To the Saints at First Lutheran,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” –John 3:16-17 NRSV
While God’s presence can often be deeply felt in the midst of challenging experiences; significant experiences of suffering have a way of narrowing our vision, reminding us how many things in life that we have spent ourselves on become more superficial or insignificant in the face of mortality. The mundane distractions of daily life fade away, and we are left with what really matters: our relationship with God and with those around us. The experience of illness or profound loss can take away so much; still, sometimes in those crucible moments of our lives, we see the love of God more fully and feel it most deeply in our own hearts. It is paradox and it is truth, and at the center of paradox and truth stands the cross. The cross shows us the depth of God’s love for us. God loves us so very deeply that God pours out God’s self-giving love, even unto death. That pattern is reflected in the whole of Jesus’ ministry, not only at the cross, and the ultimate victory of the resurrection; but embodied in the example and witness of Christ in relationship to those on the margins, those who live outside the mainstream, the world-forsaken nameless-faceless siblings who are the collateral damage of culture, tradition, and sin.
Martin Luther posits that the cross is where we learn who God is and how God saves. We don’t worship the cruel instrument of death that is the cross; we worship the Christ, who in love stretched out his hands on the cross. We don’t glorify the suffering of the cross, we recognize the heart of God revealed there in Jesus Christ. To put it plainly, one cannot have “for God so loved the world that God gave the only begotten Son,” without the often overlooked verse that follows it – and is inextricably tied to it – “for God did not send the Son into the world to condemn, but that the world should be saved through him.” God’s purpose is not death, God is always for life. God is not conspiring to condemn, God spends Godself on redemption. The cross stands as witness to life and redemption, not suffering and condemnation. That’s what makes the cross a sign of hope.
Here, in the love we share in Jesus Christ, the cross ceases to be stumbling block or foolishness for some, but comfort and inspiration for all; may the recognizing that if we have any particular cross to bear in this life, it is the hard and holy work of realizing God’s dream of abundant life for all people, now. My prayer is that together, we will continue to take up the cross and proclaim good news in Jesus Christ in a broken and hurting world; a world God still so loves, for Jesus’ sake.
-written by The Rev. William Gohl (Bishop of the Delaware/Maryland Synod)
Where Is our Identity?
We can live one of two ways—with or without Christ. Our identity is in Christ or in the world.
C. S. Lewis said, “There are two types of people. Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Okay then, have it your way.’” If we live without Christ and have it our way, we live just for ourselves, exalting worldly pleasures and success. If we live with Christ, we exalt him as the risen Lord. We can squander our talents, waste our time, and spend our money foolishly, or we can use these God-given gifts to his glory as they benefit others. “Each of us will give an account of himself to God,” we read in Romans 14:12. Let us be among those who hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).
Prayer: Lord, grant me your grace to seek to do your will and follow your ways. Grant me wisdom so I can see the foolishness of this world. Keep my eyes fixed on you as my Redeemer and Savior. Help me boldly proclaim the loving and saving gospel to all people. In your name I pray. Amen.
Blessings on your stewardship journey!
Please contact the office or come by if you would like a copy of “CHRIST IN OUR HOME” devotional for October, November, December 2020. Small and large booklets available.