Last Sunday’s Old Testament lesson was from Ezekiel 37:1-14. I was looking forward to it. I’ve been feeling dry in my faith walk and distant from God. This was Pentecost Sunday, so I anticipated that our pastor would talk about how God can breath His Holy Spirit into us and revive our faiths, just as He promised to do for the people of Israel in the allegory He gave in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones.
Instead it was a reminder that if God can resurrect this entire valley of skeletons and His Son Jesus on Easter, we can trust that He will raise us up on the last day too. Don’t get me wrong, this is probably a more important message. Lutheran theology always puts the focus on Christ and Him crucified, not on us.
Lutheran theology (at least LC-MS theology) also believes that since God’s Word & His promises (like God Himself) are unchanging, the same yesterday, tomorrow and forever, therefore any talk of “revival” is superfluous if not heretical. Since God will never leave us or forsake us, if we feel dead and dry, guess who wandered off into the desert away from God’s Living Water?
I know all this, but I still feel lonely & dry and weary. I also know that our faith should never be a matter of how we “feel,” since feelings can mislead us. I still can’t help missing how worship and Bible study “felt” at Bethlehem in Canyon Country, CA and how it “felt” to be in ministry at Los Angeles Lutheran JR/SR High. Maybe what I miss is being in my twenties. I dearly love living in Iowa and belonging to St. John Lutheran Church and appreciate, value and admire our pastor.
I know that to grow in my faith and relationship with God I need to be more disciplined in my piety, prayer-life and devotion. If I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 21:2) I have to read Scripture and pray and praise continuously- but oh how the daily grind of selfishness, negativity, worry and responsibilities seem to weigh down on me. So I don’t know if it’s a paradox or ironic, but it just seems like neither God or the Church are going to breath new life into me or restore what I think of as joy without me continuing to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
But I also know, as Luther taught in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed- “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
So what can a struggling Midwestern believer do? I will pray for revival (even if that’s heresy and sounds like Charismatic Pentecostalism instead of Lutheranism. I will pray for fellowship, that God will lead me to friends in my own community, congregation and workplace who share my faith and who will nurture and support me- and people He will put in my life whom He wants to use me to mentor, disciple or minister to. And, even though there are plenty of Summer responsibilities replacing all of the school-year ones, I will try to use this blog as a place to write about my thoughts about faith, God and His Word.
I have a feeling that when Jesus talked about springs of water welling up inside of us (John 4:14), he meant for us to be vessels, not storage tanks. To keep refreshed, we need to be mediums for living water, not depositories of it. Stationary water grows stagnant.
Lord, make me a hose or a sprinkler, not a septic tank.
LUTHER’S COFFEE CUP PRAYER
An empty vessel that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it
I am weak in the faith; Strengthen me.
I am cold in love; Warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor…
O Lord, help me.
Strengthen my faith and trust in you…
With me, there is an abundance of sin; in You is the fullness of righteousness.
Therefore I will remain with You,
Whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.