Perhaps this month’s “From the Pastor” should be called “From the Presiding Bishop” since I am considering her statement, “We are Grace People” for this article.
During Bishop Eaton’s Wednesday afternoon session during the “Living Voice” conference I just attended in Atlanta, she re-emphasized her principles for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): “We are Church. We are Lutheran. We are Church together. We are Church for the world.” Certainly, those brief phrases help us focus our identity as the ELCA.
Then while expanding on “We are Lutheran,” she reminded us that neither our cuisine (potlucks!) nor culture (German, Scandinavian, other European, or…) define “Lutheran.” Rather, our theology, our way of understanding God’s interaction with us and our world define us — and defines us as “Grace people.” Lutherans are known among the larger Christian family as the people who do not consider grace as an afterthought or a footnote in faith consideration, but we pull out Grace first and foremost. That means we start by stating we cannot do life or faith on our own. Rather, because of Grace, God decided to come into our world in Christ, died on the cross, and then rose on Easter so we can have faith; we can have life; we can have hope!
Bishop Eaton’s words reminded me once again that I came to the Lutheran church because of that message. I had been involved in church since childhood — that was the culture prevalent in my time. But as I got older I continually reflected on the message I seemed to hear growing up in Texas — was I good enough for God or if people searched my life would they find enough evidence to prove I was a Christian? When the Campus Pastor at my university proclaimed the clear message of Grace, faith opened up in my life.
Now, this Grace does not mean anything goes. Grace in fact presupposes we need it. (We realize we are sinners, flawed people, unable to create perfection.) Grace comes exactly to the im-
perfect, the flawed, the sinners — to real people. Grace comes to reorient our lives so we start with God, we depend on God, and we then are moved by God’s Spirit to act in this world.
As then we go deeply into the sweltering days of Summer, I invite everyone to go deeply aswell into faith. No heat can stop our gracious God from coming. And this gracious God invites us to be the church, to be the people who start with Grace, to be the people who carry this message of Grace together into a needy world, to be the people who trust such a gracious God to use even our talents and gifts on behalf of a world still needing people of Grace in proclamation and action!