The Connection of Joy to Suffering

How’s that song go? School’s out for summer…

Well, it’s almost out. My kids have already said three or four times this morning, “Two and a half more days.”

“Yes,” I say in return. “You’ve already said that.”

As much as I love education—in fact, just ask Jen and she’d tell you I could sit in a classroom pretty much all day long—still, I’m glad the school year is coming to a close. It means time is a little more flexible for rest from busy schedules where every minute is accounted for, people’s spirits seem much calmer, and perhaps the doors and windows of opportunities for more fellowship with one another begin to open. In all, the sky’s deep blue feels just a little kindlier and the sun’s rays seem somewhat more caressing.

You can’t beat the feeling of summer. It can be very joyful.

In my morning reading from Luther, the good Reverend wrote the following regarding faith in Christ resulting in the joy of life and life’s deeds: “…the better you know it, the more does it make your heart joyful, for where there is such knowledge the Holy Ghost cannot remain outside. And when He comes He makes the heart joyful, willing, and happy, so that it freely goes and gladly with good heart does all that is well-pleasing to God, and suffers what has to be suffered, and would gladly die. And the purer and greater the knowledge, the deeper grows the bliss and joy” (Sermons from the year 1523).

Do you know how Luther claims this joy is planted specifically; that is, the springtime sowing that produces the summertime image he just described? If you guessed Word and Sacrament—the holy Word, Holy Baptism, absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, the Lord’s Supper—if you guess these things, then you’re right. It’s through the reception of these Gospel means that the perpetual summertime heart of the Christian is strengthened for real joy—come what may.

How’s that song go? More than a feeling…

Faith in Christ results in so much more than a feeling. It results in life—life lived together as a community of believers here in this place—caring for one another, opportunities to serve the needs of a suffering world, prayer, study of the Word, reception of the gifts of grace, and so many other things I could add.

Notice Luther connected joy to suffering and death.

Summer ends. Fall comes. A new school year begins, and with that, the schedules increase and the days seem to get shorter. But the Christian heart fed by Christ’s perpetual springtime love for a truly endless summer of joy knows this and is well stocked against anything that would try to steal it away.

Don’t lose Word and Sacrament this summer. Don’t stay away. Keep in holy worship. Be strengthened by the means of grace. This is your lifeline for joy—real joy—into and beyond the summer of 2017.

Deepest of Sorrows

I read a portion from Luther yesterday that still rings today. With regard to the Gospel appointed for last Sunday from John 16, he writes: “There are many kinds of sorrow on earth, but the deepest of all sorrows is when the heart loses Christ, and He is no longer seen, and there is no hope or comfort from Him.”

I expect that most Christians would nod in agreement. And why is this? Because by the power of the Holy Spirit for faith through the Gospel, they know things that the rest of the world doesn’t. They know that without Christ, there is no hope. They know that apart from Him, there is the extreme incapability for joy in the midst of this world’s terrors. They know that to separate from Him is to be starved of the nourishing forgiveness and grace that He desires to give in order that we would be His own and live under Him in joy.

When the heart loses this, there is emptiness.

Summer is coming. With that, there will be many opportunities set before each of us to take a break from being where Christ is given through Word and Sacrament for the strengthening of faith and the fruits of comforting hope. As always, I encourage you to remain faithful in worship attendance. Be where Christ is with His gifts. Don’t hide Him from yourself or your family. And if you know you will be away, do what you can to find an LCMS church and be present there for worship. Of course, if you need help with this, let me know. I’ll find a place for you to visit while you’re on vacation, at a tournament, or visiting relatives. It would be my pleasure to do this.

If There Were No Christians on Earth…

I came across a rather straight-shooting, and yet uplifting, bit of commentary from Martin Luther yesterday morning during my personal devotions. The text from the Bible that he was considering was from 2 Corinthians 6:10, which reads in part: “…as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Here’s what Luther said about this:

“If there were no Christians on earth, no town or land would have peace, yes, in one single day the devil would ruin everything there is on earth. The fact that there is still corn growing in the fields, that men recover from their illnesses, that they have food, peace, and security, all this they owe to the Christians. Indeed, we are poor beggars, and yet we make many rich. In very truth, we possess nothing, and yet we have all things; and whatever kings, princes, citizens, and peasants have in this world, they have it, not because of their fair hair, but because of Christ and His Christians. To them is given the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament to convert the people, to win souls from the devil, to snatch them out of hell and death, and take them to heaven; and again to strengthen, comfort, and uphold the poor and instruct and advise the afflicted consciences in their sore temptation; and again to teach all people in all occupations how to do their work as good Christians. This sort of work kings and emperors, the mighty and the rich, the learned and the wise cannot perform, nor could they pay for it with all their possessions. For there is not one amongst them who could comfort and cheer a single soul when it is burdened and weighed down by sin.” (W.A. 45. 532)

Great stuff, huh? Powerful, too. Luther reminds us that the effort of the Christian Church is never in vain as it works to bring the Gospel into a world in need.

That’s what we’re doing here at Our Savior. The Gospel is at the heart of our efforts. People are being converted, souls are being snatched away from Satan, death, and hell.

Your church is on the front lines of this effort, which means, as a Christian, you are, too. And as you read from Luther, without the Christians carrying this Gospel forth, there would be nothing left to remove the burden of sin from the shoulders of a world in need.

This is how the Lord has structured it. You are a part. Take heart and be courageous in your role by His Holy Spirit to speak the hope that is within you as each opportunity arises. And then direct folks to this church—your church—to enlist and engage in the effort to bring the thirst-quenching peace of Christ and His mercy to a parched and barren land.