Hopes & Dreams Part 4 – God is Love

As part of my process to become an ordained minister in the ELCA, in 2016 I was required to write an essay focusing on my hopes and dreams for the church, where I see God at work in the world, and what I believe about our incredible God. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts of this essay, as our Learning Lutheran educational series continues and we as a congregation dive into our faith, I invite you to dive into my faith with me.

  1. What key theological insights have been influential in your development as a missional leader in the Church as it participates in God’s mission in world? Include distinctive biblical and Lutheran theological building blocks which you have used to construct a theology of mission that informs your current understanding.

I never thought I was worthy of love. School bullying and difficult family dynamics left me as a young person desperate for love and at the same time unable to accept it. This personal identity of “not good enough” was turned upside down in my faith. Because for the first time, I realized that I was truly and without my doing, loved and saved from the broken pieces of myself. “Without our merit – since, after all, we cannot merit anything – [God] wants to give us forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life for the sake of Christ. For God is He who dispenses His gifts freely to all.”[i]

This theological insight has been a gift so powerful and so disrupting to my life, that I didn’t want it. I had grown accustomed to my self-loathing, and the love and grace I had been given was too much. Luther said that it is “the greatness of the gift [that] is responsible for our not accepting it.”[ii] But it is exactly in this greatness, in this disruptive and sometimes unwelcome faith, love, and forgiveness that God gives to us which makes it such a powerful proclamation.

This is the essence of God’s work in the world, of God’s dream for the world. God is giving us this amazing, powerful gift, a gift that changes us forever. As Christ went to the cross, carrying all of our sin, all of our brokenness[iii] we too die with Christ through our baptisms and are made new.[iv] We are made in to this new creation that we don’t fully understand.

As we are called to faith by the Holy Spirit[v], as we are called to the church, we are changed by the Gospel. We are changed by hearing those words “Christ’s body for you.” These words lifted me up from the darkness of my broken self, and they told me of God’s incredible love for me, and for this world. This unmerited, unwanted, amazing gift is so disrupting and so life-changing that it’s something I am called to share. And to share not only with words, but with love for my neighbor.

My theology tells me that God is love, and it is through knowing love that we find God.[vi] It is through sharing God’s love, mercy, and amazing grace that we are able to proclaim the true Gospel. God breaks through our world, sometimes by tearing it open[vii], sometimes by experiencing God’s love through our neighbor, and sometimes by the mystery of the Holy Spirit working through those around us. It’s through the hearing of the promises God has made to us, through experiencing God’s love, that God’s dream, God’s hope for reconciliation, can become reality in our lives and in our world.

[i] (Luther, M. (1958). Luther’s Works (Vol. 26). (J. Pelikan, Ed.) St Louis, MO: Concordia.) Pg 127

[ii] (Luther, M. (1958). Luther’s Works (Vol. 26). (J. Pelikan, Ed.) St Louis, MO: Concordia.) Pg 213

[iii] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[iv] Romans 6:8

[v] (Kolb, R., & Wengart, T. J. (2000). The Book of Concord. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.) Small Catechism

[vi] 1 John 4:8

[vii] Mark 1:10