Walking the streets of Strasbourg this morning, getting coffee and breakfast, I was overtaken by the enormity of this Academy and what it may mean in the future. I reflected on dinner last night at Brasserie De La Bourse. This restaurant embodied the Alsatian style of food and needless to say, it did not disappoint.
Seated at the table with me were Ministers of Word and Sacrament from Lutheran Churches in North Dakota, Iowa, California, Pennsylvania and Germany (though he is South African) as well as a woman from Milwaukee. Together we shared where we came from both by birth and neighborhoods, stories from childhood and adulthood, to where they came from theologically.
All of them, except myself, grew up Lutheran but had various experiences about their vocations and the ministers regarding their call to the ministry. Together we shared our common faith and marveled at the Hand of our Lord God in bringing so many from differing paths to this Academy. As I shared with them how I have gone from Pentecostal to Charismatic to Dutch Reformed to Lutheran, together we rejoiced that "now the Bible is simple...no more hoops to jump through."
One moment that stood out was when I was sharing with these brothers and sisters in Christ the uncertainty, the doubts of salvation I struggled with under both pentecostalisms work plus grace system and then the double predestination of the reformed view (aka Calvinism). One of the pastors turned to me and said,
Nancy, you know how at the end of each section of the catechism it states, "This is most certainly true."? The reason it is there is because of the certainty of the faith and the scriptures, and most importantly, of our salvation in Christ. You no longer have to doubt because this salvation, Is most certainly true.
He encouraged all at our table to remember this when we read the Catechism: Certainty!
What a wonderful way to begin the Academy...with certainty that our salvation is secured and we belong to Christ, not based on anything we have done (intra nos) but because of what God has done outside of us (extra nos) through Word and Sacrament. As we study further how to defend this certain and sure faith, we remember that our salvaiton is certain and sure because of Christ.
Understanding that we do not defend the faith hoping to simply have good arguments to win points, but instead, we study to become better workmen and women in the Kingdom of God so that we may remove hurdles the unbeliever has and bring them to the door of salvation where they too may have the certainty that their sins have been forgiven them. This certainty comes not from some decision they make, nor from "giving their hearts to Jesus" but through the work He does in and through the Means of Grace He designed to give these wonderful gifts; baptism, absolution and the Lord's Supper.
How wonderful it is that we no longer have to look inside our selves (intra nos) for assurance but rather we look outside ourselves (extra nos) to the finished work of objective salvation which is then delivered to us through the Word and Sacraments. This is the certainty of our most Holy Faith and the certainty of our task to spread the glorious message that Christ Jesus died for the world to all those around us.
The Academy hasn't even officially begun (I have about an hour before class as I write this) and yet I have already learned so much from those attending.