Justification and Justice

This assignment was the culmination of one of our Fall (1 seminary semester) classes. I did not edit it from the actual assignment I turned in.

Justification & Justice

Justification is what God does for us through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. We can speak of what justification means to the world in multiple ways, including the common phrases of “forgiveness of sins” and “reconciliation of sinners to God” as well as creating a new reality where humanity is restored to right relationship with God and other humans. These descriptions of what happened on the cross are all part of restoring life in the midst of death and brokenness. This work of God, or justification, is God’s free gift to all humans. We call this universal free gift grace.

We are justified by grace alone through faith alone. Faith is our response to God’s grace, and how we individually participate in this universal grace. Faith, as trust in God’s promises of Jesus Christ, is also the link between justification and justice. Faith becomes active in love. When we act in love—based on that trust—we participate in God’s struggle to restore life. That is, our living out of our faith is our participation in justice.

Scripture proclaims the gift of grace and our faith response of love. Paul says in Romans 4.25 that Christ has been “handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” Ephesians 2.8 proclaims “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” And in Galatians 5.6b we hear “the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” In Micah 6:8 we also see God’s intention of humans living out justice in actions of love: “He has told you o mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? “

God’s word creates a new reality, and our faith gives us a vision of this new reality. When we act differently because of being freed by God’s love to truly love others, seeing them also as individuals Christ died for, we are living fully what God created us to be. Thus justification restored humanity to live in justice as we live lives in right relationship to God and others.

All Bible references are from New Revised Standard Version

Works Consulted
Closely read the following readings:
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The Lutheran World Federation and The Roman Catholic Church. English-Language Edition. Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans, 1999, pp. 5-47 (43 pages)

Altmann, W. Luther and Liberation, 13-55 (43 pages)

Braaten, C. E. Justification By Faith, 81-99 (19 pages)

Lull, T. ed. Luther, “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhood” (1591), pp. 242-266; “Freedom of a Christian” (1529), 585-629 (45 pages)

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, Vol. VII, Justification By Faith, The Consensus Statement, 58-74 (17 pages)

Persaud, W. D., “The Article of Justification and the Theology of Liberation,” Currents, 1989, 361-371 (11 pages)

Also read/consulted these readings:
Luther’s Works, Vol. 27, Lectures on Galatians (1519), 381-394 (14 pages)

Luther’s Works, Vol. 31, “Two Kinds of Righteousness,” 293-306, in Lull, T. ed. Luther, 149-165 (17 pages)

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Today … take my life and let it be …

Today is the last Thursday of the academic year. It was also the end of our academic chapel year, the last Thursday of my first year at seminary, and the day we have our sending service — a service of special importance to those graduating from Wartburg Seminary this Sunday as well as to the rest of the community. A day of gratitude, praise, thanksgiving, and also of grief. Grief in the sense that we will never be with this community again. The graduates move away to their first call parishes or service work, and the 2nd year students move on to internship and other field work experiences, while those of us ending our first year complete our Clinical Pastoral Experiences (CPE) over the summer (generally somewhere away from the Wartburg campus and Dubuque) and return to campus next year as the current Interns return to become Seniors and an entirely new class enters as Juniors/1st year students. The community, as wonderful as it is, is continually changing.

And for some there is added grief and loss in that things did not turn out as they expected or planned in some way. There is always loss. Here and everywhere.

Yet, God is at work.

The Sending Service in chapel today was powerful in many way as the community came together in symbolic and real unity to worship with each other. We sang a hymn I hadn’t thought about much recently until today. It’s one of my favorite hymns, and now that I look forward to serving as a consecrated diaconal minister I love the words to this hymn even more (the tune is great too).

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

This song in the midst of grief and loss of any type seems to take on even more meaning. I admit that when it comes to the transitional community here I find myself just trying not to think about it and instead looking ahead to the new friends and new experiences (I am so looking forward to this summer!). Yet, there are so many losses that that doesn’t work for.

After finishing my Pauline Letters final I came home debating between a nap and a snack with a glass of wine (I am awake writing so you guess what I opted for). And then again I was jolted to the reality I seem called to — minor in my life this time but so much of a huge gap in others’ hearts — the death of a child, a son, a 15-year-old vibrant boy known for his concern for others. My heart aches knowing the gap in his parents’ hearts.

And I sit with the reality that loss is. It just is. One/We cannot deny it or hide from it. We can try to pretend otherwise and be shocked at it when we encounter it, but that is us — humans in denial — and not reality. There is continual decay and loss in this great creation we live in.

And yet, as a classmate reminded me this afternoon, God is at work. He is at work in my life each time I share in some small way the journey of loss that so many encounter regularly here in our earthly life. God is at work in the joy and in the sorrow.

I have a peace that passes all understanding — that I can not always adequately describe — that I can always share.

Thanks be to God!!!!

Today I take a moment to honor the joy and the sorrow, the transitions, the life given to us by God. Today I pause in a holy moment of reverence and prayer. Today I say to God “take my life and let it be … ever only all for thee.”

Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality / Spiritual Practices (and some reflection on a semester looking at Spiritual Practices)

It’s the last week of the Fall semester here at Wartburg Seminary. I likely won’t be able to really reflect on the entire semester until the space of Christmas is between me and my last paper (likely to be finished Friday morning), but I am starting to feel a shift in things as the my first semester ends. I’m connecting lots of dots so to speak, and things are really coming together as many of the classes wrap up.

The last Spiritual Practices lecture was held this past Tuesday (small group finishes tomorrow, Thursday), and we ended as we began with a panel of Professors sharing their thoughts on Spirituality and Spiritual Practices. The intended focus was around the question — Is There a Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality? I am not sure we really answered that question, but the comments were interesting and thought provoking.

The connections for me can be summarized in Spiritual Practices being grounded in the Word of God, and that for Lutherans, Spiritual Practices will look like Jesus Christ. And, I think related to that, Lutheran Spiritual Practices are grace-filled practices (centered on life in Jesus Christ and bringing gratitude) that lead us to our neighbor, and these practices remain a struggle due to the reality of sin (so we shouldn’t expect perfection).

That little summary is really a lot.

During the semester we went through many traditional and untraditional Spiritual Practices (from lectio divina to fasting to deep listening in lecture … to labyrinth “walking” (or tracing) to praying the daily examen to play/laughter/fun as a Spiritual Practice in small groups… and many more introduced in our readings). Although I didn’t enjoy all of the Spiritual Practices we tried, I have enjoyed learning about them.

However, now that can “test” any spiritual practice for myself personally as to if it “looks” like Jesus Christ, it makes it much easier to know if it’s a practice I should spend my time practicing. Does it draw me to my neighbor and make me a gracious presence when with my neighbor (neighbor meaning all others in this context just as it does in the gospels)? Does the practice add to, facilitate or otherwise bring me towards a thankful heart? Do I recognize my own struggle within that practice? Is the practice truly grounded in God’s Word? Is it something that is, for me, truly woven into these distinctive characteristics or can I walk through it on a human level only? — if so, it’s not a true spiritual practice (for me; it might be for another).

Now I have to decide what I am going to do with this information. (Much of which I think I knew on some level before, but now can articulate at least a little bit.) I have struggled this semester with continuing a healthy personal spiritual practice. This is true in part because of having to re-learn my habits, rituals, and how I meditate and pray within my current space and time. But, I think I have also struggled because we have actively been trying so many specific Spiritual Practices, and I genuinely consider each one as something to possibly do.

Now it’s time to step back and appreciate most from a distance while actively doing those that will most allow me to participate in meaningful and tangible ways with Christ.

I cannot just immediately tell you what those will be, but I think it will be some type of centered prayer or possibly a combination of simple centered prayer and a return to the daily examen, and a near daily participation in some type of family Spiritual Practice. Ideally Shawn and I would return to a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word as well as beginning some type of hands-on Spiritual Practices (or maybe trying a new practice each month until we have enough to just rotate through them with her — fun ones, like praying in color and praying the catechism with prayer beads are where I will begin).

What Spiritual Practices do practice regularly or appreciate?

Does your faith have a distinctive spirituality? If so (or not), please share.

(And if you read my list at all closely, you’ll realize that the actual practices we learned about or participated in are anything but distinctive to the Lutheran faith. 🙂