Advent 1 B

Some simple insights this week, but still central to the work of the Church.

Isaiah 64:1-9

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
--Isaiah 64:8

Verse 8 comes up twice in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. The first citation is in Article 1: Original Sin (SD 1.34) this verse is called out with several others to show that in scripture there is a distinction between human nature, which is good and created by God, and original sin, which corrupts and infests human nature but is not part of it. This verse reminds us that we are made good, even very good.

The second citation is in Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.24) as one of several biblical passages cited through editorial insertion to remind us that without the Spirit, there is nothing we can do to effect a conversion.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
--1 Corinthians 1:8

Verse 8 is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.32) as a reminder with several other passages that show how God will not give up on those who will be saved. Through God's grace, we are given strength in this life.

God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
-- 1 Corinthians 1:9

Verse 9 is cited in a footnote to The Large Catechism, Part 2: The Creed, The Third Article (LC 2.52, n. 156) as a way of explaining Luther's phrase of being made a "co-partner" in the community of saints. Luther's translation of this letter apparently has some marginalia for this verse: "you are co-heirs and co-associates of all Christ's blessings." There is a quality of God's call into the Church that makes the Church something like a co-op.


Wake up! You were made good!

Of course this call is to those who find themselves experiencing God's absence and judgment, not those who would reply, "Of course I'm good." In a culture where 72% of Americans believe in heaven but only 63% believe in God (according to the 2014 Pew Research Religious Landscape Study), we have two groups who hear the same message the wrong way. Those who most need to hear that God made them good are those who are most likely to beat themselves up or allow others to degrade them for not being perfect. They will have problems accepting that God's grace is a gift for them. Those who most need to hear that they are not perfect have a given that they are good. They will have problems accepting that they need God's grace. 

It is imperative that Christians not believe or teach that human nature is sinful. Human nature, which is good, has been corrupted by sin, but is not in itself sinful. We are called to lift up this truth so that those who know they are sick can see that God created them healthy and so that those who think they are well can see that they are sick. 

  • Who are you preaching to, those who know they are sick or those who think they are well? Or some of both?
  • How will you help each of those groups wake up to the fullness of God's love for them and others?