07 October 2007

"In Christ"

In LSB, there are three prayers that may be offered after singing Phos Hilaron in Evening Prayer. The second of these comes to us from the Apostolic Constitutions (about 380) and is particularly full and beautiful:

We praise and thank You, O God,
for You are without beginning and without end.
Through Christ You are the creator and preserver of the whole world;
but above all You are His God and Father,
the giver of the Spirit,
and the ruler of all that is, seen and unseen.

You made the day for the works of light
and the night for the refreshment of our weakness.

O loving Lord and source of all that is good,
mercifully accept our evening sacrifice of praise.

As You have conducted us through the day
and brought us to night's beginning,
keep us now in Christ;
grant us a peaceful evening
and a night free from sin;
and at the end bring us to everlasting life through Christ our Lord;
through Him be glory, honor, and power to You
in the Holy Spirit
now and always and forever and ever.
(LSB Altar Book, p. 336)

At the heart of this prayer of thanksgiving is the petition that our loving Father in heaven would keep us "in Christ." It has seemed to me for some time that this is the key to so many vexing theological and practical issues. I think of the debates between subjective and objective justification and how these play out on blogs now, addressing the questions of the absolution.

The key is always "in Christ." In Christ there is absolution for a world and more. Remission of sins without limit or hindrance. It's fullness in Him. In Him God has created the race anew. To be in Him is to have all things and to be outside of Him is to be stuck with sin and death as the determining realities of life. There is nothing greater that the Christian can pray than to be "kept in Christ." The Church and every member of it is sent to proclaim to the world this life that is in Christ and to summon all to enter it. It's theirs! Designated for them! Waiting for them! No one can earn it, deserve it, merit it, or claim is as due. It comes as unexpected, undeserved and unwarranted gift of love from the heart of God.

What's super cool is that the Holy Spirit uses our telling people about all that is theirs in Christ to actually work in them the gift of faith. People come to believe all that is theirs in Him by hearing all that is theirs in Him. Thus, the very essence of the absolution is NOT to say: "If you..., then God..." It is to say: "Since God..., then you..." The only response we can have to such great news is to desire to be "in Christ" through faith via the Word and the Holy Sacraments and to pray that God would always keep us "in Christ" where the riches of the new life and new creation never cease - even as we do in Evening Prayer.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Will - you have nailed it!

Thanks - this was Gospel I needed to hear!

Peace,
+ Herb

William Weedon said...

Thanks, Bishop!

Paul T. McCain said...

Amen!

Paul T. McCain said...

Faith does not lay hold of righteousness and salvation only in the beginning and then resigns its office to works as though they had to sustain faith, the righteousness received, and salvation. The promise, not only of receiving, but also retaining righteousness and salvation, is firm and sure to us. St. Paul (Romans 5:2) ascribes to faith not only the entrance to grace, but says that we stand in grace and boast of the future glory. In other words, he credits the beginning, middle, and end to faith alone.
They were broken off because of their unbelief,
but you stand fast through faith. (Romans 11:20)
[He will] present you holy and blameless
and above reproach before Him,
if indeed you continue in the faith. (Colossians 1:22-23)
By God’s power [you] are being guarded
through faith for a salvation. (1 Peter 1:5)
It is clear from God’s Word that faith is the proper and only means through which righteousness and salvation are not only received, but also preserved by God. Therefore, according to St. Paul’s admonition (2 Timothy 1:13) it is safe to hold fast both to “the pattern of sound words” and to the pure doctrine itself. In this way, much unnecessary wrangling may be cut off and the Church preserved from many scandals.