Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advent 4 Tuesday: Law and Gospel

Love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss.

December 22: O Rex Gentium! O King of all Nations!
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
This evening's passage is Galatians 3:10-14, in the New Revised Standard Version.

10For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." 12But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" — 14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

You can click here for Lectio Divina suggestions, and return for the meditation and prayer if you like.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, First Lutheran Church, Albany, NY

I had the joy of hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber speak about a week ago, and also had the distinction of misunderstanding her and asking her a question based on an Emily Litella-like faux pas.

I asked, "What does it mean to you to be a 'long gospel' preacher?" I thought I'd heard her say that.

She didn't. She said that she was a "law and gospel" preacher.

This passage, with too many words, is trying to say what Nadia said with great deftness and clarity. No one can live out the law perfectly. That's a fact. She is especially convicted of this due to her own years in recovery from alcoholism. She is convinced that, on her own, she is not capable of living as God would want her to live. In fact, she would tell you she was pretty much hell-bent on destruction.

I do not do the thing I want to do, Paul says elsewhere. But I do the very thing I do not want to do.


The only way we can be holy, the only way we can live wholly, the only way we can live with hope of getting off the path of destruction, is by the grace of God. This is very, very good news, in that it has nothing whatsoever, in any way, shape, or form, to do with our deserving it. It is a gift. This is such good news, trust me. God says, essentially, Here. Let me do that. I love you too much to see you destroy yourself/ your loved ones.

Nadia said that most mainline Protestant preaching is bad news/ bad news. "Here's what's wrong," we say, "and here's what you should do about it." It's all up to us.

Nadia's law and gospel is good news/ good news. When we realize what God is doing/ has done (Good News!) we are ready to overflow with the kind of love for neighbor, community, and even self that Jesus demonstrated (Good News!). We can't manufacture what we need. We have to receive it, let it flow through us.

This is the Good News.

"Some Children See Him" by Alfred Burt, arranged and played by Dave Grusin


Holy One, Come and save the human race, we whom you fashioned out of clay. Let us rest in your salvation, with the trust of little children. We pray in the name of the One who comes as a child. Amen.

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