For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith…. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith: as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” –Romans 1:16-25
Catechism 101: “What are the means of grace?”
In my thirty years of parish ministry, I was always trying to drill the answer into our catechumens week after week, asking again and again, “What are the means of grace?”
We Lutherans ought to always be ready to state that God’s means of grace are Word and Sacrament. God works through the Word, written, read, and preached, and through the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) to give us His grace. They are “means”— instruments, channels which God uses to create and sustain faith within us. At one and the same time, faith is the channel God uses to give us grace, but faith is also sustained and uplifted through the means of grace. This is why Paul says, “through the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith, for faith.”
Faith itself is the gift of God, given to us freely through the death and resurrection of Jesus who is the object of our faith. As the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent lifted up on a pole for salvation, we look with eyes of faith to Jesus, lifted up on the cross, for our salvation. He is literally the object of our faith—as we look to Him for forgiveness, life and salvation.
I often notice the great devotion to the cross evident among Lutherans. Here, we are reminded of that Gospel which is indeed the power of God for salvation—that Gospel which comes to us through God’s Holy Word which proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the Sacrament of the Altar, wherein we receive His crucified and risen, incarnate presence. Why not spend a little bit more time in church during Lent, meditating on Christ crucified and risen?
Lord our God, help us keep our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, the object of our faith, that we may live boldly sharing the Gospel in our everyday lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.