DEVOTION – THE MEANS OF GRACE
Ah, summer vacation! Time to get away from the city and enjoy nature around us. There are national and state parks to visit, tents to be pitched, campfires to sit around, and lakes to “get away” to. This time of year it’s not unusual to hear the comment, “I feel closer to God in nature than I do in church.”This doesn’t surprise us too much; after all, nature is God’s handiwork. He is the builder of everything we see around us. It all bears His divine “thumb-print,” if you will. His power is seen in the mighty redwoods of California, the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. On a cloudless night, hints of God’s divine nature can be seen in the belt of the Milky Way and all the starry host. While nature’s grandeur may tell us of the Creator’s great power, wisdom, and eternal nature, it does not bring us His grace or announce His forgiveness. Hiking through the woods will not comfort the troubled conscience with the assurance of sins forgiven. Summiting a mountain will not tell you how to reach that even higher peak, heaven.
No, nature is not the means by which God’s undeserved love, His grace, comes to us. Quoting from Isaiah, the Apostle Paul writes, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
That doesn’t mean God has hidden these things from us.
Rather, His grace comes to us in much simpler ways. The only means by which His grace comes to us is through the divine Word of the Gospel. In the Gospel, God the Holy Spirit brings everything Jesus Christ has done, right to us. Through the message of the Gospel, God announces to us the forgiveness of sins, as “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Through Baptism, God washes away sin (Acts 22:16) and we are clothed in Christ’s holiness (Galatians 3:27). In Holy Communion, our crucified and risen Lord personally comes to us in the bread and wine, giving us His body and His blood and declaring His forgiveness (Matthew 26:28).
As amazing as God’s creation is, who has ever found such amazing gifts at the top of a mountain, in the Big Dipper, or at the end of a fishing pole? Yet in the still, small voice of the Gospel, the God of all creation comes and whispers His forgiveness and undeserved love to you in Christ. The Gospel declares that on the wooden tree of the cross, Christ became a curse for us to free us from the eternal curse of our sin (Galatians 3:13). In the glorious Son-rise of Easter, God tells us that we are declared to be right with God because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The Gospel in Word and sacrament is the only tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring us to faith in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal salvation. Through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit keeps us “hiking” in faith on the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake—all the way to heaven.
Enjoy what’s left of your summer vacation, giving thanks to God. Enjoy His creation with your family and friends. But may we never, ever, take a vacation from the means of grace—the tools God uses to bring the blessings of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to us. Praise be to the Holy Spirit for His means of grace!
Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington.