Remembering Who We Are
by Warren Graff
January 27, 2017
Paul describes the Church. We might think of it as an invitation: Remember who you are.
These are the basics: Remember who you are. We are not those belonging to Paul, or to Apollos, or to any other party; we are those belonging to Jesus Christ. We are God’s building, says Paul. We live in this world, and it is polluted with arrogance, poisoned with self-concern and selfishness, but while we are given to live in this world, we are not of it. We are God’s field, seeded with his word, watered with his compassion, cared for with his Gospel.
We are, says Paul, even God’s building. You live in a world of great things, and great ideas, and great plans and schemes built up by the men’s minds, but we are built up by God, given our foundation in Christ Jesus, cleansed in his Baptism, and built up by his Body and Blood. God makes us his building—the church.
Do you not know,
that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells among you.
[1 CORINTHIANS 3:10-23, THE EPISTLE OF EPIPHANY 7]
When God wants a place to dwell here on Earth, wanting to come into this sinful world to cleanse it, he makes a place for himself by gathering together a bunch of sinners and putting his Name on them. Having baptized them into his Name and cleansing them of all sin, he calls them his Temple—the place where he locates his Name, the place where he is cleansing sinners, the place where he looks at the unholy one and says, By my word, you are clean.
Sometimes the best thing is simply to be reminded who you are. It gives you foundation, certainty of what you are about; it gives proper direction and purpose.
You are, says the Apostle, God’s Temple, and God’s Spirit dwells among you. The Large Catechism, when talking about the Holy Spirit, puts it like this:
If you are asked, What do you mean by the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit”? you can answer, “I believe that the Holy Spirit makes me holy, as his name
implies.” 41 How does he do this? By what means? Answer: “Through the Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” 42 In the first place, he has a unique community in the world. It is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit reveals and preaches that Word, and by it he illumines and kindles hearts so that they grasp it, cling to it, and persevere in it.
[LARGE CATECHSIM, ARTICLE 3]
The Holy Spirit Is Dwelling Among Us
That is who we are—the Church, the temple of God, the people gathered by the Gospel, bearing the Name of Baptism; the people among whom the Holy Spirit dwells. He calls us together, brings us to the Body and Blood of our Lord for the cleansing of sin, and he is among us.
We look at the church, and our eyes often don’t see this see. We see sin. We see people hurt by their own sin; we see people wounded by the sins having been done against them; we see some living in despair or loneliness; we see families in conflict; but in all this, the apostolic word would have us know, That’s not who you are. That is who you are according to your flesh, according to what eyes see; but according to the Word of God, according to the Gospel, you are what God declares you to be: You are God’s Temple, the people among whom dwells the Holy Spirit.
So the Gospel we hear we speak to one other, holding no sins against another; and we know that in these words from one person to the next, the Holy Spirit is present, bringing joy and life. The Holy Spirit gathers us to the Body and Blood of Jesus, and we see our brothers and sisters eat it and drink it along with us, and we know that we are all cleansed, we are all bound in oneness with our Lord Jesus, and he is binding us in oneness with each other. This is a fellowship worked by God, a holy communion, the church. The Holy Spirit, says Paul, dwells among you.
In the Name of Jesus,
Rev. Warren W. Graff
Faith and Good Works in the Life of the Christian
[A Note from the Confessions of the Church: Smalcald Articles] [We teach that] “Through faith” (as St. Peter says) we receive a different, new, clean heart and that, for the sake of Christ our mediator, God will and does regard us as completely righteous and holy. Although sin in the flesh is still not completely gone or dead, God will nevertheless not count it or consider it.
Good works follow such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sin, and whatever in these works is still sinful or imperfect should not even be counted as sin or imperfection, precisely for the sake of this same Christ. Instead, the human creature should be called and should be completely righteous and holy—according to both the person and his or her works—by the pure grace and mercy that have been poured and spread over us in Christ. Therefore we cannot boast about the great merit of our works, where they are viewed apart from grace and mercy. Rather, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” [1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17…]
A Few Notes on Our Lord’s Gift of Worship
—Worship is Receiving—
The difference between [true] faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the divine service (latreia) that receives the benefits offered by God. The righteousness of the Law is the divine service that offers to God our merits. God wants to be worshiped through faith so that we receive from Him those things He promises and offers.
[Ap. Augsburg Conf, Article IV.49.]
—The Lord Gives, We Receive¬—
Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God. Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where his name is, there is he. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words he has used to make himself known to us.
The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition …
[Lutheran Worship, Introduction,
(p.6), CPH, 1982]
—By His Name, We Are His—
“The Lord be with you.” Similar to the beginning of the Divine Service itself, the first word spoken to begin the Communion is the name of the Lord. “It is the Lord’s
Supper, in name and reality, not the supper of Christians” [Luther]. The Lord is host, the head of the family; it is the Lord who serves (Luke 22:27), hence the name Divine Service (from Gottesdienst). The Lord is serving, giving out his gifts… Where his words, there is the Spirit active in them to bestow what they say. Apart from his words we cannot speak of the activity of the Spirit. His words, our Lord’s bidding, gather us here. By his name we have been made his when his name was put upon us with the water of Baptism. We do not really come. He comes; we are gathered. Everything he does is sure; any insertion of our doing is fraught with uncertainty. Best praying, then, is praying the words he has given us to pray.
[Lutheran Worship, History and
Practice, pp. 290, 298, CPH]
—The Gifts of God—
The gifts of God come to us in many and various ways, but never so certainly as in the Divine Service of the Church. Here God delivers forgiveness, life, and salvation through his Word and holy sacraments, which are the means of his grace.
Here also God orders “our days and our deeds” as he did in creation. That order is still present in our daily lives as a gift…[Hymnal Supplement, 98,(p. 4), CPH]
—The Gift of the Lord’s Word—
The 3rd Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
[The Small Catechism (p. 68), CPH