Image by Thang Nguyen from Nottingham, United Kingdom (135209) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia
By now you have heard of our 2018 Stewardship Appeal: Welcoming All—Growing, Engaging, Building. It’s our focused effort to propel our mission into 2018 through shared generosity. We are asking for a lot… hoping you will earnestly evaluate your life and your commitments for continued alignment with God’s work through Grace. A stewardship appeal further binds us together.
It’s that binding in grace through Jesus which draws me to an unlikely image… training a canine pet.
I’m an abject failure at dog obedience training.
Lifetime Training Track Record – 0-6
As a teenager I attempted with my mother to raise a German Shepherd. This was the third dog ‘raised’ under my tutelage. How come our dog Lady didn’t behave like Rin Tin Tin? After Lady knocked over a precious vase, she was consigned to an outside pen. When a four foot fence wouldn’t contain her, we added four more feet.
Lady jumped over the first fence and climbed over the second. Neighbors knew our phone number by heart. After these same neighbors could no longer handle nights made sleepless from Lady’s incessant barking, we gave her to the Asheville Police Department.
Lady needed to get out of our jail. I failed with three other dogs after that. We survived each other largely due to their temperaments.
A Raleigh neighbor trained a Golden Retriever he named Trapper. Leashed to his master the young Trapper learned to successfully walk around the block. The two were in step with each other. As an adult dog Trapper strode next to his master gripping that leash in his teeth. He didn’t need to be restrained. A darting rabbit or squirrel would not send Trapper in pursuit. This canine willingly walked beside his master. The leash was just a connection point between master and dog.
It was a beautiful thing to witness. The dog preferred to please its master. He wanted to follow his every stride.
Martin Luther defined Christian freedom this way:
“A Christian is perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
(Treatise on Christian Liberty)
A Call to Christian Freedom
What a rich understanding of our place in this world. We know we don’t have to walk beneath another; we choose that path. It should never be forced on us. There may be nothing worse than a collar choking you into submission. Constraint does not beget willing service. There may be nothing more beautiful than a servant who in freedom grips the leash in his/her mouth.
You do not have to give anything to support Christ’s work thru Grace Church. There is no leash pulling on you. This appeal is a call to Christian freedom!
Seeking the Fullness of Life in Christ,
David A. Sloop, Interim Pastor
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther very innocently posted 95 reasons for there to be debate concerning Roman Catholic doctrine and theology. The doors of the Wittenberg Church were pretty much the bulletin board of the university. Luther was calling for faculty and students to come together to discuss the direction in which the church was heading; a direction that he felt was contrary to scripture and the fundamental principles upon which the Christian Church was founded.
These Ninety-Five Theses were translated from Latin (which was intended for the university’s population) into the German language and widely distributed. Thus, an attempt at scholarly debate became an irritant among clergy, theologians, and heads of state, especially where the sale of indulgences was concerned. In his explanation to this document, Luther wrote that “the law is fulfilled not by our works but through faith, not by anything we offer God but by all we receive from Christ.”
In other words, God’s grace is a gift that cannot be earned by any human endeavor.
Although the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation will not officially be observed until October 31st of 2017, the ELCA is encouraging Lutherans and others within both Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church to utilize this intervening year as an opportunity for study and discussion. Long before he posted the Ninety Five Theses on the doors of Wittenberg Church, Luther had carefully studied the scriptures and written countless papers and letters in an effort to express his concerns.
I will be making recommendations to the Equip team in the near future for our providing opportunities within the congregation for study regarding Martin Luther and the impact of the Reformation upon the church and the world over these last five centuries. It is also important for us to view how Reformation history will continue to impact us far into the future. I encourage each of you take note of opportunities that will be provided in coming months within our own congregation, our synod, and among Lutherans and people of other denominations within our own community. It is also important for Lutherans to know, not just the history of where our legacy originated, but also how our understanding of justification by grace through faith impacts our mission, and our service as Christ’s disciples both now and into the future.
In the nineteenth century, Nicolai Grundtvig set these words to Martin Luther’s tune, A Mighty Fortress: “God’s word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever; to spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor. Through life it guides our way; in death it is our stay. Lord, grant while time shall last your church may hold it fast through-out all generations.”
Passing the faith from generation to generation is, indeed, an endeavor worth pursuing.