Dean's List: Called to Serve
Aaron T. Fenker
You are a child of God. You are a saint. You are spotless, blameless, and holy before your heavenly Father. You have the Spirit. You no longer live, but Christ lives in you, who loved you and gave Himself for you (Galatians 2:20). All of these truths together mean one thing: you are baptized.
So, now act like it! Act like a Christian. Produce good works. Do your duty. Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. You have to show that you mean it. Don’t be a Sunday-morning Christian--a pew potato.
All sorts of things like this float around in Christian circles. Now, of course, faith does produce good works. “Faith without works is dead,” James says (James 2:17). Jesus also says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). What James and Jesus say gets twisted into “be a better Christian.” That’s not really their point, but still James and Jesus are right: faith produces good works, good fruit. But, how and where does this happen? Rejoice! It’s really not all that hard. Well, it’s still hard to do (impossible without Jesus), but it’s easy to understand and confess.
“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Now that sounds beautiful and wonderful, and it is! But it’s day-to-day sort of stuff. That’s the beauty of it! Just listen to John the Baptizer and the people who came to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins:
“Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:9–14).
Being kind and helping those around you, tax collectors being fair, soldiers doing their duty: that’s the service of the baptized. That’s you, too! Besides all the blessings I listed before, when you are baptized something else happens: you join the holy priesthood of all God’s people (1 Peter 2:9; Exodus 19:6). Now, does that mean you have to do churchy things to be a good Christian? Not necessarily.
Certainly, some men will be pastors. Most other people will be hearers. (Check out the Table of Duties in your Small Catechism.) Both are holy. But God’s holy priesthood doesn’t just serve at church, in worship to be good priests and servants of God. Look at what John the Baptizer said. When soldiers do their duty, it’s holy. When tax collectors fairly collect taxes, it’s holy. When people are kind to one another, it’s holy. That goes for you, too!
Who’s right next to you? Whom do you see first thing each day? What’s her name? What about the first 10 to 15 people? There’s your holy service. There are your good works. There is your good fruit. From your baby brother to your math teacher, your classmate to your manager at work, and, yes, even your parents. By being baptized into Christ, those everyday acts of service are absolutely holy and put a smile on your heavenly Father’s face, but only because you’re in Christ. When you do your homework as the baptized, that’s holy homework. Your chores are holy chores, your having dinner with your family is a holy meal, your talking about your day with your friends is holy talk. Why? Only because you’re in Christ--you’re baptized into His death and resurrection. You’re washed in His blood, and so are your works.
Your good works look right back at you. Just look at your place in life: “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?” (Small Catechism, Confession: Which are these?) The problem is that your sins look right back at you, too. There is your failure to do your duty. There are your sins. There is your confession. There you “sin by thought word and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone,” (Divine Service: Setting One).
Nevertheless, God is at work in and through us. But we try and go our own way and, left to ourselves, we do it our way. We’re rude, short, selfish, always wanting something in return. That’s our flesh that’s at war with the Spirit who dwells within us (Galatians 5:17) and with Christ, our Lord, who also lives within us (Galatians 3:26). You are His hands and voice to spread love, mercy, service, and forgiveness to everyone around, but it’s day to day. Whom do you see most of all? Them first. You’re like a rock dropped in a pond that God uses to cause ripples of love to flow out into the world. That’s the service of baptized priests and children of God.
It’s still impossible with us. It really is. We mess up, we wrong those we love the most. We take them for granted, want them to serve us first. Repent. There is your confession. Yes, you are called to serve, but it’s not like Jesus does His part, then you do yours to show how serious a Christian you are. That’s a lie! “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
You are in Christ, and He in you. That’s Holy Baptism. But it’s the Sacrament of the Altar, too, where you receive Jesus’ Body and Blood. There the Vine pours His life into you, the branch, through the fruit of the vine: the wine that really is His blood. That is how He “abides in you, and you in Him” (John 15:5; John 6:56). His life wells up within you unto good fruit: “faith toward God and fervent,” heartfelt, genuine “love toward one another” (Post-Communion Collect).
You are called to serve. God has already laid out your service for you (Ephesians 2:10). “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?” Well, there you go! Jesus still lives in you and you in Him: body and blood united. You are united as a priest to your High Priest, and so you love and serve your family, friends, classmates, and anyone else you happen to meet, too! Really, it’s Jesus who is working in and through you to do it. His hands--that’s you! And “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We have this promise that “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
As the dean of theology, Aaron oversees all the ways that Christ crucified is delivered throughout all operations and programs of Higher Things, making sure that its teaching, preaching, and worship deliver Christ and His forgiveness to those we have been blessed to serve. As a Lutheran pastor, he believes that all people, even youth and young adults, need not just pure doctrine but the pure Gospel: Christ crucified for the forgiveness of their sins. He passionately strives to make sure that Jesus’ teaching, Jesus’ preaching, Jesus’ Word, Jesus’ Sacraments, Jesus’ forgiveness are all delivered FOR YOU.
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