Apologies and serious declarations abound this week, but a theme does emerge.
Semicontinuous Psalm - Psalm 130
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
-- Psalm 130:3-4
Verses 3 thru 4 are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.58) in a section that reads Jesus into the Hebrew scriptures. The focus, however, is that the psalmist here does not look to works for salvation, but directly to God and God's forgiveness.
Verse 3 is quoted a bit later in the same article (AP 4.179) with several other scriptural passages to show that even saints cannot stand before God's judgment, driving home pleas for God's mercy.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
-- Psalm 130:7-8
Verses 7 thru 8 are cited in Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 3: Concerning Repentance (SA 3.3.8) as a reminder that God offers redemption in many ways, not the least of which is in the Word and sacraments.
Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
-- Ephesians 4:28
The first phrase of verse 28 in chapter 4 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.169) in response to the claim against the Reformers that some kind of satisfaction must follow from repentance for repentance to "work" to show that repentance will include satisfaction, or else it's not repentance. Repentance will lead to amendment of life. Either that or your not really sorry for what you've done.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
-- Ephesians 4:30
Verse 30 of chapter 4 is cited through editorial insertion in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.42) at the end of a string of citations most of which warn against turning back to a life of sin. This verse in particular, though, is used as a reminder that we turn away from God rather than God turning away from us. It is possible for those who have heard and believed the gospel to turn away from God's love and grace. This is how we grieve the Spirit.
John 6:35, 41-51
A massive chunk of John 6 (verses 35 thru 58) is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 7: Holy Supper (SD 7.61). We'll come back to it next week as well, but this block of text is cited to argue for the first, and arguably most important, sense in which we receive communion: the spiritual eating. Being drawn by the Father to the Son through the Spirit will lead us to receive communion in faith. Without the gift of faith, without the spiritual eating of communion, communion is in no way salvific, but actually damning! How challenging that question of who is worthy to receive, for how do we measure the gift of faith?
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
-- John 6:35
Verse 35, as we saw last week, is quoted in a quote from Ambrose's Exposition of Psalm 118 in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 24: The Mass (AP 24.75). Melanchthon quotes Ambrose quoting John here to show that faith is needed for communion to be efficacious. It is not possible, Melanchthon argues, to get a benefit from communion without faith, nor is it possible to transfer what you receive from communion to another. Receiving communion faithfully, however, gives Jesus' promises.
[Jesus said,] "No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day."
-- John 6:44
Verse 44 is partly quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26) in that delightfully long block of biblical citations showing that reason and free will cannot save us. This verse is quoted to make the direct point that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them to him.
Hopefully it's not a surprise that this verse is also quoted in Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.76). In this article, verse 44 sets us the argument that God the Father draws people to God the Son through God the Holy Spirit and "means." What is meant by means? There is a deep Lutheran believe that God chooses to work through creation rather than doing everything miraculously or from nothing. In this context then, the means are water, bread, wine, word, and you. The sacraments, the lives of Christians, the good news of God in Christ proclaimed through word and deed--these are the means through which the Holy Spirit draws people to Christ by the Father's will. So while it is true that no one can come to Christ unless drawn by the Father, you are the means through which the Father is drawing people to Christ.
Verses 48 thru 58 are cited in Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ (SD 8.59) as part of the third point showing that Jesus' divine and human natures are joined in such a unique way that Jesus' human body can give life. We'll come back to this again next week when the crowd wrestles with this claim Jesus makes about his body.
[Jesus said,] "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
-- John 6:51
Verse 51 is partly quoted in Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.28) as part of the biblical argument that the gospel is for all people. The promise of this verse is that the bread of heaven that is Jesus is for "the world."
It could be possible to get lost in the mysticism of exactly how all this happens, but the steps of God's work are clearly presented.
- God gives us the gift of Jesus. (John 6)
- God the Father draws people to Jesus through means and God the Spirit. (John 6 and Ephesians 4)
- God the Spirit gives the gift of faith that leads to amendment of life. (Ephesians 4)
It really is that simple. It really is that complex.
You are one of the means through which God the Father draws people through God the Spirit to God the Son. God does this through how you live, who you talk to, and what you say. This matters most not inside the building where you worship (although many who call themselves Christian need to hear the gospel again), but where you live the rest of our life--at home, at work, at school, when you gather with other people, when you drive, when you're visited by the nurses' aid, when you're at the doctor's office, when you go to the store, when you're spending time with friends and family...
God works through you to bring people to Jesus.