Strengthened Faith, Fervent Love …
“Christians live outside themselves: they live in Christ by faith and in their neighbor by love.”
That was one of Martin Luther’s most brilliant “ahas”! It runs right along with his observation that the nature of sin is “to be curved in on yourself.”
Consequently, the effect of Christ’s Gospel in His appointed Means of Grace seizing hold of you is that it begins unbending you. It begins lifting up your eyes to behold with joy the certain promises of God in Christ. To know them as true for you. To begin to be filled with the hope that flows from them. And at the same time, it opens your eyes to see and meet the needs of your neighbor with a fiery love, a divine compassion.
Luther encapsulated this “aha” in the words of the post-communion prayer in our Divine Service. “We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another … .”
Every time you gather with your fellow saints at the altar, your Jesus comes to you in His body and blood to strengthen your faith by His promises and to set your heart on fire with divine love. Which is just another way of saying: He comes to give you a share in His own divine life, for He IS perfect trust in the Father and perfect love for the neighbor.
“We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another … .”
Because His life is given us as our own, the Church of Christ remains an enigma in this world. It’s a colony from the future, an outpost of the age that will triumph when our Lord appears in glory. When love will have vanquished all hatred. And thanksgiving will have replaced all grumbling. It’s true that we only experience that in a fragmentary way due to the sin that clings to us right up to the grave. Despite our weak grasp of the new life, the Holy Spirit still causes the bright light of the coming age to shine through God’s people. It is like a door to a room filled with light, opening to spill out into the darkness outside, inviting those lost and alone in the darkness to come in with us to the feast of joy that has no end.
The LCMS Office of National Mission exists to serve our rural, inner-city and suburban congregations, schools, pastors, youth and youth workers, teachers and deaconesses in “holding open the door of the Kingdom,” letting the light of the age to come spill out of each “unbent” life, through strengthened faith and fiery, fervent love so that congregations are revitalized and new “outposts of the future” are planted and flourish.
In His name,
Rev. Bart Day
LCMS Office of National Mission