Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, October 18, 2008

LWML Fall Rally

LWML Fall Rally – Epiphany Lutheran Church
October 18, 2008

Text: Psalm 65:1, 9-13: Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed… You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy (ESV).

Dear friends in Christ, the life of the Christian is a life lived in thanksgiving to God. That is, in fact, the only posture we can take before God in response to His gifts. For every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights (James 1:17). All good comes from God. And in no respect can we repay Him. All that we have is free gift from our ever-giving God. And a gift, by nature, cannot be repaid, or it ceases to be a gift. All we can do is give thanks and praise.

This is preeminently true, of course, in matters of salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There is nothing you bring to the table when it comes to reconciliation with God. You cannot justify yourself. You have no righteousness of your own. You are a sinner, through and through, and all you have is sin. So God sends His Son Jesus Christ for your sake, to bear your sin, to pay the penalty of your sin on the cross, so that you are forgiven and redeemed. And Christ is risen, conquering death for you and sealing your justification before God. You now have peace with God and eternal life and the joy of your own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day. All of these things God gives to you in the precious means of grace: in Baptism, in the Word, in the Lord’s Supper. All of this is pure gift, and God is the Giver. You are the receiver. All you can do is give thanks and praise.

But God doesn’t only give spiritual things, although these spiritual things are certainly the most important of His gifts. God has created us and all creatures. He gives us our body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason, and all our senses, and He still takes care of them. He also gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all we have, all that we need to support this body and life. And He protects us. He sends His holy angels, and He Himself places His protecting hand over us. He defends us against all danger and guards and protects us from all evil. Now, we are certainly not worthy of any of this. We certainly haven’t earned it. Remember, all we bring to the table are sins to be forgiven. But we confess with Luther in the Small Catechism, “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”[1]

When God gives His gifts, all we can do is give thanks and praise. That is the only posture we can take before our giving God in response to His gifts, a humble posture of thanksgiving. But we can take another posture before our neighbor. Because God has already given us so much, materially and spiritually, out of thanksgiving to God we can turn to our neighbor and provide for his material and spiritual needs. God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. Our neighbor needs to hear of God’s love for him in Christ Jesus, of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that is his is Christ Jesus. And our neighbor needs to be fed and clothed and sheltered, and in short, helped in every physical need. God is so generous with His gifts that there is not only enough for you, there is also enough for you to give to your neighbor. And in this way you become a little Christ to your neighbor. You give yourself for the sake of your neighbor, as Christ has given Himself for you. That is why the work of the LWML is so important. That is why the work of Second Harvest Gleaners, and Project Hope, and the Concordia Theological Seminary Food Co-op is so important, and why we’ve gathered together today to hear about these things and donate toward these causes. Because in our posture of thanksgiving toward our ever-giving God, we are placed in a posture of giving toward our neighbor in need. The gifts of God overflow toward us. We praise Him best when we direct the overflow to our neighbor, resting in the promise that salvation is ours freely in Jesus Christ our Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Catechism quotes from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).

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