Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

God the Giver (Romans 11:33–36)

Daily Lenten Reflection - Sunday, 5 March 2017

Week 2: Liberated by God’s Grace

Week 2, Day 1

“The Collect from the Second Sunday in Advent,” The Book of Common Prayer

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

God the Giver (Romans 11:33–36)

Stephen Ju, Lutheran, Hong Kong

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. 

God is the giver, and we are the receivers. The book of Romans declared that this plays a key role in the relationship between God and human beings. The pure gospel declares that God is not a stern taker, but the generous giver in Christ. The Holy Spirit gives the salvation that Christ won on the cross to everyone who hears the gospel and receives it by faith (Rom 1:16–17).

When Martin Luther understood that in the epistle to the Romans the righteousness of God is an uncompromised, stringent requirement, he was in despair. He realized that he himself could never reach the standard required by this righteousness. When he rediscovered and learned the true meaning of the phrase “God’s righteousness,” he understood that righteousness was actually given by God—it was God’s gracious gift. Suddenly Luther saw the light. That which had prevented him from understanding the Bible was removed and the door to heaven opened. For justification by faith means to believe that God’s righteousness cannot be earned but is God’s gracious gift that we receive by faith. It is the gift that calls all sinners to repent and become righteous.

Just as when God created us and bestowed upon us the breath of life—the body, the hands, the feet, etc.—all of these are gracious and free gifts. None of it was earned by our hard work or our faithfulness. As Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift” (1 Cor 4:7). In his “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, 1528,” Luther said, “The Father gives himself to us, with heaven and earth and all the creatures, in order that they may serve us and benefit us.”

Likewise, the new life given in Christ is the same as the life received in creation. The Son reconciled us with the Father, bringing us back to the Father. No wonder that, after finishing his discourse, Paul gives praise to God that: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! […] ‘who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:33–36).

Here and now, Christians still daily receive grace in their lives. Through the Word and the sacraments, the Holy Spirit distributes to us the gift of forgiveness, and turns us into a gift for our neighbors. In the “Small Catechism” Luther said, “Where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.” We have eternal life; this implies trusting in God completely, having the most intimate relationship with God and daily enjoying and being content in God’s goodness. Eternal life does not only have a place in the future, but it is also a promise to become a member of God’s royal family here and now, and to be appointed to reign with God. As mentioned in Revelation, “you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth” (Rev 5:10). Therefore, whether in creation or in redemption, now or eternally, God is always the giver, and we are the joyful receivers.

“On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Anglican-Lutheran International Coordinating Committee has compiled a collection of Lenten reflections to commemorate the anniversary. The text can be used by small groups or individual, as a Lenten reading or as a resource for the weeks between Easter and Trinity Sunday. We are sharing these reflections daily during Lent, hoping that our common experience of God’s grace may draw our two families of churches closer together in this extraordinary year, and be used beyond 2017 and actually at any time.”