I'll be honest; I have no idea what I am doing. I am a 23-year-old Lutheran who is trying to live out a celibate lifestyle while struggling with some sins, namely, Same-Sex Attraction (SSA). Earlier this year, I wrote an article on dominant narratives in the United States that can have an influence over the hearts and minds of Christians struggling with SSA. The LGBTQ narrative is just one of them. It can be so tempting to leave a faithful Lutheran church for an affirming LGBTQ church. It seems like my worries would be over—able to have my cake and eat it too, so to speak. In other words, I'd be "free" to be openly gay and "Christian" at the same time. The world is telling us all kinds of stories while the Church catholic is telling us THE story. The stories we expose our hearts and minds to will shape who we are, and that's why we need to hear the Gospel narrative—that is, the theology of the cross.
So where do we go to hear this Gospel narrative? Divine Service! We go to the Lord Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar. We hear His word read aloud to us every Sunday. There are Sundays when I would rather not go and instead stay in bed, but I desperately need Jesus. So, what do I do? I arise, bear my cross and go to Him, who bore THE cross. We all have to carry our crosses. Remember that Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, is not foreign to such a concept. Jesus, the Son of God, showed us how to bear our cross. He showed us real love, and He taught us how to die. The immortal God-man showed mortal man how to die and thus how to live—quite the paradox!
So how do we die and thus live? Well, think about the Divine Service. When you enter the church, what do you see first? Hopefully, your eyes rest on the baptismal font either near the entrance or near the altar. The font reminds us to daily drown the Old Adam in our baptism. Baptism reminds us that we have a new identity in Christ. We live in our identity (our baptism) as sons and daughters of God which is so much better than our sexual, national, racial, or political identity.
At the beginning of the Divine Service, we die by confessing our sins and receiving absolution. The practice of confession and absolution paints such a beautiful picture of Christ forgiving the sinner. Then we hear the Word of God. We die when the Law of God condemns us, but we live when the Gospel forgives us.
Next is the Sacrament of the Altar. We live by receiving the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. This gift amazes me every time I think about it because it's Christ offering His true Body and Blood to us sinners. Through the Sacrament of the Altar we receive the strength to carry on—it undergirds us as sojourners in a foreign land.
All of these major elements make up the historic liturgy. This liturgy is always and consistently telling us THE story every Sunday. The liturgy is always telling us what God does for us. It teaches us that we belong to Him because of our baptism. It shows us that God loves and forgives us through confession and absolution. It tells us that God has something to say to us through His Word. It teaches us that Christ is always there to welcome us to His table and to give us His true Body and Blood. So that's why it's a paradox: In our dying, we live, and this is the Christian life. When I find myself tempted and on the verge of leaving the faith I can hear those sweet words of the Alleluia sung in our liturgy, "Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia, alleluia" (Divine Service, Setting One, LSB). Where am I to go, dear reader? To forsake Jesus is to leave eternal life. When you find yourself struggling in the faith then run to your baptism, remember that you belong to Christ and focus on Him, and go to Divine Service and soak up the story He is telling you there.
So, to whom shall we go? We go to Jesus, who offers Himself and His many gifts given to the Church—given to you. When you go to Divine Service, you will find yourself to be a sinner-saint who is in dire need of Jesus. You find yourself seeing others as more worthy of the Sacraments than you. When you allow yourself to be shaped by the liturgy and sacraments, you will find yourself as a beggar pointing other beggars toward the Bread of Life: Jesus. It won't matter to you if one Christian struggles with SSA or with some other sin because you will realize how in dire need of Jesus we all are. And no one is beyond redemption by Jesus.
Dakota Monday is a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Created: August 5th, 2016