Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Monday, September 03, 2007

Theology for Mercy

Pastor’s Window on September, 2007

Theology for Mercy[1]

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36; ESV). “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our God commands us to be merciful to the neighbor, and He provides us with the foundation for our mercy. The mercy and love we show to the neighbor is grounded in and proceeds from our Lord’s mercy to and love for us. Our God is a God of mercy. “For the Lord your God is a merciful God” (Deut. 4:31). “(T)he Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). Therefore we, who are baptized into the Name of our merciful Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, will also be His hands of mercy to a world in need of Divine compassion. Faith is always active in love. “O it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them.”[2]

Love for the neighbor proceeds from the perfect love of the Holy Trinity. “The Son is begotten of the Father from eternity. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Such begetting and procession are Trinitarian acts of love expressing the communality of God.”[3] This Trinitarian love expresses itself to man in the incarnation of the Son, Jesus Christ. “In Christ the Eternal God became man. Such identity occurred that Christ might have mercy upon His ‘brothers’ (Heb. 2:17). Christian service of the neighbor finds its source, motivation, and example in Christ’s incarnate, redeeming, atoning, active love (Phil. 2:1-11).”[4] Jesus took on our flesh, that in mercy, He might live a righteous life in our place and die for our sins. As those baptized into His death and resurrection, we find our identity in Him, and are “little Christs” (a term coined by Luther) to our neighbor by showing mercy. Again, we serve as His hands of mercy to our neighbor. All of our acts of mercy and love for the neighbor, including feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the prisoner, confessing Christ to those who need to hear of Him, etc., all proceed from our new identity in Christ. “We love, because He first loved us.”

As Christians, we have a vocation of mercy. This vocation is both individual and corporate. We are called as individuals to show mercy at every opportunity. Whenever we find a neighbor in need, we should provide whatever help we can. We are all so blessed by God with more than we need for the support of our bodies. God blesses us with excess so that we can turn around and give it away, give it to our neighbor who is in need. Our mercy should extend first to our fellow believers in Christ, and then to every neighbor in need. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). And all that applies to us as individuals applies also to the Church corporately! The Church should be a place of mercy! When someone has a legitimate need, they should always be able to come to their Father’s house and find mercy.

In recent months we have been emphasizing the theology of mercy in the life of our congregation. You’ve probably noticed the emphasis in sermons and Bible class (especially the recent presentation by the Rev. Christopher Raffa on his participation in the LCMS World Relife/Human Care’s Mercy Mission Expedition to Madagascar), as well as in these newsletter articles. Our congregation’s life of mercy expresses itself in our commitments to Project Hope, the food truck, and our community meals. The elders and I have been discussing how we can best put our Good Samaritan fund to work for our corporate life of mercy. If you would like to help our congregation and/or Synod in her vocation of mercy, perhaps as a volunteer or with a financial contribution, please talk to me. And please support our corporate life of mercy with your prayers. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

Pastor Krenz

[1] Title taken from the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, Theology for Mercy (St. Louis: LCMS World Relief and Human Care, 2004). This booklet serves as the foundation for this newsletter article.
[2] Martin Luther, “Preface to Romans.”
[3] Harrison, p. 3.
[4] Ibid.

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