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“He gathers me into the Body of Christ”

Where the first article of the creed talks about the creative work of God the Father, and the second article concerns the redemptive work of God the Son, the third article concerns the sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit.

“Sanctifying” has unfortunately become a churchy word, but the truth it contains is deeply important. God is the father of wayward children who have ended up far from home (God the Father). He has paid the price for our passport (God the Son). Now he must call us into the boat, keep us in the boat, and prepare us to live once more in our true homeland (God the Holy Spirit).

The church is the boat – not the institutional church, but the community of believers where the Gospel is preached, the word taught, the sacraments celebrated and we grow in faith, hope and love. The journey homeward is not a private pilgrimage; it is undertaken as a community. The New Jerusalem is not a wilderness retreat but a city. Learning to love one another requires actual human beings.

The work of God is to rescue his broken world, to reconnect us to one another, to restore the fabric of the human community, to return the human heart to its true and proper shape. It is together, and in and through one another, that the Spirit works its wondrous work to sanctify, to prepare us for the feast to come.

The Prayer for Week 4

In the mystery of your love, O God,
you gather us into the community of the church
and there proclaim to us your love and faithfulness.
Make us ever mindful of your gifts
and faithful to one another
that, as one body in Christ Jesus,
we may bear witness to your grace and glory;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Luther’s Small Catechism

The Third Article:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort
believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.
But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel,
enlightened me with his gifts,
and sanctifed and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies
the whole Christian church on earth,
and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian church day after day
he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers.
On the last day he will raise me and all the dead
and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life.

This is most certainly true.

The Small Catechism by Martin Luther in Contemporary English, Augsburg Publishing, ©1960,1968