Luther, in his first sermon at Wittenberg on March 9th, 1522:
“The summons of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Therefore, everyone must himself know and be armed with the chief things which concern a Christian. In the first place, we must know that we are the children of wrath, and all our works, intentions, and thoughts are nothing at all. Secondly, that God has sent us his only-begotten Son that we may believe in him and that whoever trusts in him shall be free from sin and a child of God. Thirdly, we must also have love and through love we must do to one another as God has done to us through faith. Fourthly, we also need patience. For whoever has faith, trusts in God, and shows love to his neighbor, practicing it day by day, must his needs suffer persecution. For the devil never sleeps, but constantly gives him plenty of trouble.”
We know these ‘chief things’ of which Luther speaks. We know that our actions should reflect the evidence of those ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit’; love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, as people living in community with one another. We know the gift of grace that we have been freely given through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and yet we get to Luther’s points of patience and love through faith and we are reminded, so clearly, that those ‘chief things which concern a Christian’, we seem to forget as we navigate our lives with our own needs and desires and not those of our neighbor.
So, we return each Sunday to hear words of forgiveness and reconciliation; to be re-membered into one unified body of Christ. It is then that we are able to see, once again, God’s intentions for his faithful people. And when those intentions are made clear once more, we can only respond with thanksgiving. We will sing one of my favorite hymns this month.
“Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who, from our mothers’ arms, has blest us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”
A wonderful reminder that the countless gifts of love that we receive are given to us freely and with no merit of our own works; a wonderful reminder that even though we are ‘children of wrath’, Jesus loves us.
So, be mindful of those ‘things that should concern a Christian’; it is those things, that when recognized and lived into, allow us to thank our God with hearts of love, hands of service to our neighbor, and voices of thanksgiving and praise!