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, December 2005
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created . . . and in him all things hold together . . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:15–17, 19–20
This passage of the letter to the Colossians describes a human being. You can look at this person and see pores in the person's skin, colour in the person's eyes; a person who may or may not be highly intelligent, someone who looks like you or me. This is no idealized character created by computer animation, but a real human being.
The magnificence of the gospel lies in this promise: God enters completely into our humanity so that our humanity can enter completely into God's divinity. One does not replace the other; the two come together in an inseparable union bonded by the unbreakable promise of God's faithfulness.
This does not happen because a few outstanding humans exhibit an unusual capacity for receiving God. All of this happens purely by God's free choice. So that humans may see God, God comes among us in human flesh, born into the world the human way, raised by a human mother.
Dr. Richard Schneider, an icon specialist in the Orthodox Church of America, said at a recent ecumenical meeting that if you do not have an icon handy to remind you of God's presence, then pray in the presence of another human being.
This is the heart of the church's mission: to declare that humans do not have to search for God. God comes to us. One person told A.J. Finlay, an Anglican member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee that grace is
. . . unbidden, over which we have no control, it just happens and we are able to receive it. This is not grace as graceful, but more as graciousness, being given something for which there is no expectation from the giver. With the absence of grace from our society, the sense that everything comes with an expectation or that you have to work for everything and if you do not make the effort it will not happen, we end up with the antithesis of grace. We do so need grace. *
One respondent understood this theme of grace to be universal and ecumenical. No one is excluded, all are included.
This is our Christmas gift from God. The gift of grace is not only a religious matter; it is freedom from bondage for those who are enslaved by this materialistic society. This gift is the heart and core of our mission, the thing of ultimate value that we want, more than anything else, to share with those among whom we live and work as we seek to be A Church in Mission for Others.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, December 2005
* This quotation first appeared in The Ecumenical Review published by
the World Council of Churches.