Every now and then, when there is an issue or concern in my life, the Holy Spirit uses the Word in its variety of forms and places of proclamation to repeatedly reveal the same truth over and again and call me to faith in the Word. That is needed, because I can be thick-headed, and the natural stance of a sinner is doubt.
For example, a couple months ago, a combination of conditions started causing me to worry. Worry is an intrusive, distracting, and gripping dread that harm will come.
But, in the face of worry, as Luther explains the Third Article:
The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
He does that.
I was teaching Sunday School and we came to a lesson in One in Christ published by Concordia Publishing House. It was Lesson 28 on page 62. The title is, “Why Do We Call God Our Father?” The subtitle is, “Jesus Teaches Us Not to Worry.” The text is Matthew 6:19-34. The Catechism lesson was the First Article, which Luther explains:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
Really? Shoes? God is concerned to care for me right down to my shoes? We Lutherans are a weird bunch. As Rev. William Chancellor Weedon notes, Luther’s is the only catechism that mentions shoes. And if I don’t believe this, I am supposed to have a faith problem concerning the Creed and my heavenly Father and the Word of Jesus in Matthew? A question in the student text asked, “Why is it a sin to worry?” Boy, that’s laying it on. A sin? Puhleeze!
Then Pastor Rolf Preus talked about worry in a section of his sermon.
Then worry came up in my morning devotion.
In another week, worry came up on the Collect of the Day.
Then in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, though each of those takes less than two minutes, numerous things stood out. “I believe in God the Father.” At the altar of my bedside, I confess where beings in the spiritual realm hear that I have a Father. What am I confessing, as I worry?
“Maker of heaven and earth.” What did Luther say was the reason for God making heaven and earth? It was for me. I would need them and all creatures. So my Father made them for me, yet I worry.
“Give us this day our daily bread,” which is to say, as Luther explains, “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this.” Do I realize?
Then in Luther’s little prayer for the morning, “I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil,” and “Into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things.” What is my outlook on that? Will my Father keep me from evil? What do I mean by “into your hands?” What does commend mean? My soul? Sure. But my body also? Am I hesitating to confess it? I am saying the words over and again, but is it with a reservation?
That right there is why we must have repetition. That is why the Holy Spirit has been described as the hound of heaven. He seeks and hounds and keeps after us, using the Word, calling us to believe.
It all came to head today. I am writing on February 14. This is quite a day for me. It is Valentine’s Day, the day on which I gave my wife our engagement ring 39 years ago. This year, it is also Ash Wednesday. Our congregation is using the Lenten devotion, The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion, published fresh and new this year by Steadfast Lutherans. Get a load of the Holy Spirit hounding me about my view of the Father in the devotion for Ash Wednesday:
It’s very appropriate during Lent, a season of repentance and increased focus on God’s work for us in Christ Jesus to be reminded that God is our Father. How is God our Father? Sometimes people talk about God being our Father by the Creation. This is true that God created us. We are creatures. But that’s not quite fully revealing about our Father. Creation is sometimes a scary place. Things in creation die. There is so much out of our control in creation. It can be frightening. Even worse, our many sins tear into our thinking about how our Father looks at us.
There is another way to think of God as our Father. Yes, He created us. He has done so much more than that however. God is our Father because Jesus is our brother. The Son of God was sent by the Father to redeem His creatures. Now instead of just seeing the raw power of creation or the wrath we deserve for our sins and offenses, a new way to see God as our Father emerges. God is our loving Father. He showed this in sending His only-begotten Son. The power of Creation is under the same Son who suffered all punishment for us. This Father is our Father. Because of Christ we know Him to be a loving Father.
Dear Father in heaven, help us trust you as our loving Father who gave us Jesus to redeem us. Help us to call upon you during this Lenten season with all boldness and confidence. Amen.
Okay, I give in. That bit about Jesus being my Brother is the last straw. I can’t resist it any more. The Holy Spirit conquers doubt by the Word, even the Living Word, my Brother.
On your own, you are no match for worry. But the Holy Spirit is mighty, and He has mighty means, the Word of God. Your heart cannot still itself, but your feet can carry you to the Divine Service. The Word is there, and hence, the Holy Spirit is there. Your hands can turn to the Morning Prayer in the Catechism. Your memory can call up the words of the Creed and the Our Father. On your mobile device or computer, you can read a devotion like these Lenten devotions from the Brothers of John the Steadfast. By his repetitive use of the means of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit delivers the gift of faith.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Harm may come, yet the Lord cares for you and sees you through.
Dear ones, you have a Father, a Father of steadfastly divine goodness and mercy, and you can know it by the Word. As Luther explains the Third Commandment:
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.