July message from Pastor Nickel

Jesus’ Redemptive Purpose

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.  – Ephesians 1:7-10

With Jesus Christ as our cornerstone, we are embarking on a strategic planning process to envision how we at Holy Cross Lutheran Church may best use the gifts He has given us to serve build His kingdom.

It all begins with Jesus Christ.  As the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians, “In Him we have redemption through His blood.…”  The Ephesians were familiar with the Greco-Roman practice of redeeming, or “buying back”, slaves who were freed by the payment of a redemption price.  In our case, to free us from our bondage to sin (and the curse of the Law, death, and the chains of the devil), the redemption price is Christ’s blood.

And God, in His wisdom, has revealed to us “the mystery of His will, according to His purpose” which is that the Good News of salvation is for all people – Gentiles as well as Jews.   Things once hidden in God’s plan are now revealed for all to see – in the person of Jesus.  Jesus is “the Christ,” which is Greek for “the Messiah,” revealed first to the prophets and then to the apostles, and now to us through their testimony.

The “messianic” age, that is, the “Christian” age, thus began with the incarnation of the Christ – the Son of God assuming human flesh – “not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God,” as the Athanasian Creed puts it.  And because Jesus, the Christ, is both God and man, humankind and God are reconciled in Him.

In Holy Baptism, one is united to Christ.  And because everyone who is baptized is “in Christ,” they are reconciled to the Triune God.  (That’s why Holy Baptism conveys the forgiveness of sins – because without it there is no reconciliation with the Holy God.)  And because each baptized person is united to Christ, we are also reconciled to each other, and united to each other, through Christ.  This is God’s plan: to reconcile all of His creation to Himself, by uniting all things through Christ.

God has revealed this plan to us through Jesus.  It is not a secret plan.  He has declared it to the world.  Even the devil and his fallen angels know it.  

So the mission of the Church in this messianic age, this Christian age, is simply to proclaim it as we go about our daily lives with those in this world who are yet unreconciled to God.  By leading others to Holy Baptism, and by teaching them what Jesus has revealed, now in the time and at the place that God has given to us for this purpose.  

And we don’t do this alone.  We gather together as a congregation around Christ, around His Gospel and His means of grace to this world in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, because we are united in Christ.  We are united for the purpose of doing this together, as members of His body, with Him as our head.

It all ends with Jesus Christ.  When our part of His saving mission is done, He will either take us to Himself to await the full completion of God’s plan, or He will come again in glory to consummate its conclusion in the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of the living and the dead, and the life of the world to come.

~Pastor Nickel