Full Text for The Gospel Is What Lutherans Care About (Text)

The Gospel Is What Lutherans Care About The zvl-iter is Dean of (,'hnpcl of thc Reszcrl-ection, Val~?nruiso Ut~iv~y~it~: T HE GOSPEL IS MJHATT' LUTHERANS care about. 'I'his is llot said to suggest that others do not, but to indicate that source of our life as Christ's, and to indicate that which may not he denied or diminished. The magnitude of the Gospel is recognized by contrast 'calit.11 the Lam, and particularly in its function of disclosing sin. WIlen the Law has demolishecl every grounci in man for mal{lng any clainl on God, then the Gospel is received as sheer gift. Because of Cali:a~v tllcre is forgiveness and this is bestowed by the absolving "word o$ the cross." S~ich words arc linked with water in Baptism where the n;imc of God is narncd upon us and lee are born again,. given life bv the bestowal of what Christ lived, died ancl rose agaln to win f& us. The receiving of the hifts, that is faith, is worked by the Spirit ~vhose bestowing, fn~th-creating and quickening work is done through thc word and water of Baptism. Those baptized confess, whcn of an age to do so, the Spirit as the Giver of life, the bestomrer of the gifts Christ achicved for us. They confess Jesus Christ as the one who joined us in all our sonc- iilrongness, suifered for our sins, answering for then1 in our place, so that our sins condemned in hinl no longer condemn us for by Calvary ive are freed from the dominion of sin. He went through all of death that is sin's due and rose victorious o17er all that would destroy us. IVhat he did counts for us, and so through hiin there is liberation for us from the Law with its demands and condemnatio~~, from the rvrath of God, and from the dominion o.f sin, death and tlie devil. Throl~gll him we know God to he gracious toward us, for- giving, and our Father who enlbraces us in Christ and his righteous- ness. God the Creator Ioves us an(-1 we receive the gifts of his creation from his trusted hand. To the Triuile God we heIong as his people. We I~ave beel-, baptized. IYe heed our 1,ord's bidding to carry the message of sah- tion through the w(s1d so that his words and baptism may make disciples of all people. \Ve gather in his name and know lli11l 13res- ent rvith us. We Isy ourselves down before him and receive his for- giving word. The lninisters through whom Christ speaks and bestoblls his forgiveness proclaim and preach the apostolic word, and their nlin- istry is thereby recognized as apostolic. No man may put himself into this ministry. This is done by the church in whatever wa? it may choose to (10 it, heedful of the bidding of our Lord that there be an apostolic ministry, and making such arrangements as are ser- viceable to the a~ostolic word. The church has sald what is regarded 2-hc Gospcl Is lT7h01: Lz~thel-rrns Care About 119 , -- . - - - -. - as apostolic ~~ol-d by the canon. Thc proclain~ing and teaching of the al3ostolic word by those whon~ the church puts into this task is the continuing apostilic ministry. Ehtrusted to this ministr!; is also the taking of bread and wine .ivith Christ's onin \Vorcls of Institution which make then1 Christ's very bocly ailci blood tvhich are girlen for us to eat and to drink. As surely as we are (riven Christ's body and blood to eat and to drink ? so surely Christ. dled for us, so surely we are forgiven, so surely we are made one with hi111 and one with those who eat and drink his body and blood together with us. The bringing into Hdy Con~munion of any contracl.ict~on of this oneness with Christ and fellow com- municant runs counter to the I-loly Communion, and the body and blood of Christ. Whether we come still Iioldins to sometlling that divides from Christ or froin fellow or from fellow commun~cant, whether wc con~c lxlieving that he gives us his body and blood to eat and to drink or whether ~vc (10 not, he gives to all who receive the bread and vine his body and hlood to eat and to drink. It is with our mouths that nfe thus eat and drink. His saving gifts are not given to sonle supposedly superior part of us, Christ saws nlllat he became ancl does not cease to be. The certainty of the bodv and blood comes fro111 Christ and his words. Sucli gifts evolie the sacrifice of praise that animates .tvorsltip and life. I-Ie gives that we nlav give. Hc has his joy in giving gifts and en:ibles us to share this jdy. Given to and giving is the nlay of life of Christ's people. \.t7e bring bread and wine for his use as he has bidden us, and this 111a)i be callecl a sacrifice. The giving of our- selves to his worship and the service of our neighbor, that his body and blood enliven us for, may be callecl a sacrifice. Ilis giving us his body and blood to eat and drink is 110 sacrifice, but only gift from 21im to us, and enable~l~en t to living sacrifice. The Christian life is shapecl by the giving love of Christ and in the Scripture we have his bidding and descriptions of that shape. U7e woulcl please him. Yet ill ilothhg of our achie.i:ements, in no factor of us, do tvc place our final reliance. That is in his body aild blooc-l given and shed for us, in our Baptism, and in his forgiving and life-giving word of the Gospel which does not merely tell but bestows what ~t says. This is all fro111 him and as sure as he is sure. There is nothing anterior to 11im which lllakes hill1 sure. At 110 point ]nay we insert solne factor of ourselves as tlecisive or guar- anteeing. Our competence does not rise above the ability to reject him. He suffers hiillself to be rejected. His saving wav is the gracious giving way which is the way of his Spirit with the ;mans of grace. Outsrde the ineans of grace his morldng with his pon7er is irresistible. He n~akes no one alive as his forgiven chilcl by use of his irresistible power. From creation and our own faculties we cannot lznow God as Savior. From these we call at most know him as ~owerful ancl just. Only in Christ and his cross do we know the heart if God towarc1 us. The most incredible thing is that Gocl should love us, and love us so much as to go through Calvarv for us. Here 1s a love be.i7ond2 the limits of our understanding. We canilot explain it. It derives solely from the heart of God hefore tirne and beyond ti~nc. From the crass I knoiv God thus loves mc. 'That redeeming lovc is not only ~OL- 111~ or a limited 1.1un11jer of rxen. The function of the Confessions is to extol that love nnci re- sist an): djini~~ution of it. Synergism is such d.iruinution. Thc ccu- nlcnical crccds acclaim God as he 113s made himself I<~O\V~I to us th.l:ouglr the Scriptures. 'The Scripture is the sourcc 2nd nor111 of all doctrine. liccausc t11e creeds and confessions ~vitness ;~nd rcpea t 1i:h;lt Sc~iptul-c sab-s ~vc. arc cominitted to thenl. The cogency of creeds and confessions is Scl:jpture; the cogency of Scripture is Christ, whom thc Spirit ~vorlting ~vith the message of Scrjpture brings us to rcceivc 3s OUL- Sa\~ior, 0~1: LoI:~? and Son of the Father: wit11 \v1101x and the Spirit he is one God.