“It’s what you do!” In a marvelous chapel homily proclaimed during the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper at Concordia University (February 3, 2016), Assistant Professor of Theology, Rev. Terry Groth, using Psalm 116 as his text, reminded us of three biblical truths:
“First, if you are a believer living in the fallen world, you will often cry out, as the psalmist does, “O LORD, save me” (v. 4)! It’s what you do. And you do it often because the world is so messed up because of sin and evil …. Death in some form was hot on his trail and eager to finish him off. Our psalmist was in anguish. He was “overcome by trouble and sorrow” (v. 3). He had no escape. And so, he cried out for mercy ….
“Second, while we may never have looked death straight in the eye, sometimes we sure feel that way. Relationships we have counted on crash. Health fails. We suffer a major disillusionment. The threat of mounting debts keeps us awake at night. Career crisis throws us into anguish. The hound of depression leaves us overcome by trouble and sorrow …. We are convinced that our sin has gotten the best of us, and we feel so defeated that we can’t see how God can possibly love us or even look at us. The truth is we can’t stand to look at ourselves. In our weakness and desperation all we can do is cry out, “LORD, save me!” It’s what we do. What else can we do? ….
“And then [third] out of the blue (that is, heaven), unexpectedly, even miraculously, without any merit or worthiness in us, God swoops in and rescues us! Because, if you’re God, it’s what you do …. God heard his cry and had mercy on him. God was gracious and full of compassion (v. 5).”
While the message’s application was not specifically to the domain of our sanctified lives in the area of social ministry, it could have been. For mercy is what God does, and by the Holy Spirit’s power we are called to do mercy as His hands and feet, eyes and ears, tongues and throats in extending His mercy to others. Throughout the editorials, articles and book reviews of this edition of Issues the authors carefully, clearly and confidently articulate that social ministry. The ministry of mercy, care and life stewardship, is “what we do” as the collective Body of Christ and as individual members of that Body. The writers of this edition know through significant life experience of what they speak. They offer substantial theological and historical references and analytic data to underscore what we are called by God to do and be as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” in order to make known the forgiving love and unending grace of Jesus Christ for all people.
Rev. Mech, in the conclusion of his article, states it well: “This is the powerful truth of the Christian’s calling …. It is not that the Holy Spirit fills us with His gifts, then launches us into the world to pour out good works. The work comes to us. The good works come to us. Opportunities to serve in God’s name might involve mission trips and disaster relief, but they begin with spouse and house, neighbor and child.” When it comes to social ministry, the response of the child of God is always that of mercy and care at home and far away, to friend and stranger, among rich and poor, alongside disadvantaged and well advantaged, at all times and in all places. May it always be said of Christ’s followers: Social ministry, it’s what, by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s power, they do!
Brian L. Friedrich, President, Concordia University Nebraska