I’m a “cradle Lutheran”. During the 1950s-60s, I attended Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and (by my calculations) about 200 hours of Confirmation Class (two hours each Saturday morning for the three years of Junior High). We memorized many Bible verses, the Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer and Martin Luther’s explanations – all very important. We did a LOT of memorization – this is most certainly true! By the time I was confirmed, I felt I had been exposed to all the “really important stuff” of religion.
Remember, this was the 50s and 60s, and there was great emphasis on how being Lutheran was different from (and better than) belonging to other denominations. There were warnings about avoiding the “works righteousness trap”. Stick with grace and faith; don’t you dare think anything you do will impress the Almighty. Perhaps they thought the adolescent brain was unable to comprehend the subtleties of the life of faith. I do find it sad that I hit adulthood with no encouragement to integrate that faith into my daily life. Later, in the 1970s, when I came across James 2:26, my pastor counseled me not to take it seriously, stressing that Martin Luther opposed the inclusion of James in the canon of scripture. But when I pointed out Matthew 25:31-40 (the sheep and the goats story about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked), he struggled for a response.
As I grew older, I discovered some really good parts of scripture that had been omitted from my early training. For example, take this gem about God’s sense of time: 2 Peter 3:8-9 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the LORD a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The LORD is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Or this verse about restoration: Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent among you.” God’s not finished with us yet.
Another interesting omission was Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Talk about faith in daily life! I took that as “my verse” about 30 years ago. Using it as my email address reminds me daily to ask myself “will this action of mine promote justice? Will it offer mercy?” “Is my walk at this moment indicative of a humble relationship with God?” I am grateful for the witness of other Christians whose actions the other 167 hours of the week reflect the hour spent in worship on Sunday morning. They demonstrate what infusing the words of Jesus into daily can look like – not perfect all the time, but more often than not displaying love to a surprisingly wide variety of neighbors. Jesus knew that actions speak louder than words. John 13:35 says “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And what better way to display love than through justice, mercy, and humility.
Let us pray...
Lord, through your Word, lead me to understand how you want me to act. May each thing I do reflect your love to the world. Amen.