then Your blessed Apostles, Martyrs, and all Your Saints, through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may be always be defended by the help of Your protection.
[Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.]

We therefore humbly ask You, O Lord, to graciously accept this offering of our service, as also of Your entire family; and guide our days through Your peace, preserve us from eternal damnation, and count us in the number in Your chosen.
[Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

The Prayer of Consecration

Come Holy Spirit of Christ and be pleased in all respects to bless, consecrate, and approve these gifts of bread and wine with your presence; perfect them and render them well-pleasing to Yourself, so that they may become the hosts that are interwoven with Your Body and Blood. Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Remembrance

On the day before He suffered, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread (take hold and raise a little) into His holy and venerable hands, and having raised His eyes to heaven, to You, O God, His Almighty Father, giving thanks to You, blessed it broke it and gave it to His disciples saying: (hands upon additional bread) Take and eat all of you.
THIS IS HIS BODY. (elevate high, return it to its proper place, and then a personal sign of reverence)

In like manner, after He had the meal, taking also the excellent chalice (take hold and raise a little) into His holy and venerable hands, and giving thanks to You, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: (hands upon additional wine) Take and drink all of you.
THIS IS HIS BLOOD, THE CHALICE OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING TESTAMENT. THE MYSTERY OF FAITH, WHICH FOR YOU AND FOR MANY WILL BE SHED FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. As often as you shall do these things, do them in memory of Me. (elevate high, return it to its proper place, and then a personal sign of reverence)

The Offertory

Mindful, therefore, O God, we, Your servants and Your holy people of Christ, Your Son, our Lord, remember His blessed Passion, and also of His Resurrection from the dead, and finally of His glorious Ascension into heaven, offer to Your most excellent Majesty of Your Own gifts, bestowed upon us, perfect, holy, and a victim without sin.

The holy Bread of eternal Life and the Chalice of eternal Salvation, be pleased to regard them with Your gracious and tranquil countenance, and to accept them as it pleased You to graciously accept the gifts of Your just servant Able, and the sacrifice of Abraham our Patriarch, and those which Your chief priest Melchizedek offered to You, a holy Sacrifice.

Most humbly we ask of You, Almighty God, command these offerings to be borne by the hands of Your holy Angels to Your altar on high, in the sight of Your divine Majesty, that as many as shall partake of the most holy Body and Blood of Your Son at this altar, may be filled with every heavenly grace and blessing.
[Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

Remember also, Lord, Your servant(s) __(the names of those who have recently died may now be mentioned )__ , who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, we ask You to grant of Your goodness a place of comfort, light, and peace.
[Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

To us also, Your sinful servants, confiding in the depth of Your mercy, be pleased to grant us some part and fellowship with Your Holy Apostles, Martyrs, and with all Your Saints, into whose company we humbly ask You to admit us, not weighing our merits, but forgiving our offenses. Through Christ our Lord, by Whom, O God, You always create, sanctify fill with life, bless, and bestow upon us all good things.

Though Him and with Him and in Him
is to You, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory, one world without end.

The Great Amen Hymn

After the celebrant has concluded the Eucharistic Prayer with a Doxology, the people of the congregation either sing a version of the Great Amen Hymn or they say one of the following.

The People : Amen.

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18. A Sermon on Matthew 11:16–19&25–30

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The original version of this sermon was presented at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church E.L.C.A. in Tacoma, Washington on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (July 6, 2014)

THE PREFACE OF THE SERMON

The Prayer: Almighty God, send your Spirit upon me, so that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

The Text: A reading from the Gospel of Matthew 11:16–19 and 25–30. “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you did not dance, so we played funeral songs, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The congregation is seated … “Please be seated.”

The Greeting: Grace and peace of your Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

If appropriate acknowledgements of individuals.

The Title: Beware of your own self

The Subject: Our subject on this day of the Lord, is the sin of pride and the invitation of Christ.

The Reason (purpose): The reason why I am preaching on this matter is so that we may challenge ourselves and resist anything that separates us from Christ.

The Points: 1. The Invitation 2. Pride and Humility. 3. The Father and the Son. 4. Come unto Christ

THE INTRODUCTION 

I will begin this introduction with this thought, how willing are we to make adjustments in our lives and in our relationship with God?
Saint Francis of Assisi was a son of a successful merchant and had all the privileges that came with a successful family. As a young man he volunteered for military service and was sent into battle. The horror of war and the conditions that came with being a prisoner of war broke his health, but waken his soul. After being released from prison he returned home and found that the privileges of wealth and success no longer appealing. Instead, he was drawn to a simpler life of service and dedication to the Gospel of Christ. Francis heard the invitation of God and adjusted his vision.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta was a teacher and principle of a school for daughters of the wealthy class in India. By all accounts, she had a very successful carrier as a nun and as an educator. In 1946 she took a trip and while on the train she heard God speak to her. Soon she was awakening to an invitation by God to serve the very poor of Calcutta and she changed her vocation to that of a missionary. Like Francis before her, Teresa adjusted her vision.
Throughout our lives, sometimes we get so carried away with what we think is decent or proper that we are unable to see God working in our lives and in the lives of others. It is at these times that we need to walk away and reflect more upon the Gospels and less on our own convictions. We need to listen to what that voice deep within hearts, not our minds, is saying and adjust our vision accordingly. The Gospel lesson today is about self-reflection and making necessary adjustments to our vision of God. It is about looking honestly at out lives and taking a true inventory of ourselves.
The Gospel lesson is also about God being careful about who he reveals himself to; God does not what to reveal himself to individuals who will only reject the revelation and walk away. Therefore, God only wants to reveal himself to those who will trust him in the way a child will trust a parent. This is the true relation between God and humanity, father and child.
Now let us explore the Gospel lesson and what it has to offer our lives.

THE BODY OF THE SERMON 

The First Point: The Invitation

Jesus spoke against the attitude of the people of his day, because no matter what he said or did they took the opposite view. He looked right at them and did not allow them to soften or re-direct the message of the Torah or the Prophets. Because of this they were cynical and skeptical towards him because he challenged their comfort zones and self-centered lives.

Jesus compared them to children playing in a public square, who invited others to come and join them, but they ignored the invitation and went on playing their own games. To encourage their participation, they sung festive songs, but they simply would not come over to sing and dance. They sung memorial songs, but they would not participate in the memorial. The people of his day, like the second group of children in the square, were unresponsive and ignored the invitation by both John the Baptist and Jesus.

God wants us to heed the invitation he offers us and come to him. He does not call out to us in a demanding voice nor are his words are harsh or demeaning. God calls out to all of us to come over to his table and take comfort from our long journey and listen to his words of wisdom. Yes, sometimes his instructions to us are unpleasant, but that is because God is not going to hide the truth from us, even if it makes us unconfutable. After all, do we want to be around someone who is going to be honest and open with us or do we want to be around someone who is going to hide the truth (so that we can be comfortable) or have hidden agendas?

Sadly, today there are so many individuals who simply do not heed the invitation from God to come to his table and participate in the assembly that encircles the table. These individuals are so caught up in their own lives and self-sufficiency that they cannot hear God gently calling to them and their busy life styles hinders their ability to give the invitation a serious reflection. For these individuals praising what has been created, such as mountain ranges and open prairie in the spring, is easier than taking time to properly praise the Creator who made them. Jesus taught us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Mt 6:34).” But these busy individuals would respond to this by saying something like, I have an important meeting in three days and I must prepare for it, so don’t bother me with an idea like that. Nonetheless, Jesus still calls out to them and invites them to the table of good fellowship.

In light of this passage, our challenge is to ensure that we are able to hear the “still small voice (I Kings 19:12 RSV) of the living and eternal God. There are times when God is calling to draw us near to him and other times God is attempting to guide us on a matter. Therefore, the first step in this listening process is to make ourselves available to God through prayer, especially prayer during quite times.

Now let us turn to “wisdom” in this matter. Wisdom is shown to be correct though its results. In other words, actions speak louder than words. In this context what else can be said about wisdom? Listen to the Book of Proverbs. In the eighth chapter we read this about wisdom, “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech (12-13).” This passage from Proverbs confirms that good decision making is grounded on knowledge and discernment. Making good decisions requires that we first step away from ourselves and then look at a matter from all sides and opinions. The people whom Jesus was addressing had their own understanding of what was a good decision and it was grounded in their very narrow view. They did not hear that still small voice in their hearts and this led them to ignore the invitation they were offered. Rather than intellectually engaging John and Jesus, they engaged in throwing insults at them. They said John was possessed by a demon and Jesus was a drunk. Although they had seen and heard both John and Jesus, they did not allow themselves to be spiritually awaken. Instead they allowed their pride and arrogance to be awaken, they had no desire to adjust their vision.

The Second Point: Pride and Humility

Jesus said in his prayer, “I thank you, Father, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent.” Listen to the commentary written by Don Schwager about this verse, “Jesus’ prayer also contains a warning that pride can keep us from the love and knowledge of God. What makes us ignorant and blind to the things of God? Certainly intellectual pride, coldness of heart, and stubbornness of will – shut out God and his kingdom. Pride is the root of all vice and the strongest influence propelling us to sin. It first vanquishes the heart, making it cold and indifferent towards God. It also closes the mind to God’s truth and wisdom for our lives. What is pride? It is the excessive love of oneself at the expense of others and the exaggerated value of one’s own learning and importance.”

Jesus was grateful that true spiritual wisdom was kept hidden and not revealed to those who would not properly receive it. He knew that those who were filled with intellectual pride would not be able to hear his words and understand his teachings. No matter what John and Jesus said and no matter how dire their warning, these cold hearted intellectuals would not adjust their vision. Pride is the ultimate expression of self-centeredness, when I was a younger man we called it “me, myself, and I.”

There are seven deadly sins, sometimes called cardinal sins. They are wrath, greed, laziness, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony; and many theologians consider pride as the worst of the seven, because it makes the heart cold and indifferent towards the living God. There is a kind of blindness associated with pride, it is mentioned in the Book Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (6:18).” There are individuals who are so full of pride and confidence that they believe it is in possible for them to make a mistake. When they do make a mistake, rather than admitting it and adjusting their vision, they often make it appear that someone else did it.

The simple message of the gospel which Jesus proclaimed was being understood and joyfully received by the common everyday person in the market place. But the sophisticated intellectuals who should have recognized it immediately, dismissed it. They may have done so because of its lack of complexity or their unwillingness to associate with those who are not as sophisticated as they were. Regardless of what excuse was used, it would still be an expression of a haughty spirit.

Jesus offered praise to his Father for keeping spiritual wisdom hidden from those filled with intellectual pride, and revealed it to those who are child-like. This brings to mind what was written in the Gospel of Mark, “Anyone who does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it (10:15).” There are two characteristics of childhood that are of great spiritual value, they are humility and simplicity.

To be child-like is to accept the words of your Father without question or hesitation. It means that you will not only listen to what the Father has to say, but you will listen attentively. This is how we are to listen to the Scriptures and that gentle call from God. Responding to God our Father in the manner of a child is an act of humility and it demonstrates that we are willing to be taught by the Scriptures and the Spirit. Those who walk with pride and a haughty spirit cannot respond to God in humility and they find it very difficult to approach God in a child-like manner.

This leads us to a reflection upon humility. Humility is not just placing others first, but it is also the practice of placing oneself on the lower step. Humility is the opposite of our human nature. Human nature wants to focus on its own self, first and foremost, for all to know and see. Human nature does not want to think of others, but instead wants others to think of it. While humility is content to wear colors that do not draw attention to itself, human nature wants to wear the bright and unmistakable color that boldly proclaim its presence. Time and time again Christ teaches us place others first, and his entire life among us was a sacrifice that placed mankind before himself. When we practice placing ourselves on a lower step we will be walking humbly with our God.
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Saint Francis was born into wealth and entitlement, he did not have a need and those around him served him without question. However, the Holy Spirit wakened his soul and it became humble and “filled with renewed joy from LORD [and he understood that] the poor will rejoice in the Holy One (Isa 29:19).” Once that wakening broke forth from his soul, Francis dedicated himself to walking humbly with God. At the end of his life he understood that “humility and reverence of LORD [has its own kind of] wealth, honor, and life (Prov 22:4).”

The Third Point: The Father and the Son

Let us begin this review with verse twenty-seven of the Revised Standard Bible, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father.” Jesus now changes gears and speaks to the people, but now tenderly, like a Rabbi with his students. In the Gospel of John Jesus clearly stated his union with the Father when he said that we must always believe that he is in the Father and the Father is in him (14:11). Here in verse twenty-seven Jesus clearly states his relationship to the Father, and makes three unmistakable claims to having a special union and relationship with God. They are: The Father has delivered all things to him, his relationship with the Father, and the ability to reveal the Father. Jesus has a strong and very personal relationship the Father, and he is very knowledgeable of his true Father.

Listen to how The One Volume Commentary explains this verse: “Jesus now declares that the same authority belongs to Himself, because all created things have been delivered to Him by God. This supreme authority over the universe, which was delivered to Him. Such power could not be given to just any creation, and the possession of it by Christ can only be explained by assuming that He is, as the Gospel of John and the Epistles represent Him as being, both the creator and sustainer of the universe.” This is confirmed in verse three of the first chapter of the Gospel of John, it reads, “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” The first chapter of Colossians also confirms this in verse sixteen, it says, “In him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible … all things have been created through him.” Indeed, all things in heaven and earth have been delivered to Christ; and this means that Christ has full and complete authority over everything.

This universal authority of Christ is recognized by both the apostles and demons. In the Gospel of Luke, a demon says to Jesus, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God (Lk 4:34)” and in the Gospel of John, Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Holy One of God (Jn 6:69).” While demons and apostles are generally opposed to each other and have very different agendas, they both clearly agree on one thing, that Jesus is the Christ and the Holy One of God!

Before moving onward to my next point, I am going to say a few words about the Kingdom that has been delivered to Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven is realized in this present world, among the human community. In his book Jesus the Jewish Theologian, Brad Young has this to say about this realm, “For Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven is: 1. The Power of God – that is, God doing what he wants. 2. The People of God – that is, people doing what God wants.” Simply put, God commands and the people obey by doing it. With this in mind, it is only natural for someone to ask, what are the principle commandments that Christ wants us to obey? The Gospel of Mark answers this for us, in chapter twelve it is written, “What commandment is first of all? Jesus answered, “Hear, O People: LORD is our God, LORD alone. You shall love LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments greater then these (12:28-31).” Therefore, as the Father loves the Son, and has placed all things in his hands (Jn 3:35), we are to love God and humanity.

Now let us explore the statement, “No one knows the Son except the Father.” A Father, like any parent, knows his children; he knows their habits, their dislikes, and their strengths. A father knows these because he was there before the child was born and once the child came into the world, the Father witnessed every little detail of the development of the child. For an example, he not only knows the child does not like strawberries, but has witness from the beginning how this dislike evolved into what it is. With this in mind, we have an understanding that no one really knows an individual except the parents.

The relationship between Jesus and God is truly a Father-Son relationship. Like an obedient child, Jesus does nothing without first presenting the matter before God the Father. By living in this manner, Jesus found great favor with God, his Father, who acknowledged this favor at the Baptism of Jesus by saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, whom I am well pleased with (Mt 3:17).” The communion we see in the Gospel stories between the Father and the Son is the core of their relationship; and this union between them points to their unity in the Trinity. Their shared divine knowledge also points to their shared divine nature; as the Gospel of John stated, Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus. Needless to say, this is a great mystery.

The degree in which Jesus was obedient to God the Father was both deep and profound. His desire to please his Father not only meant that he did nothing without first presenting matter before the Father, it also meant a life of self-sacrificing, placing the requests of God before his own wants and needs. This is confirmed in the Gospel of John, when Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, of all those He has given me I shall lose none of them, but raise them up at the last day. For the will of my Father is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (Jn 6:38-40).”

In this context Jesus is the example we have concerning our own faith journey. God is to be at the very core of who we are and what we do. We are to bring everything to God, through prayer, and lay it before him. We are to avoid the arrogance and pride of the sophisticated intellectuals, and submit our hearts and walk according to the will of God and not ourselves.

The Fourth Point: Come unto Christ

In verse 28 we read about a gentle call from Jesus to his followers and apostles, the words of this call are some of the most compassionate words found in the Christians Scriptures. Here we clearly see the pastoral nature of Jesus and his desire to serve humanity as a shepherd and not as an overlord. Listen to what the Life Application Commentary has to say on this verse, “These words focused on Jesus’ care and concern for his followers his promise of guidance and presence, and the ultimate future rewards. Jesus said, ‘Let me teach you.’ Jesus, their leader and example, was also the ultimate servant, humble and gentle. His path of humble service is the pattern for us to follow.”

In these comforting words of Jesus we also find a harness (the yoke). Here Jesus wants to remind those who welcomed him and received his good news about God are “yoked to his message and his life style.” Through embracing him they are now associated with him and carry his yoke. For many Christians today the yoke is a neckless with a cross and for clergy and preachers the stole is sometimes referred to as a yoke. If you look closely at your lives, you will notice he is not the one placing burdens and heavy yokes upon your life, instead you are. Christ wants us to freely accept him and freely place his yoke upon ourselves. Throughout the Gospel stories Christ invites us into relationship with him, but he does not demand it. We are free draw near to Christ or to separate ourselves from Christ. It is completely our choice, to choose either to come closer to the Light of Christ or to walk away from him. Regardless of what we choose, Christ will always call out to us and invite us. The arrogant sophisticated intellectuals of the story decided to walk away, may we not follow their example.

Now for a final thought on comfort and I will begin with a quote from Billy Graham, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us the comforters.” Saint Francis makes a similar statement, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.” While God indeed wants to offer us comfort and rest, he does not want us to be in full communion with the soft and comfortable chair nor does he want us to become disconnected from both the pain and the joy of humanity. He wants us to respond to is Word that gives us comfort and spiritual renewal by going forth and serving those who are in most need of our talents and his Word, our Master.

THE CONCLUSION 

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus is challenging our attitudes and wants to make any necessary adjustments to our vision. Christ does not what us to become so focused on what we think is decent or proper that we ignore his invitation and any possible relationships with our neighbors. God is always inviting us and stirs that small voice in our hearts. What we may experience as an annoyance or inconvenience may well be our heavenly Father trying to get our attention. When we think that God wants our attention we need to say, speak Lord, your servant is listening. Finally, I encourage each and every one of us to develop a strong and healthy relationship with our heavenly Father, for as Christ made his relationship with the Father the center of his life, we should do the very same. Amen.

Written by Dave Pflueger July 6, 2014 © copyrighted by Pflueger

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17. A Reflection on Holy Friday (2012)

Today is the day when Christians take time to reflect upon the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Recently while I was doing just this, and I began to think about all the Christians who have been killed because of their unconditional embrace of Christ. They, like Christ, prove that Christianity is all about sacrifices and the intentional distancing of ones self from safe harbors and comfort zones. In his large catechism Martin Luther made it clear that we are to shun the treasures and comforts of this life and place our confidence in our relationship with the living and true God. Like the blood of Christ which enlivens our souls, the blood of the martyrs enlivens the convictions of the faithful. Therefore, through the sacrifices of Christ and his martyrs we are given an example on how uncompromising our faith should be.

As we journey through this day, let us make note of anything in our personal lives that prevents us from sacrificing ourselves, which is our reasonable service, and commit our strengths to removing it from our lives. In closing, I offer this reflection by Oswald Chambers, “Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone.”

Written by Dave Pflueger April 6, 2012 © copyrighted by Pflueger

Apostle’s Creed

I trust in God:
The Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary;
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell;
the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from here He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I trust in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Universal Assembly,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.
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The earliest mentioning of the “Apostles’ Creed” occurs in a letter of 390 AD from a synod in Milan.