Monday, January 10, 2011

What makes a Lutheran merciful?

Welcome to another installment of "What Makes a Lutheran?"! Last post we discussed what makes a Lutheran so Hungry, hungry for life and salvation through a little bread and a little wine in the Lord’s Supper. This post we will continue with “What Makes a Lutheran-Merciful?” By means of the cross, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, what makes a Lutheran serve his neighbor wholeheartedly without asking for anything in return?

“Serve?” my friend asked with a quizzical look. “Oh, no I do not serve. I’m Lutheran. We are saved by grace!!!” This was a conversation between one of my friends who was a lifelong Lutheran and a non-denominational church attender. My Lutheran friend responded confidently when asked how he serves the church and the world. Unfortunately this reaction gives a false impression on what it actually means to be a Lutheran in the realm of merciful service to our world. We will most commonly use the “saved by grace” card in an attempt to overlook our laziness and lack of care for our neighbor. This line of thought is not only against what it means to be a confessing Lutheran, but more importantly is counter what God has revealed to us through Holy Scripture.

As God’s people we are called to serve! Scripture continually points us to merciful service to all people at all times. As He tells us in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and with greatest commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12). However, service does not begin with us, but it begins with the gifts that He gives through worship. As He works on us through the worship service, transformed by His Word, washed clean through Baptism, and strengthened by the Lord’s Supper, He throws us out to have mercy on our neighbors in their time of need. Christ continually showed mercy to people during His life on earth and in return we in the Christian community are sent out to be on the frontlines of service to our neighbors.

Most often the question then arises, “O.k., then who is my neighbor?” My next door neighbor? my fellow Sartell resident? my fellow U.S. citizen? or the little child in Africa? The simple answer to this question is…EVERYONE! Your next door neighbor, the Sartell resident, the poor man under the bridge, the rich man in a mansion, the starving children in Africa, and the child who is still in their mother’s womb. They are all your neighbor.

If this is our calling, where do we begin this seemingly impossible endeavor? It is actually very simple: it begins in worship receiving God’s gifts through Word and Sacrament. It extends to our family members, our church family, our physical neighborhood, Saint Cloud, our country, and to the world. We look around us and determine through prayer whom we can serve the best, not to be saved, but BECAUSE we are saved by the precious blood of Christ.

Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

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