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Church, Family, and the World
All fathers and mothers who regulate their household wisely and bring up their children to the service of God are engaged in pure holiness, in a holy work and a holy order…Above these three institutions and orders [church, family, government] is the common order of Christian love, in which one serves not only the three orders, but also serves every needy person in general with all kinds of benevolent deeds, such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, forgiving enemies, praying for all men on earth, suffering all kinds of evil on earth, etc. Behold, all of these all called good and holy works. However, none of these orders is a means of salvation. There remains only one way above them all, viz. faith in Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther, AE 37:364
The Lord of the Church is Jesus. He is our Savior both in terms of His going to the cross for us and His bringing His gifts from the cross to us here and now. When we have received His gifts, He continues to give us more. His giving is abundant (John 3:34; 10:10). But His giving does not stop with our receiving. When the people of God have been enlivened by His gifts, they bear fruit in their lives.
58. What are your daily callings? Take some time now to share with other participants both the joys and struggles you have in serving your family members, friends, neighbors, or employer.
When we hear the word vocation, we usually think only in terms of an occupation or a job (“counselor,” “civil servant,” “electrician”). However, the functions we perform are only part of our vocation. Vocation means “calling,” and this calling embraces the whole of our lives. In our vocations, we serve others into relationship with whom God has called us.
59. Read Ephesians 4:1 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. How is the word calling used in these passages?
60. How does this calling relate to your specific calling in life to serve your neighbor in love?
Luther writes, “We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor” (AE 31:371).
61. What do you think Luther means in this passage? Give concrete examples of our lives lived in faith and love.
The service of God’s royal priests takes place not only within the congregation, but also in the world where God has placed them in a variety of vocations—in our families, in the places of our daily work, and with our friends.
62. Read Matthew 25:34-45. Where does Jesus put Himself to receive the living sacrifice of our lives?
63. While individual Christians are called to specific vocations, the Church is called to a common mission of edification (teaching) and missions. From what we have learned so far, what may we say about this common vocation we have as baptized people?
Evangelism and missions may be said to be the highest expression of priestly love for the neighbor. However, of all our callings, evangelism in our daily life in the world may be the most challenging work.
64. Read Matthew 5:16; and 1 Peter 2:11-12, 3:1, 15. What is emphasized in these passages? What do we learn about evangelism in our daily lives?
Spouse and Family
We don’t want to exclude the issues of marriage and family in our considerations of the priesthood of believers.
65. Read Ephesians 5:21-33; Genesis 1:26-28; 2:23-24; and Matthew 19:6. How may a Christian husband and a Christian wife live from the Lord’s gifts? How would such a life look different from a marriage that depends on our love and commitment to each other?
66. Read Matthew 19:14. With this passage in mind, what is the best thing that Christian parents can do for their children?
For His Church, Jesus Prays
Jesus preservation of His Church is no smaller miracle than His founding of it, just as His preservation of the world is no smaller miracle than His creation of it. The Church can no more be destroyed than Christ can be destroyed. For His Church, Christ prays.
67. Read John 17, especially verses 9-11, 20. What does Jesus pray? For whom does He pray?
68. What does Jesus’ intercession teach us about the meaning of intercession in our lives—in our church, in our family, and in our world? Read also Ephesians 3:14-21.
· Meditate on the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism. Reflect on the Scripture passages that apply to the stations in your life.
· We have discussed the common vocation of the royal priesthood in the Church, which has to do with edification (teaching) and missions. Think about how you may want to contribute to these two areas of our life together as baptized people.
· The vitality in our daily calling, whether it may be found in our church or family or world, comes from the Lord’s gifts. Seek the opportunities to receive comfort, strength, and vitality that come through the forgiveness of sins in faithful hearing of preaching, daily remembrance of your Baptism, humble receiving of the Lord’s body and blood, and the hidden treasure of private confession and Absolution.
Point to Remember
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42, 47.