Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, April/May 2005
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
This church will gather in convention July 21–24 in Winnipeg under the theme "In Mission for Others". What others?
When Jesus was asked which the greatest commandment was, he replied that there are two: to love God and to love your neighbour. At Luke 10:29, it says his questioner…wanting to justify himself…,asked Jesus "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus told him the story we call the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–35). At the end, Jesus asked the man, Which of these…do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? (Luke 10:36)
The gospel is not passive. It is not something just for me or my salvation or those I love or those who are like me. The gospel is a calling, a job for us to do because we are followers of Jesus; an active seeking of opportunities to share what one has with those who have need of it. The Samaritan was a sinner and a heretic in the eyes of the man who was helped—a social enemy—but he was the one who acted as neighbour because he had what the subject of the story needed. He had not only the material means to help, but he had the attitude.
In Luke 6:34–35 we read that Jesus taught: If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, to the virtuous and innocent, to the needy and the wealthy, to the ignorant and intelligent, to the beautiful and the gross, to the believer and unbeliever. How attractive we are to each other, or how devout, is of no interest to God. God does not love on the basis of attractiveness. God loves those who need it. That is God's attitude. That is the gospel of grace that set Martin Luther free from his burden of guilt about religious duty. It can be the message that sets contemporary people free from their burden of shame and inadequacy in a culture that rewards sex appeal, youth, materialism, competitive superiority and any other measure we find to define "in" and "out".
Therefore, the subjects of our mission are people we meet who need us to reflect to them not our culture's attitudes about acceptability, but God's attitude of non-discriminatory love. God's love is not sentiment; it is simply the affirmation of another person's humanity, an ethical policy.
It is not the role of the National Church to dictate how or with what persons this policy is managed in any particular synod or congregation. The National Church's role is to set church-wide standards for mission and ministry. If we are going to grow up as a church and take mission seriously, this is what we are going to aim for. It's hard work; it's not personal; it's just gospel policy.
This is the second in a series. Next time I will discuss the place of evangelism in a pluralist world.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, April/May 2005