God’s grace be with you.
The leadership of the Southwestern PA Synod has recently established four goals for its people and congregations as we move forward together into the immediate future of ministry. One of those goals is to “rekindle a passion for the Gospel.” God’s people are people of the Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, God’s love letter to us. And as God’s children, the Bible is our norm for living life. Many of you have heard me teach that the BIBLE contains our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” It also contains many promises God has made to us.
From the topical index of the Lutheran Study Bible (NRSV), “GOSPEL” has four strategic biblical references. The one I want to share with you in this article is Ephesians 2:4-10 which the Lutheran Study Bible calls “a summary of.” Adding in verses 1-2, this passage reads: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient…But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
The Gospel is simply that we are saved through Jesus, and our faith in him is God’s gift that brings us to salvation. No longer being dead (i.e. cut off from the kingdom) in sin, we are empowered for good works of love in the life of the world. When Paul writes in verse 10 “God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” that is, living a life of good works in thanksgiving for God having saved us, he does not mean a once and done ceremony that lasts an hour or so. Nor does he mean that being a student/disciple of Christ is over and done with following confirmation classes with the pastor. He means a life-long commitment in service as members of the Body of Christ, the Church, which goes way beyond our Sunday morning rituals. It is a life continually guided, stabilized, strengthened, and undergirded by the Word, Jesus himself, who has given us the words of Holy Scripture, the words of eternal life. In other words, the Bible is to become our way of life, every day, every week, every month and every year of our lives. But like learning a new language or practicing medicine, it must be reviewed, renewed in understanding as contexts change, and used over and over again or that knowledge may be lost. To “rekindle a passion for the Gospel” within our congregations and our personal lives will ensure that our knowledge of salvation will not be lost. Read the passage above over and over again, pausing to meditate on each of the phrases Paul uses, and letting the Spirit of God open your heart to the greater treasures behind each word. Let God draw you into himself.
In the Lutheran Study Bible available through Augsburg Fortress (New Revised Standard Version, NRSV), there is a topical index and a guided reading outline to help us, God’s children, embrace and receive the full message of salvation in Jesus Christ. The reading outline is for 52 weeks with three different paths to follow: The Challenge Path, The Survey Path, or The Sampler Path. Each path engages the reader with the knowledge of salvation, strengthening our faith in our current walk on earth, as well as reassuring us as we grow older toward the time when we leave this earth.
As we re-engage the work of the church with our fall activities, I encourage each of you to continue, if you already do so, or, if not, to find a path back into the Bible and the many treasures within. Let us not only be known by the mission work we do in the life of our communities, but also be known as “lovers of the Word of God.” If you need a Bible or desire a reading plan to get you started, please contact me ASAP so you can get started sooner rather than later.
May God bless us in hearing His call to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) by reading his love letter to us.
Peace in Christ,
COME WORSHIP WITH US