We Gather to Receive His Gifts of Grace
We gather to receive His gifts of grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense) as they are given in the mistake-free, inspired Word of God and in the Sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Super.
As Martin Luther lay dying upon his bed he wrote, "We are beggars, it is true." What he meant was that we cannot save ourselves from our sins and are saved only by the grace and mercy of our God. The Lord willingly and freely gives eternal life, salvation, and the forgiveness of sins through His Son, Jesus Christ who came down from heaven, took on human flesh, lived a sinless life, and was crucified for us upon the cross. He was buried but rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven.
The Bible communicates this marvelous action of Christ to us. Since Jesus was God's Word in the flesh, we can say with the writer of the book of Hebrews that
"The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edges sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
St. Paul encouraged Timothy to actively remain in the Word of God so that he might be prepared to change the world with the Gospel. He wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Just as Jesus, the Son of God and the Word incarnate, came into the world in a common way, was raised by ordinary people in a small town; so He continues to come to us through ordinary and common means today. He comes to us in His Word (the Bible), the water of Baptism, the bread and wine of the Lord's Super, and the words of Absolution spoken by the pastor. In these common elements God gives us His grace.
Though the water of Baptism is ordinary, when it's combined with God's Word of "…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19), it becomes a life-saving flood and incorporates us into God’s family making us heirs with His own Son. This is necessary for salvation as the Lord spoke through Peter saying, "Baptism...now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21).
Though the bread and wine of Holy Communion are common forms of sustenance, when combined with God's Word "…take, eat, this is my body…take drink, this is my blood" (Matthew 26), they become the true body and blood of Christ while remaining bread and wine. This is truly a mystery, but one that gives us salvation.
And just as the words of Absolution are spoken by an ordinary man, the called and ordained pastor, they are the very words of forgiveness that come from the Lord Himself (John 20:22-23).
God is generous with His gifts of grace and mercy, and we are confident that we receive them because their reception is not dependent on us. We receive His grace even when we feel unworthy, when our hearts are troubled, or when we doubt because He is the one who does the work.