This Life Is Edited For Content

Rev. Donavon Riley

This article is edited for content. It contains my thoughts. They're all my words. But someone else reads it before it reaches your eyes, dear reader. She is the editor. She reads over the article. She checks it for content. She sends back my third draft to ask, "Can you reduce the word count?" "Can you fix this sentence so it's easier to understand?" "What do you mean when you say this?" That's her job as editor: to check over what I've written, correct errors and make suggestions-all so that by the time this reaches your eyes, it's clear, concise and easy to understand. I can read what I've written once, twice, a dozen times and still ignore that between my imagination and the page I missed an "is" in the title, added three commas where there should have been a period, didn't define a fancy Latin word, left a run-on sentence to run on and on... The mind plays tricks on us. Fills in gaps for us on the fly. In fact, we are often blind to what's obvious, especially when it's our own work. In life, too, we could all benefit from an editor: someone who can translate us, even to ourselves, such as, "Rewrite that before you hit send." "Delete what you're about to say to her." "Tweak that before you tell him."

God's Spirit does that very thing with us. Sin turns us away from God and neighbor. Sin also blinds us to the truth about ourselves. We think we've got it together. We're doing alright. Or, not so great. We don't know why this is happening to us. Why me? Why is God tempting me? Who we imagine ourselves to be is as upside down and backwards as what we imagine God is up to.

We live in the way of the law-in the way of limits, measures, divisions, comparisons, qualifications and quantifications. But God is in the mercy way. The Gospel way. The only way God will be for us is in His Jesus way. And even though God says it to us in words, water, bread, and wine, we don't see it. We don't hear it. We're blind to the obviousness of it all. And so, if we're to be the person God intends us to be, in the Gospel way, His Jesus way, He must edit and translate us into the kingdom of Christ. God's Spirit edits us for content. All Jesus. All gifts. From our sin and law way to His faith and Gospel way, we are translated. Translated. Repented. Faithed. Jesus-ed all the way.

This happened when you were baptized into Christ. This is why Martin Luther writes that in baptism "every Christian has enough to study and practice all his or her life." Through Baptism we are translated into the kingdom of Christ. And this is made obvious to us every time God does His Christ Jesusing to us in the sermon and at the Lord's table. In His speaking and doing, we speak and do. "You sinner." "Yes, me sinner." "You are forgiven and blessed for Christ's sake." "Amen." What we would say in the way of sin and the law is edited for content. Instead, the Spirit breathes His breath into our lungs. He lays His words onto our tongues. More than that, He works His works with our hands. That is how He translates us into the kingdom of Christ. That is what it means to be in the Gospel way. God's chosen people. A holy people. A royal priesthood built up into a temple of the Holy Spirit, as St. Peter writes. Sanctified.

So long as you're "in the flesh" you will struggle against sin. This is to be in the way of measures, limits, and all the rest of it. To miss what's obvious. To search for God in the opposite way of His Jesus way. This is why as long as you're in the world you will need another to edit and translate you into the kingdom of Christ. Just look at what you've submitted. "I'm doing alright." No, change that. "You're hanging on by your fingernails." "I've got it together," should read, "I'm a train-wreck." And why did you add an exclamation point to "I'm miserable"? You didn't need extra punctuation. God hears you. And the word "miserable" means "needing mercy." You've got that Jesus-much already. Omit "Why me?" And delete the question. God tempts no one to sin. You've been repented. You are faithed. You are sanctified. There. Good. See what a good editor can do? Trust me. Now... It is finished.

Rev. Donavon Riley is the pastor of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Webster, Minnesota. He is also the online content manager for Higher Things. You can contact him at