Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Witness, Mercy, Life Together (Part II)


Pastor’s Window for June 2011
Witness, Mercy, Life Together (Part II)

Beloved in the Lord,

The second component of our three-fold Synodical theme is Mercy, tied to the Greek word diakonia (διακονία – from which we get the English word “deacon”), which means service, especially in connection with merciful aid and the distribution of alms. In Acts 6, the apostles appoint seven men as deacons to take care of the distribution to the widows so that the apostles can devote their full time to the ministry of the Word (vv. 1-7). The early Church came up with the idea of hospitals and other charitable institutions established to relieve suffering. Throughout the Church’s history, clergy and congregational leaders have distributed alms to those in need. Only in very recent times in the West has responsibility for the work of mercy been transferred from the Church to the state. Though the Word is primary, mercy has always accompanied the preaching of the Word in the holy Christian Church. This is so because the preaching of the Word produces faith, which is always living, busy, and active in good works for the benefit of the neighbor.

The Church’s mercy toward those in need flows from the mercy of God poured out on us in Christ Jesus. The Lord beheld our great need, enslaved to sin and condemned to death and hell, and He acted in mercy. He sent His Son to suffer the punishment for our sins, in our place, and to take our death and hell upon Himself, that we might have eternal life. And the Lord continues to act in mercy. He graciously forgives our sins each day on account of Christ, and grants us His Holy Spirit, who bestows and strengthens faith in Christ through the blessed gifts of God’s Word and Sacraments. He also gives us all that we need for this bodily life, defends us against all danger, and guards and protects us from all evil. “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in [us]” (1st Article of the Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism). And so, as God generously pours out His mercy upon us, our cup overflows in mercy toward our neighbor.

This mercy is concrete. St. John writes, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18; ESV). Mercy is not just having good thoughts about someone, not just saying “I’ll pray for you” (though we should do that as well!), but concrete deeds done for the benefit of our neighbor, the relief of our neighbor’s suffering, the promotion of our neighbor’s welfare. If our neighbor is in need, and we can fill that need, we should do so. If our neighbor is suffering, and we can relieve that suffering, we should do so. If we have an opportunity to do some good for our neighbor, even when he is not in need, we should do so. We should take every occasion to enrich our neighbor in body and soul. Why? Because that is what our Lord has done for us. He has filled our need, relieved our suffering, and enriched us in every way. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. His mercy endures forever. And He does not base His mercy on our worthiness. Neither should we base our mercy on the worthiness of our neighbor. We have mercy because our cup overflows with God’s mercy. And in this way we are privileged to be the merciful hands of God in the world, a little christ to our neighbor. God has mercy on our neighbor through our works of mercy!

St. Paul says to us: “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). Opportunities for mercy abound in our congregation. This is not a complete list, but here are just a few examples: our Good Samaritan Alms Box, located in the narthex, is always in need of funds. 100% of gifts given to the Good Samaritan fund go to someone in need. Our Food Truck is always in need of volunteers and financial donations. In this way, we are the hands of God in feeding our neighbors in need. There are opportunities for volunteer work at Project Hope, and they are always in need of donations of food and pantry items, and items for their thrift store. Other opportunities for mercy include special free-will offerings for various agencies, collections for Lakeshore Pregnancy Center, the seminary food co-op, our LWML collection for Christmas gifts and food baskets, appeals for help in times of natural disaster (especially with the work of LCMS World Relief and Human Care), various servant events, as well as any number of private opportunities to help a brother or sister in need. Do this in secret, and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matt. 6:1-4)! There are other opportunities for mercy outside of our congregation. In addition to the many secular opportunities, look at the many possibilities at our Synod’s website, www.lcms.org.

So beloved, serve with great joy, and be God’s hands of mercy in the world. And bask in the merciful love of God which has no end.

Pastor Krenz

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