Greetings to All!
Thanksgiving Day is a time our nation has set aside to give thanks for the wonderful bounty of earth. As Christians, we direct our thanks to the true God who created every-thing and continues to bless us with an abundance of people, places and things, seen and unseen. I believe being a Lutheran Christian is just one of those blessings of God.
I was recently asked, “What does it mean to be a Lutheran Christian? I believe the answer and the reason we can be thankful is found in the understanding of the means of grace and God’s two Holy Sacraments: Baptism and Communion!
The word Sacrament is not found anywhere in the Bible. Given the basic understanding of the word, a Sacrament is a “holy thing.” Christians could call anything a Sacrament:
a good cup of coffee, a sports team, or a trip to the mountains or the beach.
But historically, Lutherans have always embraced a more serious and biblical definition. In order for something to be called a Sacrament, it must meet three criteria:
1) Christ must have commanded it;
2) a visible element of some sort must be present; and
3) forgiveness of sins must be offered through it.
The two Sacraments that meet these criteria are: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
As for Holy Baptism: “Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18- 20). The visible element of this Holy Sacrament is water! Water is one of the most abundant substances on earth. The promise of this Holy Sacrament is forgiveness: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
As for Holy Communion: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you’” (Matthew 26: 26–27). Here, the visible elements of this Sac-
rament include bread and wine. The promise of this Sacrament is forgiveness: “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, along with the written and spoken Word of God, comprise the means of Grace. These Sacraments, through God’s Holy Spirit, gives grace, faith, forgiveness, eternal life and salvation to His people.
Finally, Lutherans understand that the effectiveness of these “means” does not depend on our status, our strength or our good works…, but on God alone! These things are Jesus’ gifts to us. Thank God for His mercy and grace toward us. Let us gather weekly for Sunday School and Worship… to give thanks, collectively, to God our Provider.
Happy thanksgiving! Amen.
Pastor Alvin Shrum
The Reverend Alvin Shrum