Alleluia that Christ is risen and that summer seems to have finally gotten here this year!
I (and I am sure many of you) are anxious for all the summer activities that we enjoy here in North Dakota along with vacation time. For me, I find it hard to fit all that I want to do into summer. Although, the basics of life still have to happen, such as sleep, eating, work, and so on. Also, the basics for our spiritual life still need to happen. I call it soul food. Like we feed and exercise our bodies so that they do not starve and become lethargic; so also we need to feed and exercise our souls so that they too do not starve and become lethargic.
This we do through the “Means of Grace.” When I say the “Means of Grace” think of “means” as a “way” and “grace” as a “gift.” Thus the “Means of Grace” are “The way that God gives the gift of faith.” The Word of God and the Sacraments are the “Means of Grace.” “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).” And, “He saved us through the washing (Baptism) of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).”
The “Means of Grace” are the only way of being brought to faith, kept in faith, and strengthened in faith. This is truly and rightly the proper understanding from Scripture (the only truth we have) of how we have the Holy Spirit given to us and living in us who gives us faith. I emphasize, it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith. Faith is nothing that you have done; as Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” You see, faith is a miracle and a gift of God. It is a miracle that we have faith in God to know of our sins and to know that Jesus has died for them. Without faith we cannot find or ask for a Savior; we only remain dead in our sins and enemies of God.
Without the use of God’s Word and without the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper we would not have and will lose faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come down out of the sky like a dove so that you can swallow Him feathers and all for some kind of inner tickle. God has always provided an outward means for faith to come, to be kept, and to be strengthened. He has always given something that can be seen and heard so that no one has to question where their faith came from. When a Christian has faith, they simply give thanks for it.
Therefore, I really hope you have a great summer, but I also hope that you do not go on vacation from God who is never on vacation. He is present with Word and Sacrament to feed and strengthen you through all the things that come along in life; even when it is summer time, activity time, vacation time, and whatever time.
You can make your pastor’s job so much easier when you are coming for the “Means of Grace.” Let’s just suppose you were to suddenly die today, and you have not been feeding and strengthening your faith with Word and Sacrament, it is hard for him to give comfort to your loved ones of your faith which is unseen in you. But, by your outward actions of being in church hearing God’s Word and receiving the Sacraments he can joyfully say the promise of God’s Word from Isaiah 55:10-11: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
So I pray that you have a blessed, happy, enjoyable summer and a continued strengthening and keeping of your faith in Jesus Christ who has conquered sin, death, the devil, and the power of the grave for you.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Arie D. Bertsch
ND District President