Monday, March 30, 2020

Chapter 6 from Faith That Sees Through the Culture: The Lutheran Lens -- What Is Real? And status report on new book submission: Engagement Triangle: Faith That Engages the Culture

Dear Friends in Christ,

Chapter 6 in the book Faith That Sees Through the Culture is the first big duality or paradox discussed in the book. It is extraordinarily important and is the theological basis for the truism: "never judge a book by its cover," or "things are not as they seem." Behind this from a Christian theological perspective, is the theology of the cross. When our Lord was on the cross of Calvary, He appeared as anything but the Victor overcoming sin, death, and the power of the devil. What the world "saw" was a dying man in agonizing pain. And to add insult to injury, one who saved others, but was helpless for saving Himself. He could not back-up His claim to be the Son of God, because He would not (evidently could not) come down from the cross as He was dying. To the fleshly eye: He was failure.

What appeared to be the case, however, was categorically not the case at all. Instead, the Lord remained on the cross precisely to finish the work of atoning for the sins of the world and winning the forgiveness of sins and overflowing life (yes, through His death) for all people who might hold to His victory through faith.

In this Gospel, wondrous news of God's loving and merciful work for us, we learn that things indeed are not as they seem. Instead, Christians do indeed walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7 which was the main Scriptural theme of the book Faith That Sees Through the Culture).

In the new book -- Engagement Triangle: Faith That Engages the Culture -- that I hope will come out by January, 2021, I summarized the right perspective on the chapter elaborating upon 1st Peter 3:15, the biblical perspective for loving engagement with people for the sake of truly serving the neighbor with the life-saving and life-giving Gospel of Christ. The point here in the "Luther syllogism" I propose, is that Christians have good reason to have hope against all appearances contrary to hope. Why?

"Luther's logic:

Premise 1: God works good through what appears to us as either good or bad.

Premise 2: When we sanctify Christ in our hearts and live in faith, God works good.

Conclusion: Therefore, whatever happens to us good or bad, [we may] affirm God working good."

God is working good even through the terrible circumstances we are facing at this time with the coronavirus. This does not make the virus itself good. It isn't, but what the Lord will do in the midst of it, especially through the demonstration that human beings have continued to pour out sacrificial love toward their neighbor, shows the world that there are indeed signs of our gracious God. Look at the neighbor who serves at great risk. This is love.

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,

Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Published "Nursing as Ministry for Diverse Populations and Faiths" in the book Nursing as Ministry (Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2021)

Dear Christian Friends,

In Faith That Sees Through the Culture, we considered the royal priesthood (chapter 5). All Christians are priests in Christ, extensions of the chief Priest, Jesus. In lives of faith in Christ, we live out what the Holy Scriptures reveal to all baptized into the Triune God: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you many proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

But where does this happen? It occurs in holy vocation in the culture. Vocare -- from the Latin -- means "to call;" where we get the idea of our various "callings" in life. In Christ, these callings or vocations are holy. God works through them to bless those around you.

One vocation in particular that is replete with opportunities to serve in the Name of the Lord is nursing. I was blessed to serve (teach) many nursing students at Concordia University Irvine in the nursing school over the years. I was especially motivated to write a chapter in a new book. The book is Nursing as Ministry. My contribution is chapter 10: "Nursing as Ministry for Diverse Populations and Faiths."

An excerpt from page 174: "The objective Gospel accomplished in Christ absolutely guarantees God's unconditional love and mercy upon those whom they serve. Christian nurses are called, therefore, to treat those whom they serve this way. These nurses are set free from the need for judgment that Bonhoeffer warned about. No matter people's background or current position or worldview, they are completely loved by God in Christ. Christians do not wait until a person jumps through this or that hoop, gives such and such an expression of sincerity or worthiness, or expresses a confirmation of faith. No, the objective love and mercy of God in Christ is already in place. For this reason, Jesus said from the cross of Calvary, 'It is finished' (John 19:30). All that had to be done for salvation to be won for all people was completed. It is now the call of the disciple of Jesus to live out this reality and serve others in the completed reality of the gospel.

God has planned these things for us. When we are faithful to those universal truths, God takes over. When by God's spirit nurses are made low to see that they need the Lord as much as anyone to cease their labor and receive Christ's rest, then those whom they serve will be drawn to one like them. The feeling that someone relates grants great comfort to the suffering soul that he or she is not alone. And then, when by God's spirit we are filled with the love of Christ -- His unqualified mercy -- people, regardless of what they believe, will be drawn again to the servant of God who loves unconditionally. What does such a milieu of humility and grace produce? It produces open hearts eager to learn more. 'Why does this nurse treat me this way?' It is at this juncture that Christian nurses are invited to say more, and that is when the Gospel may be clearly articulated."

I am constantly excited by the objective reality of God's love and mercy in Christ for all people. All of the flaming darts of the evil one that try to render the Christian faith as irrelevant fail to stop God's people dedicated to loving people unconditionally, showing Jesus to a world in desperate need of its Savior.

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,

Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa