3. Of Hope—Our Common Grace
Bound together in a common confession of the faith, we bind ourselves together in a common hope, brought forth by the grace and promise of Christ. As individuals and as a fellowship, we recall the promise of God made manifest in the Cross of Christ: that Jesus has come to seek and to save the lost.
In this common hope and common grace, we recognize the great truth Martin Luther brought forth from the Apostle Paul, that every Christian is at the same time both Saint and Sinner. By our common nature inherited from our parents, we are sinful creatures, inclined toward evil passions, desires, and actions. By our common rebirth from above by Water and Spirit, we also have a new nature given by the Holy Spirit, grafting us into the Vine of Christ, which resists the evil nature and struggles in faith toward holiness. In our dual natures, we are in constant need of the preaching of both Law and Gospel, which shows us our sin and reveals to us our Savior. We also live out this hope in the traditional Sacramental life of the Church:
The Sacrament of Salvation, given by Christ, with the promise that all who believe and are baptized, will be saved. (Mark 16, Matthew 28, Augustana IX, Small Catechism)
The Lord’s Supper, given to us by Christ, with the promise that it is indeed His true Body and Blood, given and shed for us, for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 6, I Corinthians 11, Augustana X, XXII, XIV, Small Catechism)
Holy Confession and Absolution
The power to forgive sins, given to the Church by Christ and exercised by the pastors to whom the Office of the Keys is given, with the promise that whoever repents and believes will hear the Absolution as from the very lips of Christ Himself. (Matthew 16, John 20, Augustana XI, XII, XXV, Small Catechism)
The pastoral Office of the Keys, given to the Church by Christ, for the proclamation of the Word of God in both Law and Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments according to Christ’s command. Historically, this office in the Church has been exercised in the specific orders of Deacons, Priests or Presbyters, and Bishops. (Matthew 28, Mark 16, John 20, Acts 1-6, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Augustana XIV, XV, XXIII, XXVIII)
Marriage, given to mankind by God in the Garden at Creation, is the lifelong union of one man and one woman, for procreation of, and care for, children. It is the mystery that God gives which continues the human race, as He exercises His continuing divine power of creation through mothers and fathers. St. Paul also refers to Christian marriage as a mystery which foreshadows the relationship of Christ and the Church. (Genesis1-2, Ephesians 5)
Holy Confirmation or Chrismation
Jesus told His disciples, that if you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father in heaven—but if you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father in heaven. The public confession of faith, and confirmation of that faith in the Church, is retained with proper catechesis and instruction in the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. (Matthew 10, Romans 10)
Holy Unction, or Anointing with Oil
The gift of Christ given to the Church by His Word, that we are to pray for one another, particularly when our brothers or sisters are in distress or need. St. James tells us that we are to bring the sick to the elders (presbyters) of the Church, that hands may be laid on them, they may be anointed with oil, and that God working through the prayers of the faithful may heal the sick according to His will. (Acts, James 5)
As sinner saints, saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, we bind ourselves together in the Lord’s Word and Sacraments, recognizing our common sinfulness and our common grace, suffering with each other’s failures, and calling each other to be holy, as our Saving Lord is holy.